Our Volunteers V: SoG Online Resources Indexers
SoG Data Online Resources Indexers
We use this term to refer to indexing of materials that are already digitised and already available for perusal by members online. These name-rich resources include directories, parish records, poll books, monumental inscriptions and historical texts.
This indexing is carried out by Society members, as it requires the ability to log into the Society's website to access resources. Members of the Society’s Digital Resources Team who scan at our Bookeye scanner and carry out scan checking will recognise these reference resources from the library, as these works are scanned and checked in-house.
In recent years there have been projects to open up access to particular sets of resources such as the Poll Books project, the 1831 Project (harnessing resources from a decade prior to the 1841 census), and the Percy Smith project (relating to British people in India). At the moment there is an effort to draw together completed poll book indexes and prepare them for upload, and currently we're assigning monumental inscriptions records and burial records from parish registers.
Indexing for these resources is in some ways more straightforward than for the other indexing projects happening at present, because these are mainly printed and published resources that have already undergone a degree of editing. Usually abbreviations are conventional and there is relatively little by way of ambiguity around legibility, spelling and interpretation.
While these items are perusable online, and many of them have contents arranged alphabetically - indexing the people, places and dates in these items means they can be included in an overall search of SoG Data Online (via the purple box and the advanced search). The more SoG Data indexes are uploaded, the more likely it will be that researchers can turn up results they are interested in via the one search. Importantly, this purple box search may give a non-member an indication of whether they will find it useful to become a member to obtain access to the full resources.
When assigning these projects it can be useful to assign resources according to where the indexer lives – indexers may enjoy indexing resources local to them, and for the society it means taking advantage of local knowledge where possible. Compared to the GCI and Pedigree Rolls, these resources offer an opportunity to index a resource in which all entries are contextually related by community and/or place.
Here are some samples of some of these kinds of resources:
Above left: Title page of the poll book for the City of Chester for 1747. Above right: A page from a handwritten book of monumental inscriptions several church yards in the Blockley area of Worcestershire.
Above: A page from The ancient sepulchral monuments of Essex. Below: A page from the parish register book of St Alphege Canterbury showing an entry from 1558 'A stranger w'ch did fall downe in the streete as he went, and his name was Raynolde' and an entry from 1559 'Barbara Brinston, weif unto Thomas Brimston w'ch died one childe birthe. Also on the same day was buryed her child with her, and his name was Ambrose Brimston'
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Home Indexing Projects
The past three instalments of this ‘Our Volunteers’ series have been focussed on the work of a variety of home indexers working on a variety of projects. Home indexers have always been amongst the society's quiet achievers but have been important contributors to the society's objective for the growth of online resources.
But while the society and its members will benefit greatly from the efforts of our many industrious indexers during this period, there is more than to this lockdown volunteering story than great productivity.
Even under 'normal' circumstances, indexing can be an isolated business, but since we launched our Volunteer Community Forum, it’s been great to see indexers interacting online to discuss aspects of their work and helping one another to decipher handwriting and interpret information. Indexers can upload an image or snapshot of a pedigree so that others can look at it and offer advice. The forum software also allows us to store and give access to project documents, and has a Wiki feature - so we can use forum content to organically build community resources such as a glossary of abbreviations and terms, lists of useful links and frequently asked questions lists to support particular projects. Some volunteers have had little or no experience of using forums in the past, but have found that learning about an unfamiliar piece of software can be good to do when you have some extra time on your hands.
At a time when so many of the society's regular activities are on hold or postponed and many volunteers are unable to contribute onsite, the home indexing projects have enabled a form of continuity. Our use of Dropbox and the many resources in the members area of the website, as well as the ongoing support of our IT manager have enabled us to seamlessly keep home projects rolling steadily through this time. No one knows at this stage how long the lockdown will last, but we have been so pleased to provide opportunities for our many volunteers to be engaged, productive and connected.