It gets addicting. I liked the obituaries and finding out about people’s lives. It has been so interesting. —Mandy Forte
Editor's note: This is one in a series of features on family history.
Mandy Forte has felt a difference in her home in recent months.
The mother of five from Hot Springs, Arkansas, said the turning point came when she started spending less time with Netflix and more time indexing obituaries on FamilySearch.org, which includes transcribing it from digital images of handwritten records to create an searchable database for researchers.
"It has invited the Spirit into our home and has made me feel more productive," Forte said in a recent phone interview with the Deseret News. "I feel like I am contributing to something really worthwhile."
Forte, 36, said she used to put her children to bed by 9 p.m., then watch movies and television shows until her husband, a park ranger, returned home around midnight. At some point she realized she could be more productive with her time.
She recalled that her sister, Katie Gale, had recently talked their father, Charles Gale, into indexing. It involves transcribing information from old records into a searchable database. While Forte sat in a bedroom with a son who had trouble staying in bed, she began to index obituaries.
"It gets addicting," said Forte, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I liked the obituaries and finding out about people’s lives. It has been so interesting."
Forte said she indexed the obituary of a German soldier from World War II who had worked closely with Adolf Hitler. She found it to be "a little creepy." Another obituary described the life of a golf caddy. There was one about a sailor from Connecticut who had drowned, along with "sad" death certificates of children. Reading and typing so many obituaries has also given Forte ideas of how she wants her own obituary to read.
"You compare and contrast," she said. "I like the ones that talk about their families and say things like, 'She was a loving mother.'"1 comment on this story
As a result of indexing and using her time more efficiently, Forte said she felt inspired to start teaching herself how to play the piano. She also looked into other aspects of family history work.
"If I am indexing for someone else and helping them to find valuable information, hopefully someone else is doing something that will help me," Forte said.
Forte still watches a movie now and then, but not without her computer nearby or some laundry to fold. She encourages others to try indexing and notice the difference in their lives.
"Indexing makes you feel a greater sense of purpose and invites the Spirit more into your home," she said.
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