Sunday, February 13, 2011 Indexing Project Volunteer Challenges

I have been researching my family history for many years. I am serious enough about my research that I subscribe to paid-for-view websites like,, etc. I am a member of biographical and genealogical societies within the United States as well. But, I also take advantage of the various website that are a part of the WorldGenWeb project.

The WorldGenWeb project is an informal collaboration of volunteers who transcribe records for a particular region and make the transcriptions available to anyone who visits that region's website. The Mormon Church also established a website,, that includes free information that has been somewhat useful to me.

One day, I read an article in an online newsletter I receive about a project that had created. They were looking for volunteers to transcribe information on images of birth registers, census records, death certificates, etc. in order to create links to these images.

Instead of having to go to a Family History Center to view these images on microfilm, the searchable indices would link to an online image. I thought, "What a way to give back!" I registered as an indexer.

I had only been an indexer for a few months when I was sent a message asking me to be an arbitrator. I had not indexed that many images but I was very methodical about the images that I did index. And then, I am probably not the most prolific arbitrator because I spend a lot of time looking at each of the two indexers results before I make a decision about which one is right.

Each project is rated as easy, intermediate and hard. Those projects that are considered hard usually involve a foreign language. So I tend to download a batch to arbitrate that is considered intermediate. Several days ago, I downloaded a batch from Michigan marriage registers. The handwriting of the person who recorded the marriages for Emmet County in 1909 had terrible handwriting!

Of the 152 entries in this batch, indexer A's entries differed in some way from indexer B's entries in all but five instances. After spending eight hours trying to arbitrate this batch, I developed a headache. At this point, I decided to save the work and continue the next day. Needing a diversion, I thought that I should download something from the easy category.

I accidentally downloaded baptismal records from Argentina. Since I can read Spanish, I decided to continue. It turned out to be easy to arbitrate and a great break from the worst handwriting I've seen since I started indexing and arbitrating.

Over the last few days, I spend a little time on the batch from hell and then download an easy project to arbitrate as a break.

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