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LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS—Where genealogists gather, records are uncovered. The adage is certainly true this week as hundreds of genealogists descend on the Little Rock Statehouse Convention Center in Arkansas as part of the 2009 Federation of Genealogical Societies annual conference. In anticipation of this conference, many volunteers have donated thousands of hours online to create a free online database to hundreds of thousands of historic Arkansas marriage records. The records date from 1837 to 1957. The online database includes a searchable index linked to digital images of the original marriage certificates. The volunteer project is 26 percent complete. The first fruits of the effort can be searched at FamilySearch.org (click Search Records, and then click Record Search pilot).
The free online collection currently includes 442,058 records linked to 199,431 digital images of the original marriage certificates. The records represent the counties of Ashley, Baxter, Boone, Chicot, Clay, Crittenden, Desha, Drew, Fulton, Jackson, Johnson, Lee, Logan, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Nevada, Perry, and Pike.
FamilySearch partnered with the Arkansas Genealogical Society (AGS) to create indexes to county marriages registered in Arkansas between 1837 and 1957. Jan Davenport, 1st vice president of AGS, worked closely with FamilySearch to create the project and help solicit volunteers to index the digital images using FamilySearch’s online indexing program. To date, 20,559 volunteers have helped produce the first sets of indexed data and images now available online.
FamilySearch is the global leader of online indexing. It launched its online indexing program in 2008, and tens of thousands of volunteers donate time online helping to index historic records like the Arkansas marriages collection. FamilySearch currently has 65 online indexing projects underway.
For this project, FamilySearch is creating digital images of the county marriage records and online volunteers worldwide then use FamilySearch’s Web-based indexing tool to view the digital images and extract the desired information from the image. That data is then processed and published online in free searchable indexes linked to the digital images.
Volunteers need only Internet access to contribute to this historic effort. A unique quality-control process ensures a highly accurate, finished index. Each document is transcribed by two different online indexers. Any discrepancies in their two extractions are then forwarded to a third volunteer—an arbitrator—who makes any needed corrections between the two interpretations. A typical downloaded “batch” (group of records) will take a volunteer about 30 to 40 minutes to complete. The indexing utility has built-in tutorials and helps. Anyone interested in volunteering to help complete the Arkansas project can do so at indexing.familysearch.org.