Keying Quick Tips

I did quite a bit of arbitration and review today.  In light of what I saw, I offer the following tips and suggestions.  These things might help your keying going a little smoother – and improve your accuracy all at the same time.

You don’t have to mark every data-less field blank.  I reviewed several image sets where every single field that did not contain data was marked blank.  That must have taken a lot of time and been pretty frustrating.  There is no need to do this.  Unless it is a required field (those fields that are highlighted pink), don’t worry about marking it blank if there is no data to be keyed into that field.  Just skip right over it.

Use hotkeys.  They really speed things up.  My favorites are these:
*F3 – Copies what you keyed in the field directly above.
*If you wait until the end of an image to validate the fields that need to be checked, you can use F5 and F7 to quickly find and validate.  This also allows you to validate common values in any one field all at once.  Try it and let me know what you think.

Read the project instructions.  This may sound pretty basic.  And, there is a difference between not understanding instructions or interpreting them differently than someone else might and just plain not following directions.  I can always tell when a keyer hasn’t even bothered to read the instructions.  So, read the field helps as you go and always review the project page if you are keying a new project or have been away from a project for a while.  (The fastest way to find the project page is to click on HELP | View More About This Project while you are keying a particular image set.)

By and large, most of what I arbitrated/reviewed looked terrific.  These are just a few ideas that might speed up your keying and make it a little easier for you and our reviewers.  Thank you all for your continued contribution.

Until next time – Happy Keying!

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Thanks for this post! Especially the blanking fields mention: that is a personal pet peeve of mine when arbitrating/reviewing. Drives me crazy, and slows the process down. You are so right: the basic hint of reading the field helps would assist so many keyers, if they would just follow along field by field until comfortable with the project. I’ve found it makes a big difference when I start keying a new project.

Also, accounting for all records and all requested information helps a great deal.

Amen! Also, check instructions for how to key dates. My project requires only 2-digit years if that’s what’s shown on the record and I’m constantly running into 4-digit years that aren’t shown.

Thanks for this post. I do disagree with DWC211 though. I believe reviewing the project instructions comes before reading the field helps. Sometimes they differ, especially in the Cuyahoga project. That’s why it is confusing to keyers sometimes. Reviewing the project instructions is essential.

I agree check you have all the records. I have been doing a lot of reviewing of Tyler’s wills. Most common errors:-

Lengthening names. Type as seen ie robt not robert, elizh not elizabeth etc.

Key beneficiaries only, not everyone mentioned on the first page of the will.

Second and subsequent pages of wills are cover pages and should not be keyed.

Make sure you choose the right form type and when keying lists of names pay attention to the places they come from even though you are not required to key them. If 3 williams are listed are they really the same person or just 3 different williams living in different towns, in which case they all need to be keyed.

I agree with DWC211 – it is very annoying to arbritate a record filled with blanks.

Even if you don’t read the project instructions – I have many who don’t even pay attention to the field helps!

My new motto is “Key what you see!”

This is due to the following advice I received today from wiedwoman on the US Postmasters Appointments project:


Key the state as shown. If it was shown as Iowa Ter’y that is what would be keyed. Or if shown as Ia, that is what would be keyed.

On the date column, you will key the earliest date of the 2 dates in the one column.

Key years as shown. If shown as 2-digits that is what should be keyed. This is the biggest error I have seen in arbitration/review.

Oops! Thefollowing is what I found on the “Keying Standards page:

“YEARS should be entered as 4-digit years when possible. If the year on the image is only 2 digits please try to determine what century the event occurred in. There is typically information on the image that will assist you in determining if it is 2008 vs 1008. If you are unable to determine the century please key the two digit year.”

The year format is project dependent.

BOTH the keying helps and the wiki project page should be read before completion of your first set.

What are you to do with a page that is largely unreadable because of strange colors of ink used in the original? I know I marked a lot of boxes illegible on a couple of pages I keyed.


Key as best as possible anyway. Guess if you can, mark illegible if you must.

Try not to worry about your accuracy rate on these.

Type your comment here.

Oops, shouldn’t have pressed enter when entering info! Anyway, these problems aren’t only seen on Ancestry. I index/arbitrate on another site and I see the same things – not reading the directions, blanking every field, expanding abbreviations, etc.

I have keyed over 10,000 entries, and this is the first I have heard about not having to mark blank fields blank! I always read everything I can find about a project, before I start it, and this was NEVER stated. It was a pet peeve of mine, drove me crazy, and took too long, but I did it anyway, because I wanted to help. It should not be so difficult to have comprehensive instructions fo keyers.

From “Keying Standards”

What fields should be keyed?

We have required fields, these are the highlighted fields, that are based on information that all of the records should contain. If this information isn’t available the fields should be marked “blank”. There are other fields included on form types that some records may contain, but since not all of the records have this information it would be time consuming to mark all of them blank if the information isn’t present. If there is a field available and there is information on the record that is applicable this information should be collected.

I agree with Jeralyn. As I’ve said before, keying instructions should not be so difficult to find. How about we do away with the message boards and have the questions put directly on the wiki. I had a question about punctuation on the Alabama cards and spent 30 mins and finally gave up. Why can’t we add a section to the wiki that would resemble the message boards??????

I’m guilty of keying in the blanks. I thought that was a requirement. I just finished a set without filling in the blanks and it went very fast, and only checked the “pink” spaces. I was glad I review the names again because the auto-populate had filled in extra info that I did not notice the first time through. If I make mistakes I would find it beneficial if someone would let me know, maybe just an email or message to my account.

Type your comment here.

The form jumps every time I move from one field to another, and then I have to pull it back each time. Is there a way to stabilize the image.



@wayne. Turn off the highlighter.

Crista: I do not know whether you are the person to contact but I am having problems with my relationship with the World Project. I have been an active contributor since the beginning and was designated as arbitrator very early on. My record, both keying and arbitrating has always been published on the sidebar when I select images from projects. Today I noticed that the statistics for the 18,000 or so arbitrated records has been missing. To top that, in trying to download images to key or arbitrate I find I am no longer able to select images for review. In reporting this to support they tell me that it is probably due to the fact that there has been no change in the number arbitrated. But how do I download images for review if I do not have access to the images. If this is a sly way of dropping me as an arbitrator – that is not necessary, just tell me. However the last statistic I saw was that I had reviewed (arbitrated) over 1,000 records in the past 90 days. So it could not be from inactivity. I have seen no announcements of a change in reporting or a discussion of why changes are being made. Makes me wonder if my efforts are really appreciated.

Dean V. Dannewitz

I agree with Janet. It would be good to have all questions and answers about a project in one place instead of having to search several and often not finding the answer you need. Very fustrating and time wasted that could be spent on keying or reviewing.


Thanks for that tip about the highlighter.
What a relief, and what an improvement in entry speed.


wayne i’ve seen this, in my keying also. usually what worked best for me was to use the guide at the top of site. then to click the line at very edge of page apink line appears to keep the form still. horizontal and vertical. at first the highlight was nice but became annoying. i turned it off. i learned a lot today by reading mess. board. havent done any arbitrating for two + months , a family problem. so i decide to wait. thanks.crista.

I agree with Lucille, if you are reviewing one of my records and you see that I am consistently making a certain type of mistake, please email me so that when you verify my work in the future, it will be closer to correct.

@ Chad

At the moment there is no facility to do this for reviewers.

Hi Crista, I have an issue with ‘blanking’.
After finishing & counting off all entries, orange hilight tells me I still have 13 fields to review. I can’t get rid of it. The more I ‘blank’ or F7, the more fields it says to review. consequently I can”t submit this one until I get rid of the orange fields. now I have 72 fields to review!!
HELP please.
Wendy M.

Specific question about Cuyahoga, Field help on last name says use Blank if one is not listed. Wiki says only use Blank if the field is highlighted. Which is correct?


Surname is a required field (it will be highlighted in pink when empty)

@ Wendy M

Since I don’t know what project you’re keying, this suggestion may not work — but sometimes I somehow add a record and then I will have a message to review the required fields. So— two suggestions: 1) delete that record if all blank, 2) delete that field

Georgine, thanks for your input.
These little orange fields would not allow me to delet in any manner eitherusing my deelete buttons or from the forms ‘delete record’. I recounted today & have the exact amount of names.38
I did notice tho’ as I blanked a few more horrid little orange fields..the review count went down. 66 lines later, all fields reviewed & blanked.

Heartfelt apologies Arbitrators…but I’m free & can submit.Yayyy!

This is my second week on this project so I’m very new to the process and appreciate all of you sharing your expertise and insights! As a new keying volunteer I don’t know what the turnaround is on feedback from a reviewer. Do we get direct feedback?

Thank you so much for these tips! I’ve just starting keying and am addicted! Because of what I read here, I was able to go back and remove the “blanks” on the non-pink fields. ::phew:: 🙂

Thank you for your review and comments. I just wanted to make one comment about blank spaces. For the most part I’ve been working on Dec’s of Intention and Pet’s for Naturalization; these records vary from very easy to the other extreme. Perhaps because I’ve been typing for over 30 years I don’t leave blank spaces–my brain and typing skills are reliant on each other. Sometimes I have to spend more seconds than usual to make sure the names are correctly typed, and then speed on ahead. I thought not too far back there was discussion about leaving spaces blank has been problematic. I’ve been invited to arbitrate, so perhaps I will be able to see how the issue of not marking blank spaces by skipping them is acceptable, and less time consuming.

Sorry, but you should not expect any feedback except your overall accuracy rating.
See the thread at for a discussion of this topic.

I’m new to keying, but–based on the comments to this blog post–it seems that many Key-ers would find it helpful if Direct Feedback from Arbiters *was* possible as a feature.

[…Sort of like the “Contact [username]” feature on the site…rather than direct emails, it could go through’s message service.]

Are there any plans to add this kind of feature to the keying tool?

I am told in the common faults information page for my project that I should key M’Donald as McDonald. I have issue on two points with this. One, what happened to key what you see? Second, Scotish/Irish names are a minefield. Just using the given example what if the name is not McDonald but MacDonald?

I ran into a bit of a reading problem with the writing in the Pennsylvania Tax Records, the handwriting was so fancy I had trouble reading it, was it a K, an H, an S, or even a W? I used your handwriting key and that help some, I went to the handwriting site and that helped to, but the handwriting was just so fancy I put what I though it was, as you’ll see. Also in one place they had Widow, I put Widow as the first name, now as I think back on that it should have been a Prefix, sorry. Also they had what looked like Heirs and I just left that off, not sure where to put it. Please give me some guidance, I want to help, but sometimes even the easy ones are harder than they look. Thanks