Sunday, May 16, 2010


I guess this post is kind of for my grandma.  It was at least inspired by her.  She introduced me to indexing.  She does it a lot, and is even serving a mission for the LDS Church right now, helping indexers.  I am indexing right now (or was a minute ago, until I got stuck on a word for a long time).  For those of you who don't know, indexing is something that you do through where you look at a scan of an old document on your computer, like an old census record or something (they're always different - sometimes birth records, marriage records, etc) and type in the information that you see written.  Why do I do this?  Because it helps people's records be saved and the people be remembered.  It gives people who do family history work real-life documents proving their ancestors' existence.  It helps people do their family history.  I think it does something like validate that people were real, and it's somehow connected to doing temple work, which is also very important.  (For those of you who aren't familiar with that phrase, in our church, we believe that people who died without a knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ deserve a chance to accept the gospel and be baptized, etc., and so we are baptized vicariously for them in our temples. That's a big reason why so many members of the church do family history work - to find names of people that still need that chance.  Let me know if that didn't make sense:)

Anyway, now that we've established that.
I really enjoy indexing.  Right now I'm working on a census record and I'm supposed to type in the name of the person, their gender, marital status, age, country of origin, and country of parents' origin.  It's interesting how connected you can feel to someone when you're only reading their name.  When I'm indexing, I think about the people I'm recording - how the 71-year-old woman head-of-household might feel, being a widow; how long she might've been a widow; how sad it must be to only have 4 of your 11 children alive; how happy it must be to have all 4 of your 4 children alive; how the Irish woman and the German man met and married - maybe a language barrier wasn't an issue?; whether the 48-year-old man and the 38-year-old woman married for love or family arrangement; why the husband immigrated a year before the wife, and how things were for her after he emigrated and before she did; how it was that almost every child was born in a different state, but the oldest and youngest were born in the same state; etc.

Sometimes I think about other things, too - In one household, there was a 19-year-old daughter and a 40-year-old boarder.  I wonder if the girl ever felt uncomfortable or "hit on" by the boarder.  In another house, there was a widower who lived with his young boys, and two female boarders.  I wonder if the girls lived there to help the man take care of his children.  In another house, I wonder why there's a set of three cousins living together, all of whom are over 40 years old and single.  And in another, I wonder how it is that almost all of the children are over 30 and single - are they living at home to help their parents, or what is their story?  Sometimes when the handwriting gets bad on the document, I wonder if the recorder just got sick of writing "Pennsylvania" over and over, or maybe if it's the end of the day and (s)he's tired.  And on the particular one I'm doing, I wonder how the word "Pennsylvania" is written in a totally different handwriting than every other word on the document; it looks almost like it was stamped.

These are the kinds of things I think about when I index.  It's fun, kind of addicting, and very interesting to do.  Fun because you feel good about what you're doing - you feel helpful - and sometimes it's like a game trying to figure out what's written.  Addicting just because. I don't know why.  Maybe for the same reasons it's fun.  And it's interesting to think about who you're recording and what their story is, and also to feel like you're almost getting to know people while recording the names from a certain town or something.  Anyway, it's pretty fun.  You should try it sometime.


The Youngest Kitchen Maid said...

i love indexing too!!!

Alison said...

I know - it's fun!

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