You Can Edit Poorly Indexed Data on FamilySearch!

Snippet of 1940 US Census for George Geiszler with the words You can edit the Index on FamilySearch

Do you ever wish you could edit the indexed data for an original record about your ancestor? FamilySearch is letting you do that!!! Time to celebrate.

Well, sort of.

What is an Index?

Genealogy.com says it best, “An index is to genealogy what the wheel is to transportation: you can get along without it, but if you have it you can cover a whole lot more territory much more quickly.”

An indexed genealogy record improves how quickly we can access information to help us climb our family trees. We use searchable forms, key in our ancestor’s name and we can quickly access a record. Right?!?

Well, not exactly.

An index is only as good as the information keyed into it. Hard-to-read handwriting, faded and damaged documents, and innocent mistakes can generate inaccurate information to appear in a database accessing a record that much more difficult.

Often we have to use creative search strategies to find our ancestors when the name on the record doesn’t match what appears in the searchable index. (For tips on doing that, check out my friend Lisa’s blog post about using Widcard search strategies).

Genealogists have used some creative hacks to work around these pitfalls, but what if we could change what appears in an index? 

Editing Poorly Index Records Begins

In the summer of 2019, FamilySearch began enabling users to fix the errors that appear in the index. You can make corrections to names, for some record collections. Eventually, you’ll be able to edit more record collections AND other indexed details! 

(Forgive me while I scream with glee!!!)

Edit Poorly Index Records on FamilySearch No Matter the Reason

Sometimes a document is poorly indexed because:

  • the data entry volunteer could not interpret a record accurate.
  • the creator of the document inserted errors based on poor penmanship, not understanding the information they heard, and more.

FamilySearch will allow you to edit the index no matter which reason caused the error!

Editing a Poorly Indexed Record on FamilySearch for My Ancestor

Snippet of the 1940 US Census for George Geiszler of Columbus, Ohio and his family.
“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KW87-JWX : 23 August 2019), George Gerazles, Ward 7, Columbus City, Montgomery Township, Franklin, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 93-107, sheet 3A, line 15, family 39, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627

This snippet from the 1940 US Census record is for the George Geiszler family. However, the indexer recorded the last name as Gerazles. I can see how they read that as the enumerator’s handwriting was less than clear.

Following the guided instructions on FamilySearch, I was able to edit the indexed census to look like the following.

Screenshot of George Geiszler of Columbus, Ohio edited indexed image on FamilySearch.
Notice how both the Gerazles and the Geiszler names are preserved.

To see exactly how I did this, watch this video.

Imagine how much more we will be able to find, or help other researchers locate, by this ability to improve FamilySearch’s database.

Editing Poorly Index Names Can Affect More Than One Person

Many records have a fact that poorly attributed to multiple people in a family unit. This happens particularly, as in the example above, when an incorrect surname appears for everyone in a household.

FamilySearch will allow you to edit one or more additional individuals on a record at the press of ONE button. That’s right. When I updated Gerazles to Geiszler for George, I was given the option to change the surnames for his wife and children at the same time with no additional work. (Let’s stop and say Hallelujah for a minute).

Go Edit Poorly Indexed Records for Your Family on FamilySearch

Now that this service has rolled out, we should all start improving the database search experiencing by editing the mistakes we find in the indexed collection.

Be careful as you make changes because too many changes (by you and others) can kill the benefits of this new feature. However, it’s time to enhance the searching experience on FamilySearch!

Snippet of 1940 US Census for George Geiszler with the words Edit Poorly Index Records on FamilySearch
Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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