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The effort for indexers to break records

By Kenneth Sisler

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 14 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Two weeks before the Super Bowl of 2011, I was sitting in sacrament meeting thinking about the Super Bowl. Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not watch sports on television on the Sabbath.

As an alternative, I started asking people if they would try to index as many names as possible on Feb. 6, 2011, which was Super Bowl Sunday. The event was dubbed the "Super Indexing Sunday."

The LDS Church has people who photograph or otherwise digitize a variety of record books. Indexers download several pages or a batch of these records at a time and type names, dates and other requested information from the handwritten records. Each batch is indexed bay two different people and then an arbitrator compares the two and makes a final decision with any discrepancies. Then, the the index is processed and then published on FamilySearch.org so that those looking for their ancestors can search digitally, rather than hunting through the records.

For the "Super Indexing Sunday," I asked my Facebook friends to participate, and I asked them to share with their Facebook friends what I was doing. I set up a page for the "Super Indexing Sunday."

Next, I contacted FamilySearch indexing and they showed the event on the FamilySearch indexing Facebook page.

Then I contacted several large genealogical societies in the United States such as the National Genealogical Society. All of the societies I contacted mentioned the event either on their websites or their blogs. Many family history bloggers mentioned the upcoming event.

The day before the event, I did a Google search "Super Indexing Sunday." Four pages of results came up. Some Mormons had even organized their ward members to take part, and the event was announced in some wards.

Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011, was a busy day for me because I am one of the local leaders in my ward. Finally, at night I was able to do some indexing. I was unable to get on the FamilySearch indexing website for a few minutes. Finally, I was able to get on the website. This had never happened to me before. I checked my Super Indexing Sunday Facebook page to see what was going on. People were reporting it was sometimes taking a long time to get on the website to download batches and to upload batches. I knew the message of the event had been received by thousands of people. I was overjoyed.

The record we had to break was about 2.8 million names indexed or arbitrated in one day. Unfortunately, we fell short by approximately 200,000. The system had become overloaded.

However, we were successful in breaking the record for the number of indexers and arbitrators in one day. More than 14,000 people indexed or arbitrated names that day. We had broken the record by more than 1,000 people. I was ecstatic. I had started out alone and with the help of thousands of others around the world, a record had been broken.

Of course, accuracy is important when doing indexing and arbitrating, even when a record is being broken.

In late June 2012, FamilySearch indexing sent an email asking all indexers and arbitrators to set aside July 1 and July 2 as "FamilySearch Indexing Five Million Record Day." A Facebook page was also set up. The goal was to break the record of approximately 4.9 million names indexed or arbitrated earlier this year on April 30.

Since we don't have an indexing program in my ward, I sent an email to all ward members asking them to take part in the event. Several members did.

I knew this was going to be challenging for me because in Canada, where I live, July 1 is a national holiday. Since July 1 in Canada fell on a Sunday in 2012, July 2 was a holiday for most people. This is a time of getting together with family, friends and ward members. However, every spare moment I had I indexed. Where I live, the time of indexing started at 8 p.m. on July 1 and ended at 8 p.m. on July 2.

With each passing year, technology in the LDS Church gets better and better. This time I had no problems with the website in the 24 hours of the event. I also learned a few things from the 2011 event. I downloaded all of the batches of names I would need before July 1, 2012. I also worked offline to take some pressure off the website.

Within 16 hours, 5 million names had been indexed or arbitrated, so we broke the record. In the next eight hours, more than 5 million additional names had been indexed or arbitrated. (See "FamilySearch Indexers Leave a Legacy in a Record Setting Event" for more information.)

More than 46,000 people had participated on July 1 and 2, breaking the old record of about 34,000 people in one day.

I was overjoyed to see the progress we have made in a year and a half in the number of names indexed and arbitrated for a one-day record and the number of people who participated for a one-day record. I learned the importance of what one person can accomplish. I had an idea and it came to a reality.

I look forward to participating in the next day we try to break a record.

Ken Sisler is a family historian who lives in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. His email is ken.sisler@rogers.com

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