Ancestry.com indexes aren’t always right, making it more difficult to search successfully for your ancestors in old records. In many cases, you can correct those errors and help others find it in the future. Here’s how to do it.
“I find the indexes and transcriptions for information digitized is often incorrect. This is especially true on Ancestry.com.”
Vera is right that you shouldn’t fully rely on indexes to tell you whether your ancestors appear in records! Indexers make mistakes when they transcribe names. Or, perhaps the indexer is transcribing it as it appears, but the spelling is different, or it’s just really tough to decipher. Sometimes it takes an informed descendant’s eye—like yours!—to read an entry correctly or to contribute a spelling that’s more common.
If you don’t find ancestors in indexed records where you think they should be, browse the digitized records page-by-page for that time period and locale. (Click here to read a post on how to browse records at FamilySearch.org: a similar technique applies at Ancestry.com and other sites.)
You can also use advanced search techniques, like searching without the first or last name (or both), searching instead with other known characteristics such as the gender, age, place, and another relative’s name.
User-submitted corrections in Ancestry.com Indexes
When you DO find your ancestor in an Ancestry.com record that was incorrectly indexed, you might be able to fix it! The site allows users to submit changes to any indexes they have created themselves. You may even have seen (and benefited from) user-submitted corrections in your search results already. They look like this:
That listing you see means the record was originally indexed as R Care Harris, but someone has submitted a correction.
If you roll over the pencil icon, you’ll see a note that says, “Other possible names: Robert Carr Harris.” Click View Record to the left, and you’ll see the transcribed information:
If you click where the blue arrow shows, on [Robert Carr-Harris], you’ll see that an Ancestry user submitted this name correction:
If you have a correction of your own to make to an Ancestry indexed entry, you may click where the red arrow is pointed above, to where it says View/Add alternate information. You’ll see this screen:
From the drop-down menu, you can choose which fields to correct. In the case of the 1921 Canadian census, you can choose from several different fields to correct, including the name, parents’ birthplaces, occupations, and more. You can even select a field that was left blank if you want to add information here.
As shown below, you must select a reason for making the change. Then you can enter what you think it should say and click Submit Alternate:
Your corrected version is then added to the searchable index to help others find the same record.
Remember, you can only do this in indexes that Ancestry.com has created itself (not indexes supplied by third parties). But that applies to a lot of major indexes, including several U.S. and Canadian censuses, draft registrations, passenger lists, and more.
Ancestry Pro Tip
An Ancestry user who has corrected an entry for one of your ancestors may be a good person for you to know about. If you’re a subscriber, you can click on the user name to see the user profile and send a message. The user profile may show an AncestryDNA test, recently-added content, any of that person’s public trees, and a personal description.
The user who corrected the entry above defines herself as an advanced genealogist who has been researching since 1985, does research almost every day, and is currently active on Ancestry.com. If Robert Care (or Carr) Harris were my ancestor, I would definitely want to meet her!
LearnHow to Fix an Ancestry Online Family Tree: (Click on player to unmute sound)
Pick the right records website for you!
Ancestry.com is one of the 4 major websites that hosts records and indexes, and figuring out which site has the records you need is something that all genealogists wrestle with.
Author Sunny Morton will show you how they stack up when it comes to the numbers of historical records, names in trees, DNA profiles, site users, site languages, subscription costs, and more. It’s everything you would ever want to know, and many things you probably didn’t know that you needed to know. You can pick up your copy here in our store — now updated for 2019!
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
This article was originally published on July 25, 2017 and updated on March 27, 2019.
You’re invited to participate in a global FamilySearch indexing event! Join thousands of volunteers worldwide October 20-22, 2017 as they index historical records that will help genealogists (maybe you) climb your family tree. If you can index in another language, you have a VIP invitation–your skills are especially needed.
This coming weekend, FamilySearch is throwing its annual global indexing party: a three-day event designed to get genealogists away from their own database searches for just long enough to contribute to building those databases. It’s the Worldwide FamilySearch Indexing Event, and it runs October 20–22, 2017.
What is FamilySearch indexing?
Indexing is the process of extracting ancestral information from the world’s historical documents and putting them into online databases to help researchers find their ancestors in them more easily.
Here’s a quick video that illustrates the process (it’s a super cute video):
Why Is There a FamilySearch Indexing Event?
FamilySearch runs the world’s best-known volunteer online indexing system. This system has helped tens of thousands of volunteers index millions of names that are now searchable for free on FamilySearch.org and other websites. The annual three-day FamilySearch indexing event concentrates the year-round efforts of indexers into an energetic burst of activity. It also shines a light on the important service performed by FamilySearch indexers and attracts new (and lapsed) helpers to the cause.
Last year’s event galvanized over 100,000 volunteers, who indexed more than 10 million historic records in the three-day period. A FamilySearch representative stated, “From its beginning on Thursday in Southeast Asia and Australia to its conclusion Sunday night in the Pacific, the event attracted a wide range of participants. Volunteers contributed online from home or participated in locally organized events from Zurich, Switzerland, to the Rocky Mountains in the United States.”
Indexing volunteers with non-English language skills are particularly needed at this time. Over 200 FamilySearch digital camera teams are currently photographing historic records from non-English speaking countries. The effort has created a huge need and opportunity for indexers to make these records freely searchable online.
Volunteers can choose from projects of interest from all over the world and in several languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Polish, Swedish, and Dutch.
What’s New at This Year’s FamilySearch Indexing Event?
This year, the FamilySearch indexing portal became entirely cloud-based, a step forward in this increasingly mobile world. Now you can index on-the-go on your tablet or phone as well as at your computer. You can also modify the layout of your dashboard based on personal preferences, set and track individual goals, and even create groups with friends (or others interested in working on a common project, such as your society members).
RSVP for the FamilySearch Indexing Event
This year’s FamilySearch indexing event has a dedicated webpage where you can RSVP and learn more. All you need to begin indexing is a FamilySearch.org account and access to the internet. (And for this event, a little bit of time between October 20-22, 2017.)
Learn more about FamilySearch Historical Records in the Genealogy Gems Podcast
David Ouimette is known to his FamilySearch colleagues as “the Indiana Jones of genealogy” because of his globe-trotting adventures in discovering historical record treasures. Hear from him in the newest free episode of Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems Podcast. Click here to listen!
According to an article on the FamilySearch blog, 90% of all indexed records on FamilySearch are those for English-speaking countries. While this is super exciting for me and my family tree, many of my friends are unable to trace their family histories past their great-grandparents. Why? Because the records in their native country have been digitized, but not indexed.
FamilySearch Indexing in These Easy Steps
I have been indexing at FamilySearch for years and you can join me! Just follow these simple steps:
Go to www.familysearch.org.
Sign-in and click on Indexing and choose Overview from the pull-down menu.
Click on Get Started, which will direct you to the Get Started page. You will need to download the indexing program directly to your device.
From your desktop, open the FamilySearch Indexing program by clicking on the icon.
Sign-in again and click Download Batch at the top left corner.
Choose a project to work on.
If you feel you need some further instruction, watch these helpful videos below:
FamilySearch is looking for three kinds of people:
Fluent, native speakers of non-English languages living in their native county or in an English-speaking country.
People who have extensive training in a non-English language.
English speakers who are willing to learn how to index specific types of non-English records.
I know what you are thinking…you hardly passed French 101 in high school! But, you can do it.
There was recently a very successful Italian indexing training initiative in the U.S. It more than doubled the worldwide number of individuals working on Italian records. You can be a part of the growing need for French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese record sets.
Training guides and videos have been created for the French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian languages. As we accomplish the work for these places, FamilySearch will add more languages. The videos and guides will help volunteers to learn how to index specific types of records. Click here to learn about this language learning initiative and to get started.
What Else Can You Do for FamilySearch Indexing?
If you have friends or family who are fluent in another language, ask them to join you. Share this post with your friends on Twitter and Facebook to get the word out. Does your teen need some service hours for graduation, Girl/Boy Scouts, or other organization? This is a unique service project that even teens can do and that will be meaningful to many.
The FamilySearch indexing event is coming up in July! It is a rewarding volunteer activity for yourself or your family. Here’s how to participate in this event–and how to get started indexing genealogy records for FamilySearch.
You may have heard a lot of people talk about indexing, but have no idea what it is. In a nutshell, indexing is when a person views a digital image of a record and then types (abstracts or transcribes) the information they see. For example, if you were indexing Ohio birth records, you would see an entire page of a birth ledger.
Then, you would read the lines and type the name, date of birth, sex, and parents’ names into a spreadsheet that is provided to you. Now, the Ohio birth records are searchable by name, date, and other criteria. This is a great help for researchers all over the world and anyone can easily find the records they need without the hassle of traveling or ordering microfilm.
Join the FamilySearch Indexing Event
This year’s FamilySearch indexing event will be held Friday, July 15th through Sunday, July 17th. The goal is for 72,000 people all around the world to come together and index at least one batch of records during that 72 hour period.
To participate, go to www.familysearch.org and sign-in. If you haven’t created an account, go ahead and do that now. It is free and you don’t have to worry about spam email and unwanted solicitations.
Next, click on Indexing at the top right of the screen and choose Overview from the pull-down menu.
You are directed to a new screen. Now, this next step is important. In the near future, you will be able to participate in browser-based indexing. However, it is not available right now. Instead, you will need to download the indexing program to your computer by clicking Get Started.
You will see the Download Indexing button. Go ahead and click it. The program is free. Follow the directions and then open the program on your device.
You will need to sign-in again, then click on Download Batch at the top left corner of the screen. A pop-up window will appear with a list of projects that need to be indexed. Scroll through and find one that interests you. You might notice that there is a project name, description, level, and points column. The project name and description are self-explanatory. The level indicates how difficult the records might be to index. You can choose projects that are listed for beginners, intermediates, or advanced. The points column is also based on the difficulty level. Points are adjusted for degree of difficulty (since some projects are much more challenging than others.) All records receive at least one point, but more difficult indexing projects may give anywhere from two to ten points per record. Points provide a way for you to track your personal indexing contribution to FamilySearch as well.
Once you have completed indexing your batch, you will be prompted to run a review. This is just a way to make sure you didn’t forget anything or make a typing error. Now that the batch is reviewed, return your batch by clicking File and choosing Submit from the pull-down list. Congratulations! You have completed indexing your first batch!
Join the FamilySearch Indexing Community
For even more support and tips in your indexing endeavors, you can “Like” the FamilySearch Indexing Facebook Page and for a quick and easy overview of why the FamilySearch indexing event is important, watch the video below.
Share this fun project with your friends and family. We hope that many of you will join us as we make this indexing event one for the record books!
The FamilySearch Worldwide Indexing Event: It’s like a big, happy relay race for family historians: a display of skill with record-setting accomplishments and the coming together of a community for a cause.
Last year, 66,511 FamilySearch indexers helped set a new record for the most people indexing in a 24-hour period. Their efforts resulted in more than 5.7 million records being processed in a single day!
This year, we encourage you to participate in FamilySearch’s Worldwide Indexing Event from August 7-14, 2015. “You have one week to participate by indexing at least one batch in the language of your choice,” said FamilySearch in an invitation to current indexers. “If you are fluent in French, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish-our focus languages for 2015-please help index records in one of those languages. Let’s help our friends in other countries to find their ancestors too! All it takes is one batch indexed sometime during the week to be counted.” (Special trainingis available.)
I’ve learned that indexing for others feels great, but I get something out of it, too. I use indexing to become more familiar with different record types, like naturalization records, border crossings or church registers (my favorite record type) from different places or time periods. I become better at reading old handwriting and picking out genealogical details from old documents–great skills that help me in my own research!
Last year, more than 18,000 new indexers joined the fun during the 24-hour challenge. Why not do the same this year?Click here to learn more about FamilySearch volunteer indexing or read the articles below to learn about other indexing opportunities out there.