The Search is on – vs. Indexing and are two of the most popular and expansive websites available to genealogists.  Domestic and international records including census, immigration, naturalization, birth, marriage & death records and more are available from either site. is completely free to use from any computer; is available by paid subscription or free in the Local History & Genealogy Division at Central Library downtown, as well as at seven town libraries. Both of these websites are invaluable to researchers and indexes are the key to making the information they provide even more accessible.  If you are able to find a person or topic through a search function, digitized images have been indexed or the document has been transcribed.  Otherwise, it is necessary to browse images, often a long and tiring task.

The indexing process each organization uses is somewhat different, making it possible to get different results from each for the same search.  To compare the indexing styles, utilizes paid off-shore indexers while Family Search uses a unique and possibly more accurate method for compiling the information.   Family Search provides two different volunteers the same set of images for database entry.  After both have completed their task, an automated comparison is done and if there are discrepancies, a third person arbitrates the file for final resolution.

It is not possible that either database is 100% accurate, but consider the paid vs. volunteer aspect.  Volunteers step forward for the love of the project and may be more familiar and patient with the difficulties of reading older handwriting styles.  Paid indexers’ output is more likely volume- and incentive-based.

Don’t forget, sometimes less is more when conducting a search.  Try your luck both on both of these sites and be open to all kinds of results.

Published in: on January 28, 2013 at 12:21 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. I frequently go to Family Search when I can’t find what I’m looking for in Ancestry. I really find their name indexing algorithms to be much better. The relevance also seems to be better, which is important since I find limiting to be more difficult with Family Search. But to be really thorough (and often to see the images), you really need Ancestry as well!

  2. i am a volunteer indexer for family search, more and more i am finding family search referring you to fold3 or ancestry. i’m curious if the information that you now have to pay for, was added by us volunteers.

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