Recently, FamilySearch’s Jake Gehring disclosed details on how FamilySearch decides what to acquire and what to index. Here’s a synopsis of the information from two articles from the FamilySearch blog: “Where Do Indexing Projects Come From?” and “The Inside Story: What Determines the Pace of an Indexing Project?”
Of course, FamilySearch can’t acquire and publish a record that it doesn’t know about. “FamilySearch representatives often discover collections of value by talking to archivists, librarians, county clerks, and genealogists who know their local records well. Preferred are records that describe family relationships, contain vital information (births, marriages, and deaths), and cover a broad section of the population,” said Gehring.
FamilySearch can’t just show up at an archive, take pictures, and publish records. First, the record owners must give permission. Usually, that involves a value swap: FamilySearch digitizes the records for the owner in exchange for permission to publish it. FamilySearch has over 275 crews across the world photographing records. The images are sent back to Salt Lake on hard disk drives, or via the Internet.
FamilySearch must decide what to do with the images once they are received. Options include cataloging, publishing images only, and indexing. Projects must be scheduled for available resources. Indexing projects require special setup “with project instructions, sample images, field helps, and a variety of special instructions.”
At any given time there are about 150 indexing projects under way. Predicting how quickly a project will take is challenging. Projects that finish quickly generally are easy, personally appealing, or have tremendous genealogical value. The 1940 U.S. census shared all three of these attributes and finished in record time.
FamilySearch takes steps to move projects along. If you’ve indexed, you know a project may be listed in red as the suggested, highest priority project. FamilySearch also promotes groups of projects, such as it is currently doing with obituaries. FamilySearch may provide special training to volunteers or societies.