Thursday, June 21, 2007

Images First, Index Next

I think the most exciting revelation from Tuesday's announcement of FamilySearch's Record Search Pilot is their apparent openness to letting users "Find and view images that have not yet been indexed."

Indexed images are great, but it will take years (decades?) for volunteers to fully index all the digitized records piling up in the Vault. Genealogists raised on microfilm are used to scanning page after page for a single relevant record; there's no reason to hold back digitized records until every name is cataloged. Providing the images online with simple finding aids should suffice for researchers eager to ferret out family facts.

Besides, isn't it more satisfying to stumble upon your ancestor's name after hours of mind-numbing work than after a five-second search? And what clues are missed by the family historian who looks only at those pages where his last name appears?


Many of my "breakthrough" discoveries were made by going through records page by page, even if they were already indexed. Indexes are not always accurate and other important clues may also be found just a few pages away.

Michael McKean

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