Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Hearts of the Children are Turning — Sometimes Via Official Callings

Last Sunday our youngest son (a young teen) was sustained and set apart as a family history indexer. At the same time, a young woman who is about a year older than our son was called to be a family history consultant, a calling that has traditionally been reserved for seasoned adults with lots of family history experience. Well guess what? This girl is already very experienced with family history work. Although she has been called to serve the youth, she could easily teach many adults a thing or two.

My son, on the other hand, while honored by his new calling, was also intimidated. Unlike many of his peers, he isn't terribly rapid at absorbing new technology. Nor is he very good at reading cursive writing. He has been asked to index a certain number of names each month. I think the number is within his abilities, but the bishopric also understands his Asperger condition. They made it clear that he need only make an earnest effort each month.

In keeping with Elder Bednar's October 2011 general conference address, we are starting to see more young people become directly involved in family history work in our ward. The LDS Church even has a website devoted to how youth can get involved. Like many others in the ward, each of our children has successfully cleared names for temple ordinances.

But this is the first time any of our children has received an official calling to do family history work. In this case, our son is doing family history indexing. Family history indexing is a process that makes records searchable online, as shown in this video:

The general idea is to get data that is stored on paper records — censuses, birth records, obituaries, property tax records, ship registers, etc. — digitized into searchable databases. The process begins as people around the world (mostly volunteers) digitize images of these records. Images are categorized into projects with images of similar type. Databases and input forms are constructed. Then volunteer indexers look at the images and enter the data into the forms. Volunteer arbitrators review and correct entries. This makes the data available for those doing family history research, as shown in this video:

So Sunday afternoon I sat down with our son and got him started. He was intimidated by the first record with which he was presented, but he was actually able to read the cursive. Next I found a project of 20th Century Virginia death records. These were typewritten, making the project easier for him. It was tedious at first, but by the end of the batch he was starting to get the hang of it.

You don't need a calling to do family history indexing. You don't even need to be a member of the LDS Church. Anyone can do it. Once digitized, the data becomes freely available to anyone via the FamilySearch website. You can go to the indexing website right now and get started. Spend as little or as much time indexing as you'd like. Any work you do will help others.

Our son's calling is slated to last for about half a year. He can extend it after that if he wishes. Or he can just index on his own. I hope this is the beginning of a lifetime of family history work for him. Many people find meaning in researching their family tree. People crave to know who they came from. Indexing is among the opportunities available for helping others satisfy that craving. I hope our son finds joy in his service.

1 comment:

Jesse J Cottam said...

Thanks for sharing that. I'm a student here at BYU-Idaho, so I didn't realize how much family history work is spreading to the youth. That was neat to hear. Thank you.