Family History Library now offers personal consultation sessions
Building a case when no record "proves" a point

How good are the FamilySearch Indexing indexes?

FamilySearch Indexing continues to grow. Today Headquarters announced that over 115,000 volunteers have signed up to help index records.

The fruits of the efforts are starting to help people more easily identify their ancestors. The completed projects, with the linked images, are freely available for searching at For example, one of the first indexing projects was the 1900 U.S. federal census. The entire census (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) is now searchable at the labs website.

How good is the index?
I thought I would see if the FamilySearch search engine would find my ancestor, Joshua Marsden BROWN (born 1833 in Pennsylvania). He went by Marsden throughout his life, so I searched for Marsden Brown. Unbelievably, FamilySearch found him! I say unbelievably because the other three indexes I have previously consulted did NOT find him. I used the same criteria in each index: Marsden BROWN for his name. 1833 for the year of birth. And Pennsylvania for the place of birth. Here were the results: No matches.

Heritage Quest. No matches.

Soundex Index (on microfilm). This was the first index I consulted years ago. He was listed under Marden Brown (no 's' in his name). I accidentally found this because it obviously was not alphabetized where I would have thought. I got lucky with this index.

FamilySearch. 1 close match. Marden Brown, born Sep 1833 in Pennsylvania. Even though I typed Marsden (with the 's') Brown in the search field, FamilySearch was the only search engine that returned the right person as a possible match.

Why is the index so good?
Without having any inside information, and not having conducted any comprehensive studies comparing the different services, I suspect that overall the FamilySearch indexes will be more accurate.

Firstly, for the most part, the indexes are created by persons whose native language matches the language of the records being indexed. I understand that many of the indexes produced by the commercial organizations are indexed by persons whose native language is not the language of the records they are indexing.

Secondly, each document (image) is indexed by two separate indexers. If there are any differences in the transcriptions that each creates, a third person, known as an arbitrator, compares the two and makes the final decision.

Thirdly, FamilySearch's Standard Finder is utilized in indexing and searching. This means that if a person searches for Mary, results will not only include index entries for the name Mary, but it will also include entries for common nicknames and spellings of Mary. You are more likely to find who you are looking for if you search for these name variants. FamilySearch does it for you.

What records are being indexed?
FamilySearch Indexing maintains a list of current, upcoming, and completed projects. As of today, these are the current projects:

  • Canada - 1871 census
  • Germany - Mecklenburg 1819 census
  • Ireland - birth indexes 1864-1903
  • Ireland - death indexes 1864-1884
  • Ireland - marriage indexes 1868-1921
  • Mexico - 1930 census
  • Nicaragua - Managua civil records
  • United States - 1850 census
  • United States - Arkansas marriages
  • United States - Freedmen Letters
  • United States - Indiana marriages, 1790-1905
  • United States - Boston state census 1855
  • United States - Boston state census 1865
  • United States - Ohio tax records
  • United States - Salt Lake County births 1908-1915
  • United States - veterans buried in Utah
  • United States - West Virginia vital records

Click here for a list of upcoming projects.

Click here for a list of completed projects.

How to volunteer.
To volunteer, follow these three steps:

  1. At, click on the Volunteer button to register.
  2. Install the software.
  3. Start indexing.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

You inspired me to go over and have a look. I registered and it took a few hours to get my confirmation email. Worth the wait though! I entered my great-grandfather's name first and up came the 1900 census, and his death certificate which I didn't previously have a copy of. Beautiful job they've done with the scanning. The images have been scanned fairly straight without great expanses of black border so that's something different. It takes a minute to get used to the silvery-grey backgrounds but the documents are easily clear enough to read. Very nicely done with the spacious search results page and navigation of images and options to save or print. Everything works very smoothly. The death certificate also gave the text version, similar to what does on some things, that can be copied and pasted directly into your Legacy database under Source Detail. The difference is that it required no editing of misaligned tabs. Straight copy and paste, perfectly aligned. More, more...

After finding a 1900 Census, I was able to zoom to a very nice view but when I printed the document, it printed the total page which was almost unreadable due to the small print and it also left large black borders on both sides. After using Ancestry for the last several years, this will not be a satisfactory replacement.

RE: Zooming and printing

There are lots of free ways to print part of an image. Any of the free screen-capture utilities will do it, or you can use the PrintScreen key to capture the screen and then paste the clipboard into Windows Paint.

Irfanview (free at is one useful tool among many.

I have stumbled upon the perfect solution to images that are not straight and have black borders. A very small FREE program is available at that can be used to "crop" off black borders and wide white margins. It also has a "rotate" feature that will rotate images clockwise or counter-clockwise in very small increments. The result is a perfectly aligned image showing only what you need.

I was excited to try this with my family. I know where my family is in the 1900 census and thought I might find others. New Jersey is listed as completed so I searched on each family member I knew and not one of them came up. So much for that hope.

I've indexed over 1500 names for the site. It's nice to know it's helping others to find their ancestors.

I am looking for the Batlle and Albert family from Puerto Rico

Hi, i am just curious as to why this new program from
Family search does not apply to the UK.

Thanks Rich (and all the others who are so generously indexing) for all of your hard work and time indexing!!!

Eventually the UK will be included in familysearch indexing. I've been helping with the indexing and have done about 7500 names. I'm waiting with great anticipation to when they start indexing the parish registers in England because all my relatives came from that great country.

see for example this help page

and make a place search
England, Monmouth, Usk

Parish registers of Usk, 1742-1953 Church of England. Parish Church of Usk (Monmouthshire)
Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 2006-2007

my father was born there and I was baptised in that church too, and when the images are released
I will be indexing people I remember

The comments to this entry are closed.