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A call to action

In a number of columns, I have mentioned the massive project by the Mormons (Latter Day Saints or LDS) to take the 2.5 million microfilms they have created over the decades, and to digitize and index them. Digitizing is just the process of converting a film image to a digital image for the internet. They have to do that project on their own because the film is in their possession. Indexing the records is another matter.

Each microfilm has about 1500-2000 images. Each image may have 1 record or many. For example, a register is a list of 50 names and other information. One image may contain 50 records that have to be indexed. Multiply that by 2.5 million microfilms and you see this project can’t be done by George the LDS Indexer! George might get a little tired!

So how do we help, George? They have made it easy to register as a volunteer to index their microfilm collection. There are already hundreds of thousands of volunteers working. Why should we do this? Well, we help get this project done that much sooner, and for each collection that gets finished, you and others can search for names throughout the films. More importantly, you can help make the records more accurate. How?

There are projects from all over the world on the web site. People are currently indexing immigration records into Brasil 1900-1965, Ontario Canada marriages 1869-1927, Guatemala Births 1929-2008, Polish Catholic records from the Diocese of Radom, the UK 1871 Census, and Texas births 1903-1934 among many others. “That’s all well and good, but what’s in it for moi?”

Well there’s a boatload of projects going on involving Italian records. As of now they are:

* Italy, Bari — Civil Registration, Births, 1876 — 1900)

* Italia, Caltanissetta — Nati, 1875 — 1879)

* Italy, Campobasso — Civil Registration, Births, 1875 — 1901)

* Italy, Firenze, Prato — Civil Registration, 1892 — 1900 [Part 1])

* Italy, Firenze, Prato — Stato Civile, 1892 — 1900 [Parte 2])

* Italy, L’Aquila and Rieti — Civil Registration 1809 — 1828 [Part1])

* Italy, Mantova — Civil Registration, 1806-1815)

* Italy, Messina, Messina — Birth Registrations, 1888 — 1900 [Part 1])

* Italy, Modena — Civil Registrations, Births 1875-1900)

* Italy, Napoli, Quartiere S. Ferdinando — Civil Registration Deaths, 1809 — 1865)

* Italy, Napoli, Quartiere S. Ferdinando — Civil Registration Births, 1809 — 1865 [Part1])

* Italy, Napoli, Quartiere San Ferdinando — Civil Registration Marriages, 1809 — 1865 [Part 1])

* Italy, Napoli — Atti di Nascita, 1809 — 1865 [Part 1B])

* Italia, Nuoro — Stato Civile, 1866 — 1910)

* Italia, Pesaro e Urbino — Nati, 1875 — 1884)

* Italia, Pescara — Nati, 1875 — 1902)

* Italia, Taranto — Nati, 1875 — 1879)

* Italy, Torino, Torino — Civil Registration, Births, 1894 — 1899 [Part A])

* Italia, Udine — Nati, 1875 — 1900)

* Italia, Vercelli — Births, 1876 — 1902)

* Italy, Diocese of Trento — Church Records, 1560 — 1800)

* Italy, Trento — Baptisms 1784-1924 [Part 2A]

My humble opinion is that the best way to contribute to this project is to help index records that are as close to your area of Italy as possible. I know I can index records for any part of Italy due to my experience. However, I am not familiar with the surnames or handwriting for many parts of Italy and I might get the name wrong. Ideally, I should be working on indexing Bari (where my family came from) and I can help with other specific towns in Italy and Sicily that I have worked with.

So how does indexing work? It’s very easy. First you need to register at www.familysearch.org by clicking on the Indexing tab. Follow the instructions. There is a tutorial on how to index on the web site. I suggest you go through this before you start indexing. You will have to install a program on your computer for indexing. You can then select a “batch” of between 10 and 50 records from a project. Each area listed above is a project, and you can click on the name to find out more about it. So I should click on the Bari Italy project and ask for a batch of records. They will not give you specific records that you may want, but you will get records from that project that have not been indexed yet.

So that software you installed now takes over and brings in the batch of records. The image is shown in the upper half of your screen. The lower half of your screen is where you do the indexing. The first field might be the record number. The image zooms in automatically on the part of the image where the record number is contained, and highlights it if possible. You then type in the record number in the bottom. Then you hit TAB to get to the next field. It zooms in automatically to that part of the record. You type it in. And so on.

Once you start typing in these fields, it will try to help you by autocorrecting as you type the next record. It may auto-type the number of the next record to the next sequential number. It may auto-type the surname. This is to save you time, and to help keep the record spellings uniform.

If you don’t have time to finish the batch in one sitting, you can save where you are and it will bookmark where you left off. Once you finish all the records in the batch, you submit the batch and you’ll never see it again. Then you can get another batch and start again. You can also start a friendly competition with a friend, because the site keeps track of how many batches and records you have indexed. There are folks out there who have indexed tens of thousands of records. I guess they have free time. I wouldn’t know!

Should everyone index Italian records? No, I don’t think so. We want the final results to be as accurate as possible. It would be ideal if records were indexed by people familiar with either the Italian language, or familiar with the record format. Don’t get me wrong. If J. Penmore Worthington from Boston wants to help index Italian records, I won’t try to dissuade him. But if you are familiar with the surnames from your research experience, you have a much better chance to get the indexing correct.

The good news is that each batch is indexed by two people, independently. If I look at a name and determine that it’s “Vito” and Penmore looks at the same name and decides it is “Vilo” with a “L,” then that batch gets sent to an expert arbitrator to decide what the name really should be. These arbitrators are assigned by the LDS Church and they have plenty of experts, so hopefully he or she will get it correct.

So I encourage Italian researchers out there to give indexing a try and just do one batch a day. It won’t take much time, but you’ll be helping us all to search the Italian records on-line!!

Write to Dan at italianroots@comcast.net and please put “Fra Noi” in the subject line.

About Dan Niemiec

Dan Niemiec has been the genealogy columnist for Fra Noi since 2004. For the past 25 years, he has researched his genealogy back 17 generations, plus tracing descendants of his ancestors, yielding 74,000 relatives. His major focus is on civil and church records in Italy, Chicago vital records, Chicago Catholic records and most major genealogy web sites. He has given dozens of presentations to many local and some national genealogy societies on topics such as cemetery research, Catholic records, Italian records, Ellis Island and newspaper research, among others.