Family historians love an index, especially if it is online. While there is no doubt that indexes are essential tools for doing genealogy, I would like to share with you some important tips to help you make the most the time that you spend checking these lists of names. These tips have been developed over many years of helping family historians and form part of our Finding Families genealogy workshop:
- Develop the practice of reading the introduction and other notes that form part of the index. These will help you fully understand and interpret the information
- Always follow through index entries to their original (primary) source to verify that it is your ancestor. You can also check for transcription errors and name variations
- Be aware of spelling issues. Consider all possible variations in spelling a name including the obvious macdonald/mcdonald but also the possibility people being listed under their middle names, double-barrelled surnames, etc.
I also recommend that you check out Judy Webster’s really helpful website that is full of advice for everyone who uses or creates indexes.I particularly like this tip
- If you did not find your ancestor in the index, it only means that you haven’t found them in the index! You cannot conclude that it’s not in the record
Another super source of information is Pauline Litton’s Pitfalls and possibilities in family history research available in the Genealogy Centre or visit her website.
What tips do you have for working with indexes?