More Top Tips For New Keyers

Last week we posted some of our top tips for new keyers. Be sure to read those here. Today we have a few more for you. I’ll get things started.


From Crista – The dictionaries (drop down lists) are there just to give you suggestions. Using them might help you understand what you are seeing. You don’t HAVE to select something from that list. Key what you see.

From Ann – You can change the brightness or contrast. The paper can be dark in many images.

From Jessica – There is a learning curve working with the software over time and getting used to the functionality.

(Note:  Don’t give up too quickly!  We know there is a bit of a learning curve with the software.  And, for some of you, there may be a big learning curve with the handwriting and the languages and the forms. Hang in there.  Keep trying. These people deserve to be remembered. You can do it.)

From Ann – Count the number of lines that need to be entered. I count the number of entries per page that will need to be entered. When I am finished with that page, my total entries should match that total. Then I can move on to the next image.


Let’s hear from some of our new keyers. Your fresh perspective is appreciated. What tips can you offer your fellow newbies (and some of us who might be a little more stuck in our ways)?

Until next time – Happy Keying!

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Reader Comments


Yes, key all the names.

Thanks everyone
All the comments posted here are a great help. I am new and downloaded my first set this evening, I did not realize I had a week to do each set. I am only on my first set and am up to number 6 of 7 images in this set. I am doing the America Naturalizations. The first 1 or 2 did were good I have done what was suggested and used brightness or made larger or smaller. I will be coming back often to read all the comments thanks everyone 🙂

For several years I have tried to find my 2-3 great grandfather Henry Herold. along with the Jacob Hentges family. Married around Galina, Ill. He worked on railroad as supervisor and met my ancestor Mary Sheehan at boardinghouse in Galena Ill.Mary Sheehan Henry Herold b. 1814-9/13/1881

Mary Sheehan b.1824 County Cork died at daughter’s home winona, Mn. Spent most of lie on farm outside Fountain City, Wi. Lost farm and money after death of Henry Herold provides useless information for me and I do have the $$$international version.The GEni libary in Dublin also has library version. I pay for mine and do not plan to continue. Rita

Just began yesterday, hope am doing it well, today is better. Kind of exciting….some family will be able to know more about ancestors.
A bit intimidating but will keep on.

Re: Accuracy Score. It would be really helpful if you could indicate how many of the records I’ve keyed are included in that score. I have keyed 1700 records to date. From the beginning, my accuracy score was “excellent” and I was really making an effort to improve it. Last evening I just plowed through a very difficult name list in the French holocaust records. I spent hours on one page, trying to follow all guidelines and decipher wretched handwriting. When I submitted the batch, and my # of records keyed was updated – I noticed that my accuracy rating was now “Good Job.” I know that the most recent records are not part of the calculation, but I don’t know if the score only includes the first 500 records I keyed [where I know I was doing some thing contrary to guidelines], if it’s right up to date with the batches I submitted prior to this one, etc. So I don’t really know if my efforts to improve are working or not. Thanks.

I have realized I made a mistake in keying. How can retrieve previous pages to correct them?

@j switzer, you can’t, hopefully your mistakes will get caught

So if a single or several letters in a word is illegible, what am I supposed to do? Somewhere I read to use the wild cards, but then elsewhere I’ve read not to. I’m very confused and my accuracy score stinks. Should I just type in the letters of a name that I can read and ignore what I can’t, mark the whole thing as illegible (even though some letters are crystal clear), or put the wild cards in?

In the Holocaust records, especially in the French records, sometimes there are several names in the Prenoms column separated by commas. I am keying them as first name and then middle names. Is that right, or should those be considered aliases?

I’m hoping someone out their can help me. I’m keying for the World Archives Project but,the past few days I’ve had a serious problem but,can’t find any help.Every time I try to key in the names and occupations of the men on the Cal. Railroad project the drop down dictionary over rides everything I’m trying to type in. It puts in what ever it wants! Things were working beautiful for weeks, but,now I’ve hit this snag.Can’t find anyone to help me through this problem.I’m praying someone out their sees this and can assist me in some way. Thank You and God Bless

I so want to help with the Memory Project, but I do not speak any of the languages. I have tried several times but I end up turning the records back in because I am afraid of getting them wrong. These records are so important!! I almost have panic attacks when I try to key them. I have been a long time keyer and arbitrator on other records, but these records are different and I want to key them perfectly, or not at all. fr

Hello Crista,
This is a long post – but it might be useful to someone so here it goes: My adventure with the Ancestry World Archives project.

Thought I would put my thoughts down in the hopes that some of them might make some sense to newcomers.
I started this to see what it was like. I like detail and creative work and thought it would be up my alley. It is definitely up my alley. Most of my work has been on the US Postmasters from 1830 to 1931.

When I first started I was at ‘needs improvement’. So I went back and reread the project notes and comments. I also did more digging around on the site and found lots of good information. Cursive handwriting in this time period is very fascinating, but sometimes not all that easy to read. Some things as simple as Mifs = Miss and the last loop on the base line of an M or other similar letter is not an ‘o’ or an ‘a’, are some of the things that helped me improve.

I remember being somewhat overwhelmed and nervous when I first started out. Looking at a whole page of cursive handwriting can startle you at times. But I hung in there and found out that if I just concentrated on ‘letter by letter’ that it wasn’t so overwhelming. I found out that my gut instinct on the interpretation of a letter was usually right. And if it wasn’t – using the ‘?’ in place of a letter or letters would pull up a menu and I could usually find the correct one on the menu and insert that by chosing the number on the menu. That helped a lot.

My work gradually improved to ‘good work’.
Typing ‘what you see’ is perhaps not a normal thing to do. You want to put in what you think are missing or incorrect letters or numbers. It took a while – but I concentrated on typing what you see and finally got the hang of that.
It was a long time before I got comfortable enough to use the shortcuts. The shortcuts are totally amazing! I learned – and my fingers learned – that if the month is June – all I type is the J and then the number 3, etc. Another big shortcut that it took me a while to learn was that the fields automatically capitalize each word in the field. Cutting out having to do the shift key for all caps was I’m sure a time saver and allowed me to make more entries in less time.

Some simple things helped me too. Like – as soon as an image set opens I need to select which form it is by the number and hit enter. If I don’t – then any changes I make I have to remake once I do select the form. Then – if the image is tilted – I hit his combination of keys: F10 – Right arrow – 1 – enter and the image is straightened up. (1 is usually all it takes to straighten up the image. Occasionally I have to enter 2 or more if it is really crooked. By using this sequence of keys I don’t have to look at the F10 window and it seems to load more quickly for me). My 3rd step it is to enlarge – really big! So that the only thing I see is the first line I need to enter and it is on the base where the scroll bar is. As long as the line I am keying is on the base where the scroll bar is I don’t find the need to use the highlights and I keep on track of where I am a lot better. My 4th step is to adjust the contrast if I need to. I never use the automatic brightness. I find I do better if I adjust the brightness and contrast for my eyes.

At first I thought that the database could possibly be made easier. I’m sure the World Archives teams are always working on improving it – but I came to realize how simple it really was and it definitely works. One thing that I finally remembered from past databases that I have worked on is that the combination of ‘shift+tab’ will take you backwards quickly field by field even to the previous row. This is a real timesaver especially when you have gone to the next cell and immediately realize that you made a mistake in the last cell.

I try to proof my work as I go along. Only rarely do I have to go back and reexamine something. For me it just works better that way than to wait and go back. I’ve read where other folks have better luck when they go back later.

My work finally got up to ‘excellent’. Prior to then I would occasionally get discouraged with the grading system . . . but it just takes time sometimes.

I would sometimes make a bit of a game out of the data entry. For example – if only a part of the name or month was showing like the month A – I’d guess whether it was August or April. I found out I was right a lot more than I was wrong. If I was wrong I’d just correct it. Data entry can get boring sometimes.

I believe I slipped back at some point from ‘excellent’ to ‘good work’ . . . so I went back and read the project information again and all the notes. I realized that I had been entering the name of the person if the words ‘re-appointed’ followed their name, and that the team had decided to not do that anymore. So I quit doing it also. I also struggled with some of the ‘buzz words’ of the team. Like Wiki – it took me forever to understand what that meant. It still confuses me sometimes. I also couldn’t seem to ask any questions of the team . . . I kept trying but it kept saying to use the ‘edit’ tab and I didn’t see any ‘edit’ tab. Finally – through the help of the help team – I realized that I had to ‘log in’ in order to see the ‘edit’ tab. I can do image sets without totally logging in (it showed my name at the top of the page so I thought I was logged in) so I thought I was logged in – but I wasn’t. By that time most of my questions had been answered by others.

My work was upgraded to ‘exceptional’. Yea!! That did make me feel good. I’ve slipped a couple of times back down to ‘excellent’ but I sort of knew I would when I was faced with a couple of really hard to read pages. But I keep keying the hard pages as best I could and tried to not think about it affecting my status. I know that is hard to do, but for the big picture you really have to just not concentrate on your grade.
Another thing that I love about the work is that whenever I find a post office or person’s name that wasn’t already in the database – and I would have to select it to make it green – that this probably meant that there were no previous records of that name being in that county or state before. And that families would be able to find ancestors perhaps from my work.

So this has been my journey during the last several months. I believe I started sometime in May of 2011. It is now October of 2011. I am not an arbitrator yet, and I might never be, but that is ok with me. It is a worthwhile project and I feel like I am doing well at it and will keep on going.

It does take perseverance! And making the project fun for yourself. Setting goals for yourself. And keeping up with the projects and the notes. I’m looking forward to when I can try another project. But I want to see the postmasters finished first.