After hearing about the opportunity to volunteer over the internet to get family history records indexed (basically data entry from images), I thought I’d check it out yesterday. The highest priority project at indexing.familysearch.org was the 1930 US Census in Minnesota. I spent a couple of hours and indexed 202 records, basically four pages of the census and two US WWII draft records from Arkansas. The most difficult part was reading the writing of one census worker – one surname we couldn’t make out, in spite of our best efforts (I kept asking Paul’s opinion, and he very patiently helped). If only those census workers had understood how critical legible handwriting is to family history, they would have been more careful as they recorded families.
It was fascinating to think about the lives of the families I was indexing. Nearly all of them were farmers, many of Scandinavian descent. I even ran across a whole section of Mexican immigrants, some who had lived in Texas after emigrating, then made their way in the 1920s to Minnesota. Many of the farmers had single men living with them, some old, some young, as “boarders,” or in other words, farm laborers.
Once I started, it was hard to quit. I kept thinking I’d just download one more batch (for the census, that’s one image of 50 records). It gave me a helpful familiarity with the census for my own family history research, and made me really grateful for the countless volunteers who help to place records at our fingertips so that we can more easily find our ancestors.
Did you know that Who Do You Think You Are’s second season is premiering this week (Feb. 4) on NBC? Family history is pretty darn cool. Full episodes have also been on nbc.com the day after airing, and hopefully that will continue! Celebrities this season include Vanessa Williams, Tim McGraw, Ashley Judd, Lionel Richie, Rosie O’Donnell, Kim Cattrall, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Steve Buscemi. I’m especially looking forward to the episode with Tim McGraw, because from the previews it seems that he gets to meet his birth father on air. Sure to be a tearjerker.
To get started with your own family history, go to familysearch.org or visit a local family history center. The family history centers are staffed by people who are ready and willing to help you, and also include microfilm and microfiche records that are not available online (because they haven’t yet been indexed!). Find one near you: http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHC/frameset_fhc.asp