I didn’t do much, but

I made history button



…I did make a bit of history at the same time as I transcribed a bit of genealogical history. The adjacent badge confirms it!

I, along with 66,510 other genealogy enthusiasts, participated in a 24-hour effort (Sunday into Monday, U.S. time) to index vital details from images of documents such as birth certificates, censuses, and obituaries.  The goal—well surpassed—was 50,000 indexers and arbitrators. Even more remarkable—some 5.7 million records were indexed during the event! I couldn’t participate Sunday evening because of server overloads, but I was able to submit a batch early Monday morning. Once that was done, I was happy to back off and let others attempt server access and batch submission on the way to meeting the 50,000-participant goal.

Before and during the event, I indexed several batches of 1960s-era birth records from the Philippines—one thing I noticed was that almost every child’s middle name was his or her mother’s maiden name. That is, first of all, very different from familiar-to-me U.S. naming conventions, but it is HUGE from a genealogical perspective because those babies’ descendants will be able to rule out all other maiden name possibilities as they research their family’s roots.

I also indexed a set of fairly recent obituary notices. It was interesting to see how newspapers treat the surnames of the deceased’s descendants. For example, they rarely list the maiden name of the daughters of the deceased, and when the spouses of either male or female descendants of the deceased are listed, it is usually without surname.

For obituaries, it was recommended that we proceed line-by-line through the newspaper notice, adding each person to the online database as accurately and completely as possible but, at the same time, avoiding assumptions about surnames, relationships, etc. The longest obituary I transcribed resulted in one record for the deceased and 11 more for the spouse, the couple’s children and their spouses, and other named relatives and non-relatives. Having indexed that record, I offer a high-five (and sincere thanks) to the indexer who might someday tackle either of my parent’s obituary notices: with ten children, their spouses and children, and miscellaneous others, they will try the patience of the most enthusiastic indexer!

Paying it forward

WWINDEX_Poster2Have you ever searched for information about an ancestor? Did you find what you were looking for? Were you, as a result, able to answer a nagging question about your family’s history?

Do you have an hour or two to spare beginning later this weekend?

If so, you may want to “pay forward” your experience by participating in the Worldwide Indexing Event, hosted by FamilySearch.org. The goal of the event is to get 50,000 indexers and arbitrators to submit at least one batch during a 24-hour period. The participation period begins Sunday, July 20th at 00:00 coordinated universal time (UTC) and continues until 23:59 UTC on Monday, July 21st. My start time (U.S. Eastern Daylight time) is 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 20th. Start times for other time zones are available on the Facebook event page.

Indexing is the process of entering information from images of vital records (birth, death, marriage), government documents (censuses, draft registration cards), newspaper reports (obituaries), etc., into an online database. Once indexed, the search terms and the underlying documents become available to people searching for information about their ancestors.

Participation is fairly simple. You will have to download and install the indexing program and either register for a new account or sign in with an existing FamilySearch or LDS account. Details, introductory videos, a “test drive,” and other information is available here.

I wanted to try it out beforehand, so I signed up early Thursday evening and was soon fully engaged in entering names and dates for 1960s era birth records from the Philippines. It takes patience and attention to detail, especially for sometimes difficult-to-read handwritten records, but it is also interesting to see how Filipino naming conventions differ from what I’m used to in the U.S. The biggest payoff, of course, is knowing that someone, somewhere might be able to learn something more about a family member because the details of a birth certificate are now searchable. I have since indexed four 15 record batches. Data entry and a pre-submission quality check took about an hour per batch.

I’ll be there! Will you join me?

Better than ever

I can’t claim an exceptional reading list during my childhood years, but I’m fairly certain the exemplar below will be familiar to other girls/women who were born in the 1950s:

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series
  • Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Eight Cousins series
  • L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • Stratemeyer Syndicate series such as Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins; I’m sure I even strayed into their boy-oriented Hardy Boys series when I exhausted more girlish fare

I enjoyed each of these books, some of them several times over, but what I value most about my childhood reading experience is the memories of our town’s public library. The library’s unique scent, a compound of aging paper, dust, damp, and heat, was distinctive and inviting. The children’s section, for me, was a treasure trove of information, mystery, and adventure, allowing me to travel far and wide even though our family rarely ventured more than 20 miles from home.

Planning for the Dickinson (North Dakota) public library began in 1908. Like many libraries of the time, its construction was a grassroots effort that started with a letter from the town’s library board to Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie’s $12,500 grant funded the building’s construction. The original 1,000 or so books were donated by local organizations while a municipal “library tax” funded the library’s operation. The library opened to the public in January 1910.

The library has had three additions to the original structure, now totaling some 24,000 square feet of library and function space. Situated on a corner lot, the 21st century library presents two facades. The historic entrance, topped with the building’s construction date and public library notation, retains the original staircase. Carnegie lore is that the staircase symbolizes a person’s elevation by learning. Meanwhile, the new facade features an accessible entry via the Friends of the Library Garden Plaza.

Dickinson Library

Inside, the woodwork and tin ceilings of the 1908 structure have been restored and the original fireplace has been converted to gas logs. Stained glass windows and a birdcage-style elevator enhance the historic appeal of the building. Modern amenities include computer access, security system and surveillance cameras, and a ground-source heating system.

Is it any wonder that I love Carnegie libraries in general and this one in particular? I’m also extremely proud that visionaries in my hometown crafted this extraordinary and heartwarming mix of old and new.

Posted in conjunction with Book of Me, a continuing project to compile a personal history based on one’s unique responses to a series of weekly prompts.

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