The Universe and Me

comments on the journey of life

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Genealogy – Indexes We Love to Hate

One of the most frustrating things I run across on genealogy websites is indexes. We are suppose to be so happy that they have listed a huge group of people and that your ancestor is one of them. The only problem is I’m on a website because I don’t have access to that record.

I get furious when I am looking for a marriage record and find it online, only to find when I go to the record it isn’t there but just an index that lists so and so got married. That is great if I am looking for the marriage date, but most of the time I am looking at marriage records to find out who their parents were and to go back another generation with a verified source and not a guess. The exception to this frustration is when I am back in the records of the 1600’s and the actual record is missing but they still have the index. That is when I calm down and look at what just the index can tell me. It will usually tell me the date they married, or the page/number on the original record sheet (if I can magically find that and sometimes you can by ignoring search fields and actually looking at all the records) but it can also tell me people with the same last name that got married around the same time, in the same town, and that can lead me to birth and death records that can verify family relations. It’s all a game with millions of moving parts that you constantly need to shuffle.

The other thing about indexes that bothers me, is when a website claims to have a lot of information, but in actuality they have no records just indexes or even worse just a list of records available for a town or county. Please do not get me started on links that are so old the website has been removed and the people running the website you are on never bother to look at their website and check if all the links they provide are still available.

When a family researcher is looking for free websites or genealogy records running across a list of indexes becomes very discouraging. Yes, I do not like indexes. I scream and holler at my screen all the time and tell it that I don’t need to know their name is in a record I NEED THE RECORD! I can not go to whatever town, county, state or country you are located in. I need the actual record, online, accessible and preferably free.

The purpose of my blog is to help you, so basically, I’m saying we all get frustrated. We all find areas of research that drive us mad. Some simplify and call it a brick wall. I say take a breath and see what else the index might tell you and help you with before you forget about it. Never just look at one site. I resolved my family murder mystery because I refused to let one site give me the only answer. If you only see a list on one site, check of they may have the actual records. When I am researching in another country and only see an index, I look for the actual records and search them to determine if the record and the year I am looking for is actually available and then I page through the hundreds of pages to see if I can find the actual records. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t and sometimes I have stumbled upon a missing family member or the death record of a twin who was suppose to have lived for years but died at the age of one.