My early experience
Back in the early 1990's my family lived in Atlanta, GA as I was stationed at Ft McPherson. Much to our surprise, we had a facility nearby that held US Census records for a variety of periods. One Saturday, my wife and I trundled over to the facility to see if we could find some connections to my relatives that had emigrated to Georgia and then to Texas via Tennessee.
I can remember sitting in a half darkened room scrolling through stacks of microfilm we had requested from the librarian after looking through ponderous indexes in book form. At the end of the day I had found two references to possible relatives that lived in Texas, a man and two women, one of the latter being listed as nameless. I felt a curious mix of satisfaction and frustration: satisfaction that I had found a needle in a haystack, and frustration at the thought of how many more haystacks I was going to have to level since at that time I was the first to do any genealogical work for my family! There had to be an easier way, I thought. Much to my chagrin, at the time there was not....
Fast Forward to today
...a genealogy organization operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch maintains a collection of records, resources, and services designed to help people learn more about their family history. FamilySearch gathers, preserves, and shares genealogical records worldwide. It offers free access to its resources and service online at FamilySearch.org, one of the most heavily used genealogy sites on the Internet. In addition, FamilySearch offers personal assistance at more than 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries, including the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
*I* describe FamilySearch as my one stop family history site on the internet as it has been designed to deliver benefits to people across the world.
Indexing - not Rocket Science
As I mentioned before, one of the most depressing parts of doing Genealogy is spending hours plumbing a data source and coming up dry on any ancestral data. The age of massively capable search engines has now removed much of this frustration.
FamilySearch has made and is in the process of making arrangements with institutions across the world to gain access to written and filmed historical records so the data they contain can be made readily available. This is where Indexing comes into play.
Each record, or set of records, has been digitally transcribed and is available for analysis in batches made available at the indexer's request. Each batch may contain data on anywhere from one to one forty individuals. Most are not able to be run through an OCR program as they are written in cursive or another language. The indexing volunteer looks at the record, deciphers what they can and fills out a tabular data form, and then submits the data for review by a volunteer arbitrator. This data is then made available to the institution owning the records.
Easy Peasy Signup
Signing up to be a volunteer is easy and is shown in the slideshow that accompanies this article. Note that you can signup as a volunteer or an arbitrator or both. Also note that you do not have to be a member of the LDS Church to participate, all you need is an interest in the past and those who lived it.
What's in it for Me (You)?
Maybe the thought of being tied to the computer for the couple of minutes it takes to review one person's data is daunting. Maybe you don't care to know about the past, preferring to live in the glitzy modern age. I can tell you from experience, however, that you will be fascinated as you review the indexing records.
One batch I got to index contained the names of forty marines who had served aboard the USS Constitution in the late 1800s. Another contained records of men who had enlisted to fight in World War I. The marine list contained drummers who were in their teens, pipers in their late twenties, officers in their early twenties, and NCOs in their early to late thirties. The World War I records contained birth dates, race, birthplace, and enlistment data on a wide range of US (and Canadian) men who wanted to be a part of the "war to end all wars." Many of the records contained requests for campaign ribbons showing what they did in the war (from infantrymen to cooks to signalmen) and when they requested their awards. In many cases it was a decade or more after the war!
Indexing is rewarding. You can request English or foreign language records to index (how about Ukraine in the early 1900s?) It's self-paced. It's not graded (although you can see your arbitration results). And, more importantly, it provides a window into the lives of those that have gone before.
Give it a try. You'll see what I mean.