Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lethbridge, Alberta, have broken a world record by indexing 1.4 million entries in one month, for a total of 2.5 million names indexed this year.
Over 900 volunteers of all ages from nine different congregations (Lethbridge, Coaldale, Stirling, Warner, Milk River, Coutts, Wrentham, and New Dayton) participated in the effort. Local Church leader James Evanson issued the challenge (nicknamed “OMNI” - for One Million Names Indexed) during the month of October.
“What a miracle it has been to watch hundreds of thousands of names being indexed,” remarked Evanson. “I am so grateful for (their) tremendous efforts.”
The previous record of 1,066,000 names in a month was held by members of the Church in Sacramento, California in 2011.
Indexing involves transcribing data from scanned images of vital records into a searchable database. The data is processed three times - two independent indexers enter information from the same image, then an arbitrator corrects inaccuracies and resolves discrepancies between the two indexed versions.
Over 250,000 volunteers world-wide extract data through FamilySearch, making information publicly available in order to search for ancestors. Many projects are shared in conjunction with the popular genealogy site ancestry.com.
Latter-day Saints in Lethbridge indexed records in English, Italian, Spanish and French, among 170 other languages. The most popular records included Canada’s Ontario Marriage records, U.S. WWI Draft Registrations, and early U.S. Passenger Lists from New York.
Local Church Indexing Director Glen Gibb said he was thrilled with the enthusiastic response to the challenge, hearing reports of friendly competitions between family members and between congregations. He was especially excited about youth and children participating in the effort.
“People of all ages indexed, including children as young as five years old…” Gibb reported, “Parents expressed gratitude for the time with their children doing something of value rather that just playing video games. Age was not a barrier, with a 92 year old widow participating and learning how to navigate the computer with the help of a grandson.”
Crystal Hart arbitrated more than 120,000 records and was excited to share her love for family history work. "I know how much easier it is when records are more easily accessible. Friendly competition added to the fun of reaching this huge challenge.”
“New people continuing to sign up to index was so heart-warming." Gibb continued, "I was recovering from surgery and as I was able to look at the numbers, I couldn’t keep the tears out...it was more than I could bear as the numbers started to roll in and we were over 100,000 in a couple of days.”
Members of the Church believe that families can be together throughout the eternities. In temples throughout the world, families are sealed together for time and all eternity. These family relationships of husband and wife and children can then extend beyond death. The research of ancestors allows families to be sealed by proxy, to those who have passed on. Indexing allows the research to proceed quicker and easier as information becomes available on the internet.
“We sometimes forget that every name we index is a real person, and some family member at some point is going to have access to that name and information because it was indexed”, said Greg Pratt, one of the indexers. “In our family, the story had long been told of my great grandmother coming from England to the United States. Her son got into some alcohol and was poisoned by the alcohol and buried at sea. As I was reading a passenger list, my great grandmother’s name was listed and it was noted that her son had died of alcohol poisoning. That made things come alive for me. The family folk lore became real. The names we are indexing mean something to somebody and will be a valuable part of their family history.”
Evanson expressed his gratitude to the members who worked on the project. “I am humbled by the dedication and faith of all those involved. This is a great work that will affect the lives of so many.”
Most entries submitted by a single indexer: 24,686
Most entries by a single arbitrator: 125, 267
Largest total by a single congregation:374,356 in Coaldale, Alberta
Total number of participants: 913
Total names indexed in the month:1,464,471
Total number of names indexed, year to date: 2,453,577