For the past several years, FamilySearch has hosted an annual indexing event, inviting volunteers from around the world to help make historical records available to those doing family history work.
This year’s event held July 15-17 included the goal to have at least 72,000 volunteers index as many records as possible in the 72-hour period. And the event was successful — more than 116,000 people from across the globe participated in indexing some 10 million records.
As the digital marketing manager at FamilySearch, Courtney Connolly oversees these worldwide indexing events, and during a session at the Conference on Family History and Genealogy at BYU on July 29, she offered guidelines, tips and strategies for individuals, families, ward organizations and others interested in hosting a similar event.
Before outlining her tips, Sister Connolly discussed some important ways to prepare for the event, including “spreading the word.”
She suggested letting people know the date of the activity two to three months in advance so they can block out the time on their calendars. Then a couple of weeks before the event, organizers can increase messaging to get people excited for the activity. Some ways to do this could include posting on a ward or group Facebook page, sending out emails, posting on the ward bulletin or printing flyers.
To help individuals, families or groups hosting an event, FamilySearch has created an online Indexing Event Kit that includes customizable posters, flyers, messages, images and other resources. They can be accessed at www.lds.org/indexingeventkit.
Once organizers have advertised the event, they can then focus on sharing the vision. “Help them understand the blessings they can receive,” she said. Sister Connolly also suggested making sure attendees are registered and have access to a computer beforehand.
Sister Connolly then shared six “essential” tips for hosting a successful indexing event:
1. Seek priesthood support. Indexing events are more successful when they have the support of priesthood leaders.
2. Have a challenging but attainable goal. Individuals can set challenging but attainable goals to stretch, inspire and motivate themselves.
3. Set time. Volunteers are more likely to participate if the indexing event has a distinct beginning and end.
4. Focus on participation first and productivity second.
5. Celebrate. Maintain enthusiasm by acknowledging and celebrating accomplishments.
6. Follow up the event with a temple challenge. Place equal emphasis on indexing and submitting names to the temple.
In addition to offering some best common practices, Sister Connolly shared a few of the blessings associated with participating in indexing or why individuals and groups should be interested in holding such an event.
Sister Connolly said she will never forget the moment she discovered the obituary, ship record and ship notes referencing her ancestor, Isabella Clayton. Isabella joined the Church at age 25 in Liverpool, England. She saved her pennies for 20 years to afford passage across the Atlantic Ocean in order to join the Saints in Utah.
“I was so touched to find that story about her. Whenever I struggle with patience myself I think about her and her example,” Sister Connolly said.
Sister Connolly’s “family discovery” was made possible, she said, because someone took the time to index those records.
Archived records around the world preserve important events, such as where ancestors were born, when they were married, when they died, etc. Volunteers capture digital images of these records and send them to FamilySearch. Indexers then open the FamilySearch indexing program wherever they have access to the Internet and transcribe — or index — what they see. The records are then searchable so that individuals can have family discovery moments, such as Sister Connolly with her ancestor Isabella Clayton.
A common catchphrase used at FamilySearch is “fuel the find.”
“Index records are the fuel that helps give FamilySearch.org the power to connect people to their ancestors — to connect you to your ancestors,” Sister Connolly explained. “Every name that you index is another drop of precious fuel to help someone find and connect with their family.”
Besides helping to “fuel the find,” indexing also brings many other blessings, Sister Connolly continued, and shared the experience of some Latter-day Saint youth in Honduras who have participated in many indexing activities. Among other blessings, the Honduran youth and leaders noticed greater spiritual maturity, more unity and camaraderie among the group, and an increased focus on the temple.
Sister Connolly quoted Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who made the following promise to those who participate in family history work: “Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and through out your lives” (“The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” October 2011 general conference).
“This promise is available not only to the Saints in Honduras but to all of us,” Sister Connolly said.