Those Potatoes Came From Somewhere: Fuel the Find

Potato farmersI bought a sack of potatoes at the grocery store yesterday. It was not a difficult task, as there were bags of them piled high on a table in the produce section. I didn’t give it much thought at all. Now they are safely tucked away in our pantry, waiting to be used for Sunday dinner.

Where did those potatoes come from? Don’t know. Don’t care. My only concern is their availability, quality and price. And so it is with most things I buy. I don’t really care where the gas in my car came from, or how the electricity gets to my house. I just kind of expect them both to be there. I really do take those things for granted.

So it is with Family History indexing. I log into Ancestry.com, or FamilySearch.org and just “expect” records to be there for me to search through. Sometimes those records are a miraculous goldmine of information that helps me save the souls of my ancestors. Here is one example of when that happened for me.

There are billions of names in the FamilySearch archives. And, just like those potatoes, they had to come from somewhere. They didn’t just spontaneously materialize by themselves. Somebody had to enter them into the system. And if those somebodies had not entered those names into the system, I would have nothing to search.

The process of entering those records into the system is called “Indexing.”  And indexing is just as essential to temple work as building our family trees and performing temple ordinances.

Have you ever tried your hand at indexing? Have you ever benefitted from somebody else’s indexing efforts? Are you a giver, or a taker?

Coming up next week is a great opportunity to give back. FamilySearch has created an event called “Fuel the Find.” The goal? Have 100,000 people enter at least one batch of records into the indexing system.

The point? Somebody has to grow the potatoes.

This is our chance to help add to the database of information for us to draw on when we work on our family history. The more records that are indexed, the more opportunities for progress in our family history research.

The more we index, the more the walls come down. Sometimes in miraculous fashion.

So, I invite you to take a look at the “Fuel the Find” event. It is being held the entire week of August 7-14. You can find more information about it here.

A small suggestion: If you have never done any indexing, it might be wise to give it a try before the event, so you know what you are doing. There is no better day to learn about indexing than a quiet Fast Sunday. What a coincidence! Today is Fast Sunday! Amazing how things like that work out. Here is a link to a tutorial: Indexing Overview.  Also, here is a link to the FamilySearch Indexing Facebook page, and the event page.

I would love to know which of you participate in this event next week. It really is not a very big commitment, and I would love to see all of us in the MMM community jump in and help this endeavor be successful.

Take a look at this, and let me know if, and how you participate next week. And if you happen to index some birth records from Michigan that contain my ancestors – I thank you in advance.





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  1. Thank you for this analogy! I’m sharing it today with the youth in our ward as they prepare to learn more about family history and indexing.

  2. I was new to indexing last Sunday, when I heard about “Fuel the Find”, and jumped in with both feet. I did over 500 records during last week, and thoroughly enjoyed every bit. I have been a “taker” primarily in the past, by focusing my Family History Research efforts on solely primary research at the FHC library in SLC. I love now being an active “giver-backer”, at least a little bit. I hope to try and do at least a batch a day. We all do need our taters, and somebody has to plant, weed, and harvest ’em.

  3. This is all great but peanuts compared to what we could accomplish by developing technology for computerized handwriting recognition and automated indexing. I am mystified why the church doesn’t more heavily invest in this absolutely integral capability. Although indexing by hand helps some people in the short-term, automated indexing is the future and will make our current efforts by comparison seem very insignificant. It’s almost like where intentionally celebrating manual based efforts at building when if we utilized and developed this automated capability we can get so much more done, and much more effectively. Just like using huge construction equipment makes the job much faster and more effectively done. We can always go backwards and build like the Egyptians, but I’m not convinced we will look back and celebrate that busy but ineffective by comparison use of our resources.

    1. Technology would be great, but it would negate the service of hundreds of thousands of saints trying to further the work by serving. Efficiency is not always the goal…

    2. About the 500 word rant – efficiency is not always the goal, or God could hasten the work at whatever speed he felt we could handle. A quick visit to a temple session should reenforce that idea.

      1. 500 words is fair (was 449 actually), but rant? Wouldn’t consider that a very nice way to respond to my point. I’ll try and make it more concise: Manual hand-indexing efforts absolutely will be “negated” with automated technologies. It is disingenuous to feign concern about ancestors yet denounce technologies that enable their work to be done because it would negate the service of current volunteers. It is even more egregious to justify intentionally repressing technology so that it can be done manually by comparing to the necessarily individual manual process of performing ordinances… I hope you understand your speculation on why the Church would not adopt this capability is very dangerous and I’m fairly sure it doesn’t have any truth. I ascribe the lack of adoption to a lack of organizational vision rather than an intentional decision to make it more inefficient.

        1. Dangerous? Hardly. At least I am not the one being critical of the Church and its Family History efforts. No doubt the church is working on greater technology -they have been making great strides in recent years. Until then, we can all do our best to work within the system we currently have. No one denounced new technology, just looking for a bright side to the current system.

          1. Great to always look for a bright side, be patient with the system, assume the best, etc, but don’t conflate asking thoughtful questions about how this effort can be improved with criticism or the suppression of honest questions with faithfulness… Being anxiously engaged requires the best thinking we can do.

          2. “The wine is good, but the meat is rotten” — early attempt at automated translation of “the spirit is willing, but he flesh is weak” from English to Russian to English.
            Automation of handwriting technology is a growing field, but is so full of pitfalls to make it useless at this stage. Even scanning technology of printed material often results in many errors when it is converted to editable type. Additionally even computers have a learning curve when it comes to hand writing. Current technology uses and algorithm which “guesses” what some letters and words “should” be based on content. When it comes to names and genealogy records, guesses are a terrible thing.
            I agree with the assessment that although the process could be streamlined, “the process” is the goal much more than getting it done. Not to mention the discovery that goes along with it, for those participating.

    3. Mystified why the church doesn’t invest in automated indexing? Why do you think they are not?

      See this blog post: http://www.ancestryinsider.org/2015/07/kehrer-talks-familysearch.html

      I would suppose that we don’t see more automated indexing because it is not that great yet. I’m sure it works best with clean, typewritten copy and so many of the records needing indexing are faded, sloppy handwriting. I use a newspaper archive site that uses computerized character recognition and it is amazing what can be searched for, but there is still quite a bit of “i eer plavs Miss Collett stepn with gaping holes torn by the Cafoboldly The ball” in the results.

      1. It’s better than you might think. See link below – automated indexing (of genealogical relevant records) at 90% accuracy. http://www.researchgate.net/publication/267924080_Using_a_Hidden-Markov_Model_in_Semi-_Automatic_Indexing_of_Historical_Handwritten_Records

        Regardless of how great automated indexing is now, the point is that the huge returns warrant significant investment. It is only a matter of time before automated indexing becomes better than human indexing (like self driving cars) and should be heavily invested in now to hasten the work rather than push for more manual efforts that will be completely dwarfed by this automated capability. What is mystifying is that I personally have offered to help with this with no takes and keep asking where this is in the priority list and typically get responses (like above) that seem to indicate there is almost an intentional repression of the significant advancement we could see by adopting it. Lots of work being poured into helping manual efforts with little/none into much more promising automated methods…

  4. Just FYI….I read the post a week late, but turned my indexing in yesterday!! Yea!! I am counted 🙂 It isn’t very hard or very time consuming…..but I did have to return the batch from Germany, as I don’t read or speak German, but thought I could just look at the writing and type what I saw…..NOT. That didn’t work. So I returned it and opted for some good old fashioned English. Much more my speed. Happy indexing!! I thought it was just a one day thing, but it looks like it is a week thing? I don’t know, just wondering….

  5. Last year our stake set a goal to index 100,000 names we hit 250,000! We are doing it again this year. I have been amazed at the blessings I have received because someone indexed a name. It wasn’t there one week and the next poof there it was! Thanks for a great post I can repost to remind others.

  6. as Andrea pointed out other languages are needed too. I have been doing indexing ever since it became available on line. I also volunteer with http://www.findagrave.com and http://www.billiongraves.com (don’t know if you can post those links here) to transpose grave markers into their index. Who knew that there were Japanese grave markers in Twin Falls, Idaho?
    Brothers & Sisters, I only ask that if you are doing the indexing, and you can’t clearly see what is written….DON”T go with your best guess. let someone else do it. I spent years trying to locate my great-uncle in the US census records, only to discover that his name had been misread by the indexer and the double checker. When I finally located the original record, it was obvious to me….but it was also easy to see how somebody took a “best guess” and got it wrong. If you are not sure, let the line go back into the system. I am sure the Lord will bless you for your efforts, but we can’t do the work for those that are gone if we can’t find them.

  7. Excellent post! In case people don’t check the links you provided – *anyone* 12 and up can index. You don’t have to be a member of the Church, etc so get your friends/family involved. Also, there is a HUGE need for people to do records in foreign languages (aka not English) so this is a great way to brush up for rm’s/school coursework, etc. One other thing, if there aren’t any batches that you’re comfortable with on a given day, check again a few days later since they’re always adding new batches. You don’t even have to finish a batch the same day – you have 7 – so whenever you have 5 or 10 minutes, this is a great time-filler!

    Oh, and I’ll definitely be participating in the worldwide event! 🙂

    1. Actually, you don’t have to be 12… As long as you are baptized and have a membership number to use you can start. Of course, handwritten records are pretty tricky for baptized youngsters who haven’t yet learned cursive. 🙂 We checked with our ward indexing specialist (who checked with the stake trainer) before starting our 9yo son. He prefers the typewritten or clearly printed projects (but don’t we all?). I’ve already indexed 1 batch in English and 1 in Spanish, and our son (now 11) should be doing at least one batch per day this week. I’m glad they changed it to a week this year!

  8. I love indexing! And those potatoes are probably grown here in Idaho! Enjoy both indexing and potatoes on Sunday.

  9. So so thankful for this post! The church has recently asked us to find ways to make our Sabbath Day more meaningful. Doing family history work was top of the list for me but I thought the best way to get into it would be to do some indexing. I was so surprised to find this post with the announcement when the annual event was. I participated last year and it was a wonderful feeling that I had made a difference. They posted on the website the numbers that were accomplished because of the event and when I read it I knew I had contributed! It is a wonderful work and isn’t hard at all. The website makes everything so easy. I plan to participate and I will let you know where my work is from. Thanks again!

  10. Nice post! One of the things I like most about reading your blog is how you interconnect things. Its fascinating and a little window into the mind of a writer, you got to family history indexing from a bag of potatoes, fascinating! Thanks for sharing this and have a beautiful Sunday 🙂

  11. I’ve been indexing for several years and love the idea that I can help someone be found. This upcoming indexing event is going to be fantastic!

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