Thursday, September 9, 2010

FamilySearch, Football and Arbitration

Yesterday, I shared with you a milestone I achieved as a FamilySearch indexer, due in part from the need to have busy hands when watching football. Today is part two, as promised, detailing the exciting adventures of FamilySearch arbitration.

About six months ago, I was contacted by FamilySearch and invited to become an arbitrator. It's kind of like an indexing promotion. I was surprised, because I wasn't sure of the criteria needed. Frequency? Accuracy? The tendency to watch way too much football? I guess I met the standard, whatever it was.

What exactly is arbitration? Well, remember those indexing batches I talked about yesterday? I gave the example of a U.S. census sheet being a "batch." Two separate indexers will key the same batch. One is labeled "A" and the other "B."

If there are differences in the results of the two indexers, those batches go to arbitration. When I, as an arbitrator, download a batch, I get the A and B records put in by the indexers. Also on the screen is an image of the written record in question. So what arbitrators do is compare A and B  to the record image (such as a census page) and decide which is correct.

For example, say indexer A lists a surname as HANSON and indexer B lists the same surname as HANSEN. Each indexer read the enumerator's handwriting differently. The arbitrator compares both options to the record image and makes a choice of A or B. Arbitrators can also override both A and B. If I think it looks like HANSUN, then I can make that decision. Here is the tutorial that teaches arbitration.

Arbitration is fun and it usually goes much faster than indexing, which is why I'm closing in on 23,000 arbitrated names as opposed to 11,000 indexed. However, arbitration comes with added responsibility. It is the final word. So if I think the record says HANSUN, I better be right because lots of people will be searching for that record. If I'm wrong....well I don't have to tell you what it's like to discover your ancestor was a victim of bad indexing. We all have those stories of botched last names and misspellings.

Handwriting provides a real challenge in arbitration. Lowercase i's look like e's, o's like a's. Enumerators get hurried or careless. Indexers skip a line or make a mistake. There's a lot of factors and each demands attention to detail. When I want a break from arbitration, I switch back to indexing. It's a nice balance, especially when my football team isn't doing so hot.

I feel pleased when I read of more records becoming available at FamilySearch. I like to see what's there and know I had a part of making some of the items available. I hope people know that I took the time to get the spelling right, even that one time when it was all vowel-deprived Polish surnames in shaky handwriting. I still have nightmares about that batch. But it's done and now those people are indexed, arbitrated and waiting to be found.

So what are you waiting for? GO FORTH AND FIND THEM.

Me? I'll just be here indexing and arbitrating while watching football, thankful for the distraction and satisfaction it all entails.

[Note: FamilySearch did not compensate me for this post. I’m just a chick with an affinity for data entry and mediocre football teams.]


  1. I've been making an effort to index more for FamilySearch. I didn't think about doing it during football though! Good idea! I'm up to about 750 names indexed total. I like to think I've helped just a little bit and I do enjoy it, even when I'm sweating through those crazy foreign names!

  2. Yes, football! I swear by it.

    Don't sweat the foreign names. Some are going to be funky and that's the say it is. Just do you best.

  3. The way things are indexed can be interesting indeed. One set of my great-grandparents was named Vadersen. I looked and looked for them in the census with no luck. Eventually I DID find them...listed as Vanderson!!

  4. After focusing on AWP for a a long time, I went back to indexing for Family Search. I don't do Football though...just never learned to appreciate the gamuliese....but I watch enough tv that I should be able to do some significant indexing...woot

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