Each day, volunteers are sitting down at their computers and giving some of their time to help make genealogical research easier for others by participating in a family history indexing project. Family history indexing is essentially the process of extracting names, dates, locations and other recorded information from digital images of historical documents. This extracted information is then used to create online searchable indexes that can be accessed by anyone online. Most indexing projects eventually link the searchable index to the digitized images as well, making it much easier for genealogists to find the records of their ancestors. Volunteers participating in online indexing projects are adding over a million names a day in total according to some sources.
It takes only a few minutes to download a selected batch of records and transcribe the entries using provided software. The computer process is easy to learn and volunteer indexing can be done in small increments of time - whenever you have a little free time to spare. In other words, no special skills or fixed time commitments are necessary to volunteer as a genealogical indexer. As a side benefit, indexing can help you become a better researcher as you become more familiar with the wide variety of historical documents available and the type of information each contains. You'll also learn about a wide variety of places and customs, as well as improve your ability to decipher unusual or poor handwriting.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in the process of digitizing the bulk of their genealogical records, as well as partnering with genealogical societies and other groups to digitize other records of genealogical value. These digitized records are then uploaded to the online FamilySearch Indexing
project site for volunteers to view and index. The indexing software is free and easy to download, and the online tutorial should get you started quickly. There is also an online help desk if you have questions. You even get to choose which type of record you want to index!
Once records have been indexed through FamilySearch Indexing, the new indexes (and sometimes the document images) are posted online for free access at FamilySearch Record Search.
Ancestry World Archives Project
This collaborative genealogical indexing project was launched by Ancestry.com in 2008 to help societies and other organizations preserve history that might otherwise be lost. While Ancestry.com is well known as a subscription genealogy Web site, all databases created by volunteers through the Ancestry World Archives Project
will be made available to Ancestry.com members for free. As with FamilySearch Indexing, all World Archives Project volunteers need to do is register and download the free indexing software. Projects to date have included some fascinating records, such as the England and Wales Criminal Registers project. Active contributors to this project are eligible for discounts on Ancestry.com membership, as well as free access to all images uploaded through the World Archives Project.