Friday, March 22, 2013

Indexing Ninjas

In addition to RootsTech 2013 going on right now, FamilySearch Indexing is thisclose to reaching the milestone of having 1 billion names indexed/arbitrated. You have no idea how many times I had to backspace on that last sentence because autocorrect has a mini-seizure when you skip a crucial space. Anyway, the Indexing team is promoting this milestone as a big deal because it certainly is. For the indexers and arbitrator that end up doing the billionth name, there will be prizes of some sort. I think it's a great way to spotlight just how much work has taken place over the last several years through this massive volunteer effort.

However, it is also interesting to me to read through so many of the comments on the website for FamilySearch Indexing. There are many indexers and arbitrators who understand the purpose for the work they are doing. And then there are some who just don't get it.

FamilySearch Indexing is a volunteer effort. From, the second definition of volunteer is "a person who performs a service willingly and without pay." Okay, so can I just point out that without pay often also means without recognition? While it would be awesome to be the one who indexed that billionth record, I am perfectly content remaining an indexing ninja. You know. Get in. Index a few names. Get out without being seen.

Many commenters on FamilySearch talk about how they like to keep their percentages of "arbitration agreement"up high. This number is simply a statistic for us volunteers. It helps us to see if we are making mistakes and where we can improve. However, due to the fact that we are all human, arbitrators (and indexers, I might add) tend to make mistakes. And yes, many of those mistakes are frustrating when we want our arbitration percentage to stay nice and high in the 90% range. I get it. I really do. I take pride in trying to keep that number as high as possible, as well. But, is that number worth criticizing other volunteers who are so willing to serve, no matter how imperfectly?

I noted, in particular, a comment that someone shared on the Indexing Facebook page. "Now I remember why I quit doing indexing before... It is way to frustrating to do all that work and have none of it matter..." Looking further down on her comment thread, I realized she was having some issues with her indexed batches being returned, and she is having trouble figuring out why. It could be a technical glitch, human error, or who knows what else? However, this speaks to a larger complaint I hear so often from a very vocal number of indexers, and that is that the work they do is somehow negated if another indexer or an arbitrator gets something wrong. What does it say about our own motives when we get so frustrated that we are sharp or contentious with other volunteers? When we claim our work is being ignored or somehow "ruined" by someone else's mistakes? And doing it so publicly, as well.

The purpose of this work is not perfection or 100% accuracy. That wouldn't be possible considering the nature of the project. Too many volunteers. Too many different projects with different instructions. Too much room for human error. The purpose of this work is to get that many more genealogical records accessible freely to those searching out their genealogy and family histories. If we assume that the mistakes of ourselves or others will somehow keep that from happening, where is the power of God in this?

For those of us, particularly, who are LDS, and attempting to do our family histories in order to have family names to take to the temple, do we not trust in the Spirit of Elijah and the help of those beyond the veil? Mistakes happen. Mistakes in records happened long before the Internet. This is not a new problem, but do we have faith that the Lord can help us surmount these mistakes and obstacles as we work to find our ancestors? And more than that, does it truly matter if a batch, or even several batches we have indexed are returned and not used because of a mistake by an arbitrator? I think we need to remember that records here may not be perfect, but records in heaven are. I firmly believe our work and efforts in indexing and arbitrating are all recorded by someone who knows perfectly how to reward our diligence someday. My plea is that we keep the Spirit of Elijah in our hearts as we do this work, and that we let our hearts not only be turned to our fathers, but also to our fellow laborers in the vineyard. Our desire for accuracy or recognition should not override our compassion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

RootsTech? Wow. I am jealous.
I am a librarian and genealogist and went crazy (in a good way)playing around on your family site. What is your Crow(e) connection and do we know why they added that "e" so late in the game? lol. My adoptive grandmother was Nena and I started digging for her family. Have some family photos from her adopted son (my grandfather) who recently died and was curious about all those strangers faces!