Sunday, November 11, 2007

Adventures in FamilySearch Indexing - Week 16

All I wanta know is who took my Vermont 1850 Federal Census today? I went to do my FamilySearch Indexing and it said all of Vermont's 1850 Censuses were complete. Boy, I had to re-invent the wheel and work on a different state. Then I tried Boston, MA State Censuses first for 1865, then for 1855, same story no records available. I finally decided on the 1850 Connecticut Federal Census and yes, it was available, but it was not a happy adventure for me.

The first half of the first page was all faded out, plus difficult to read handwriting. The second batch was in beautiful and fancy handwriting, but very difficult to follow. I think this census taker just made up the symbols for the first capital letter. I was only able to follow some of them if I used the look up feature and put in the letters it contains. After indexing 84 individuals (grand total of 1,594 individuals indexed to date) I guess I can say today was an adventure after all.

Before my article this week I had planned on including an email with some very good pointers to watch out for, little did I know I saw a lot of them in mine own examples today. First here's the email of off the FREP Mailing list.
I have a couple of indexing concerns that I haven't seen addressed so I figured I'd mention them here. First, I've noticed that very few people who are indexing know what a double s looked like in the handwriting of the 1800s. It wasn't a problem when most people were indexing the 1900 census but now that people are indexing earlier records, it is.

Indexers are indexing Massachusetts as Map or Mafs, Ross as Rofs or Rop or Roys or Rojo, Clarissa as Claripa, Russell as Rufsell or Rupert, Cross as Crop or Crofs. I arbitrated a batch tonight where both the A and B keys had agreed that the state of birth for several of the people on the census was Map instead of realizing what they thought was a p was a double s and the state was Massachusetts. I've arbitrated batches where both people indexed the surname Ross as Rofz and another where they both put Rop. These are some that I noticed even though they didn't come up for arbitration. I don't know how many I never noticed. It is the exception to arbitrate a batch and find that someone can read the double s. This doesn't just affect one project but will affect almost every project of handwritten records we index before about 1900. I broadcast a message to my stake after the 1871 Canadian
census was made available to index and I noticed the problem, but I don't reach enough people to make a difference.

I also have a concern about the 1850 census. Very few indexers know that C E on the 1850 census stands for Canada East. I see it indexed in the state column as C E or I see it indexed in the correct column but as Canada England or Canada English (they are thinking it's like the 1900 census) If you haven't arbitrated the 1850 census from Vermont or New Hampshire, you might not have seen this but it is real common in the New Englnad states and other northern states. I arbitrated at least one batch tonight where both indexers agreed that the state of birth for a whole group of people was C E.

Orem Hillcrest
I found the Claripa or should we say Clarissa on one of my batches tonight. Please remember to read those handwriting guides and instructions on those projects you are working on. You will find them under the Project Specific Information. Another great resource is the Indexing Tutorial. Here's another email off the FREP Mailing list.
Those double "ss" can toss you a curve the first time you run into it. We also notice that a lot of people doing the Irish death records are not putting in the "y" after the age. It is clear in the instructions, but the example they use doesn't show the "y". We found that over half the indexers were doing it wrong. When you get both indexer's leaving it off the arbitrator ends up with a lot of work. We have passed that on to our stake and will remind our people of your suggestion.

Dick and Vicki Savage, Mapleton North Stake
On my first batch when the handwriting was so faded I didn't catch that I missed the "y" after all the ages. Of course the "y" isn't there it was just that my mind was distracted and I didn't catch it until my stress lightened up. It's a good thing to proof-read over your batch when you finish them to make sure you have caught all those extra things you have to remember. I actually had on both my batches this week a couple of infants and their ages marked in months. When you index those it makes you remember better why we need the "y" or "m" after the ages.

I felt bad for the one arbitrator on the FREP mailing list that was instructed by Salt Lake and go back and add the "y" or "m" after the ages on all 375 indexed individuals. Forgetting to index correctly the first time is making a lot of work for those arbitrators.

On a different note I received the following email from a reader.
Hi Renee,

I am new to indexing too. Adjusting (and keeping them adjusted) the highlights is difficult. Usually the image is crooked, so by the time you reach the end of a census line the highlight is off. Is there a way to correct this? On the View menu I see options to nudge up, down, etc., but these don't work for me. Do they work for others?

Ileen Johnson
When I started indexing I had the same problem. Then another reader J. Conklin sent me this great set of instructions. Here is the PDF on "How to Adjust Highlights". After a couple of weeks of referring back to the instructions I am able to do this almost with my eyes shut. My very first step after downloading the batch is to adjust the highlights, even when it doesn't at first look like there are any problems where they are set. Things do seem to migrate when you work yourself down a page otherwise.

I also received this other email from a reader that has started their own Adventure in Indexing the 1930 Mexico Census. I am so tickled that my ramblings have helped one person to start working on the project.

I started receiving your blogs via FeedBlitz and saw the request for people who could read both Spanish and English. So I volunteered.

I am 66 now and haven't practiced Spanish in years. From the time I was at least 10, I felt a draw to the language. I couldn't afford a Spanish dictionary, so I started my own lists on small notepads. When I ran across a Spanish word in my reading, I wrote it down on the correct alphabetical page, including the English translation if I could figure it out or if the book explained it. If not, I would often find the meaning in later reading (even months later).

I was really happy when I could start learning Spanish in school (9th grade), and I took it for four years. During those years I spoke Spanish with native speakers at every opportunity (mostly during Spanish club meetings) and listened to shortwave radio telecasts in Spanish. Then in college I took advanced classes in Spanish and also added French (beginning to advanced). However, marriage and children eventually intervened and I only kept up with my foreign language abilities intermittently.

But I saw this call for indexers as an opportunity to give back some of the benefit I have received from the FamilySearch website in my own family research. Although my spoken Spanish is poor, I can still read it quite well. So I signed up and went through the tutorial on indexing, then started work. With the 1930 Mexico census, the majority of the indexing work involves the names. The other fields are pretty easy to do (ages, marriage status, etc.). The birthplace field is mostly the same location for everyone (or almost everyone) on the page. I found that I recognized many of the Mexican names, so that made it a lot easier even when the handwriting is hard to read or the image is extremely light. It's been fun to see how much Spanish has come back to me in the few weeks I've worked on this census.

For the first 3-4 batches I submitted, I entered only the age in numbers and forgot to add a (for anos--years), m (for meses--months), or d (for dias--days).

When a batch (page of the census) has 50 lines filled, it takes me about 45-60 minutes to complete it, including running Quality Check. Many of the batches have only 8-20 names, and I can usually do those in 30 minutes or less. Since I'm retired, I have the time to do several batches a week. When I'm working on a difficult batch and have done the best I can to decipher the information, I am glad to know that another indexer will be working on the same batch and then an arbitrator will make the final decisions. And I get such pleasure out of knowing that people whose ancestors were in Mexico at that time will be as excited as I am when I find my ancestors in Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, etc.

One thing I've learned from this experience is how difficult it is for indexers to get the names right. While researching my own ancestors, I've been amazed at the way their names have been indexed, but I also know that I have an edge because I know how their name is spelled and the handwriting doesn't always make it clear. I also have a lot more respect for the work done by the enumerators AND the indexers.

A hint I have for you and other indexers is that when I have a difficult batch, I index it one day and then go over it again, line by line, a day or two later before submitting it. That way I nearly always find mistakes I've made or names I can now recognize that I couldn't the first time.

Do you know how many volunteers are working on the 1930 Mexico index? There must be quite a few. When I tried to D/L a batch tonight, I found that the Baja and Campeche set I've been working on didn't have any batches to index, so I chose Chihuahua.

Don't forget to tell potential indexers that they don't always have to type a word. They can type part of it and look it up. For instance, I rarely come across Estados Unidos de America (Spanish for USA), and why would I want to type all of that when I can type "Est" and choose Lookup to get the rest of it?

I feel so much accomplishment from doing this work, that I'm now hooked and probably will be doing this for years--as long as I'm needed, that is. I've found that, even when I'm tired, I HAVE to do at least one batch a day. Thanks for letting me know about this opportunity.

What a lovely note to leave on. Yes indexing can be frustrating but also very rewarding in the end. I just want to thank all of you for the great work you are doing in furthering this fantastic project along. Some of us are developing talents and sharing our knowledge and helping others in ways we never knew how important each of us are.

See ya tomorrow, for tomorrow is always another genealogy day!

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