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Sometimes, there is no index

Digital Images at FamilySearch

As I wind down my genealogy business and begin spending more time on my own research, I’ve been thinking about how I got here. My first blog, written in 2007, described my beginning. My research initially was done in between my work schedule as I was still working for Apple at the time. As a manager, I made frequent trips to Cupertino for meetings, many of which ran Tuesday through Thursday, with Monday and Friday as travel days. There just happened to be a 6:30 am flight out of San Jose to Salt Lake City on Friday mornings which got me to the Library shortly after 9 am. It provided two days of research, flying home on Sunday morning. At the time the airlines required a Saturday night stay to get a lower fare, so I saved Apple enough money, that my hotel was covered! Also, the Family History Library was open from 8 am to 10 pm.

In those days, I would be standing outside the door when the Library opened and I would leave when they were ready to lock the doors. I’d usually take a break and go out for a combination of lunch and supper (in my house referred to as lupper) about 4 pm. Now for those of you coming into genealogy more recently, my time was mostly spent on B1 (British Floor) cranking microfilm. Of course, the records I wanted to look at were typically at the end of the film so my arm got a good workout. If you wanted a copy, you would carefully remove the film and walk over to the copy center, replace the film on one of the readers connected to a printer and using your copy card, print out a copy. At some point, I don’t remember exactly when, the Library introduced digital copiers so you could "print" copies to your USB drive. I bet if I were to pull out all of my USB drives I would find some documents saved at the Library.

I mention this, because many newer genealogists only know about using databases…type in a name and all the records pop up. Just a reminder…everything is NOT on the Internet and even the information that is there, may require you to view digitized images. FamilySearch has spent many years, digitizing all of the millions of microfilms in the Granite Vault, but that’s just the beginning. Those records don’t appear in databases until someone (or something) creates an index. I worked on the indexing project in 2008 when they first digitized the Indexes of births, deaths and marriages in Ireland. As I recall, it took a couple of years, but oh, I wanted the indexes so badly! Those indexes are still valuable as they go to 1958 whereas the indexes at only go to 1922 and marriages to 1948.

Before the indexes, you went to one book on the Reference Table to identify the microfilm number for the year of interest. Here is the list in the catalog...just pretend that the Image Group Number isn't there. After retrieving the microfilm from the cabinet you took it to a reader and cranked until you got to the correct location for your surname. You wrote down those names in the correct Registration District including the volume and page number. Crank back to the beginning of the microfilm, return it to the cabinet and back to the Reference Table to determine the microfilm number for the volume, (if you scroll down on the Catalog link above, after the Indexes you'll see Births with the volume and year) then back to the microfilm cabinet, back to the reader and crank again…etc, etc, etc. I will say, you got your exercise and steps in for the day. Today’s genealogists, including me, sit at their computer and type a name into a database (not much exercise).

Index to Civil Registration

Even today there are still many records that, although digitized, still require you to search the images page by page. But now, you not only do it sitting at your computer, but the only exercise you get is clicking on your mouse button as you move through the images. I got thinking about this as I was putting together my presentation for the June Zoom meeting for those traveling with me to Ireland in October. Working in the Registry of Deeds in Dublin, you need to move back and forth between indexes and Memorial books (the transcripts of the deeds). I have done this many times over the years, but today, the Registry of Deeds Index Project, an independent project out of Australia, allows you to view the index, and then refers you to the digitized images of the Deeds at FamilySearch. I wrote a blog on this last year that explains the process. The project is not complete, so you still need to visit the Registry in Dublin for records after about 1830 depending on the County (the Registry of Deeds goes back to 1708). It is, however a huge leap forward for those unable to travel to Ireland.

Another example of using digital images is the National Library of Ireland's Roman Catholic Records. Yes, the images were indexed by Ancestry and Findmypast, however if you can't find your person, it may require a line by line search of the original records. Remember that spelling doesn't count and the indexer may not have been familiar with the names or variations in spelling. It's also possible that the priest wrote down the wrong name. Since you are familiar with the names and variations, you might be able to identify the individual. This was the case with the marriage of my husband's 3x great grandfather. The priest wrote down Joannis Mughty and Mariam Glennon (Latin variation) on 6 September 1840 and so I couldn't find Bernard Moughty/Mughty's marriage in the index. Were there two Moughtys marrying Mary Glennons? No...I found the Banns for Bernard and Mary on 30 August 1840. Because I knew the maiden name of the wife, I was able to recognize the record.

So look outside the box (database) when doing your Irish research.

Happy Hunting!

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