Central Alberta genealogy volunteer reaches milestone

Hundreds of people indexing in the region

Verna Park, of Three Hills, was recognized recently for her dedication to indexing genealogy information to help people research their family histories. (Contributed)

A Central Alberta woman has reached the one-million mark in her volunteer work indexing data for genealogy research.

Verna Park, of Three Hills, has been indexing information from obituaries, census records, birth certificates, and more since February 2013 and is one of thousands of people around the world volunteering for FamilySearch.org, a free genealogy website operated by the Mormon church.

People who want to trace their family tree on the internet rely on searchable data bases made possible by people like Park.

Ryan Handley, Red Deer Stake public affairs director with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said there are probably hundreds of people in Central Alberta indexing for the website, most of them Mormon but anyone can do it.

“For someone to reach a million indexes is just incredible. It’s quite rare because it’s time consuming,” Handley said. “We’re really proud of her taking this on and doing it. It’s just wonderful.”

He said people who index are unsung heroes.

Parks said she has indexed records from Ireland, England, different parts of the United States and Quebec.

“I enjoy knowing that I’m helping to make records available for people to get online without having to go to England, or wherever, to find their ancestry,” said Parks who received a plaque to recognize her achievement.

Indexing also opens the door to a lot of interesting information, like the variety of occupations people used to do throughout history, she said.

“In an obituary once I read about a woman who died in childbirth and it was her 20th child and she was only 40 years old,” Park said.

She said she likes exploring all kinds of records, but those from the 1700s can be challenging because of the elaborate handwriting.

For anyone interested in indexing they should know there are people around that can help them, and they can also call for assistance. People get to pick the projects they index and can pick the skill level required — beginners, intermediate and advanced. If it proves too difficult, people can send it back and choose another project, she said.

Park had been spending at least five to six hours a day indexing. Now she’s cutting back to research her own family’s history.

szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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