Saturday, September 2, 2017

FamilySearch Indexing - Zoning Pilot Project

Ok, I know what you are thinking - Why can't he write on a regular basis like all the other bloggers? The answer is - I don't know. I love to write but I seem to only be able to do it when I get inspired, and then sometimes when I am inspired I don't have the time to focus. So, a few weeks ago I was waiting for my wife in a parking lot, listening to NPR. The program that was on was from The Millennial Podcast titled Nothing to Lose. That show talked about how the host began her podcast and the challenges she faced trying to find her inspiration. It inspired me to think about writing again (that was over a month ago). I had some great ideas but then just never was able to allocate the time to seriously sit down and write. I thought about writing down my ideas, I had many, but that just passed by without being pursued. So, this week when I had a few free hours, I sat down and started a new pilot indexing project for FamilySearch called Zoning. This was a fun project where volunteers view newspaper pages and block out stories with marriage, birth and death information. In the first day I completed over 670 zones in newspapers from Raleigh, North Carolina. I decided that this would be a good story to provide since this such a new project.

So, let's discuss a bit about indexing to start with. Anyone can volunteer to index the records that have already been digitized. To learn more about indexing visit the FamilySearch Indexing webpage. The indexing projects are moving ahead and more records are being made searchable each month. With the success of the indexing program and the addition of more digitized images online there has been a decrease in the need for microfilms to be sent out. Additionally, the cost of copying microfilms has increased substantially over the years. Many of you have probably read that the Family History Library will stop sending out microfilm records at the end of this week (September 7, 2017). The reason they are ending the microfilm rental process is that many of the films are now available online and they believe almost all of them should be available over the next three years, around 2020. Just to point out the major accomplishments achieved already in digitizing microfilm records, think about the following:

  • Almost all of the microfilms rented by patrons in the past 5 years have now been digitized.
  • Over 1.5 million microfilms (1.5 billion images) are now available online.
  • Microfilms are being digitized at the rate of 1,000 rolls per day.
  • Images that have not been indexed are available in the FamilySearch Catalog.

So, why is Zoning important? Zoning serves as the first step in indexing newspaper records. The zoners highlight the regions of each newspaper page that contain marriage, birth and death information that will be useful in our family history research. There are sets of key words that the zoners look for such as adoption, birthday, anniversary, divorce, engagement, estate, obituary, probate, etc.

If you are interested in signing up for the Zoning pilot project click here. Once your request has been approved and you are signed up you can begin zoning.

FamilySearch Zoning Pilot Project - initial view
Each batch consists of five newspaper pages that may or may not contain important information. As you read the page, looking for the key words, you begin to note which articles are subject to zoning. Currently the only events that are being zoned are those that contain birth, marriage or death information. 

Page after it has been Zoned for marriage information

The page above has several articles pertaining to marriage events such as engagements, anniversaries, announcements and marriages. Marriage information is highlighted in orange and the areas in blue are stories that are stitched together over several columns.

Page after it has been Zoned for death information

The page above has several articles pertaining to deaths. These stories are highlighted in green. Also, if you look at the side bar there is a page with a large red X on it. That indicates that there are no stories with birth, marriage, or death information. The large black circles indicate that those pages have been zoned.

Once you have zoned all the pages you can submit them and go on to zone more batches. This project is important for future indexing in that it provides the articles which will be added to the newspaper records.

I know some people have been having trouble indexing records, either because of the difficulty reading them or because of other reasons. This Zoning pilot project is an easy way for those who are having trouble contributing to the Indexing project to provide new records to the FamilySearch records.