Just Keep Keying

I love the movie Finding Nemo. My favorite character in that movie is Dory. Maybe I love her because – just like her – I’m a little scatter-brained sometimes. Or, maybe, it’s her optimistic attitude that I identify with the most. One of my favorite scenes from that movie is this one.

“When life gets you down you know what you gotta do?…Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!”

I find myself singing that silly, little tune at the oddest times. The latest was this last week while I was keying on a particularly difficult project.

Before I began keying I did what I always do when I start a new project – I read the project page on the wiki. Then I checked the discussion tab in the wiki to familiarize myself with the common errors discovered by arbitrators. I am very familiar with the keying standards and I had the field helps to guide me along the way. I felt pretty good about how to classify the forms types. I felt like I knew what information I should be keying and where to find it on the form.

Great. First record. Ready. Set. Key!

Between the handwriting and the diacritics on that very first record my enthusiasm waned very quickly. I started fantasizing about how easy it would be to just cancel the image set and return it for someone with far greater patience than I to key it. In the middle of that little daydream I caught myself singing, “Just keep keying! Just keep keying! Just keep keying, keying, keying!”

So, on I trudged. And what trudging it was. It wasn’t easy. There were times I wasn’t sure that what I was keying was accurate. I used Google several times to check that the places or the names I was keying even existed. Sometimes they did. Sometimes they didn’t. I put in my most reasonable interpretation of the data. I reviewed the Polish handwriting helps so I could recognize the diacritics a little easier. And on I trudged.

That first image set took me a couple of hours. But, I finished it and I downloaded another. And I finished that one.

And, lo and behold, after a keying a few dozen records, I realized that my enthusiasm was back. I was recognizing characters and words with more ease. Rather than daydreaming about cancelling image sets I was really thinking about the lives of the people whose names and family data I was capturing.

My accuracy may plummet when those first couple of image sets finally get arbitrated. That’s ok. I did my best. I kept keying. These records will be made available to the public that much faster because of my contribution. These people will be remembered.

Until Next Time – Happy Keying!

P.S. – If you are going to be at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree this weekend, stop by the Ancestry.com booth in the exhibit hall and say hello. I love meeting our contributors!

Information and Links

Join the fray by commenting, tracking what others have to say, or linking to it from your blog.

Other Posts

Write a Comment

Take a moment to comment and tell us what you think. Some basic HTML is allowed for formatting.

Reader Comments

Thanks, Now i have a cartoon fish stuck in my head!



I’m going to be at the Jamboree also and I would love to meet with other keyers/arbitrators and get to know them instead of seeing just their screen names.

Is there a German Handwriting page in the Wiki?

Well, thank you, Crista. For the first time in two years, my accuracy plummeted…I had a bad set lingering out there and I knew it…and I was about to say “Gah! Forget it!” Then I read your note and said, “Well, if Crista can keep swimming, at least I can stay in the water.”

I know my accuracy will go back up as the bad set filters out. But boy it’s tough! LOL


Nothing done by wap, but there a link to one on the Mecklenberg page.


I took that same attitude, and it knocked my accuracy from “good job” to “needs improvement.” I had whole lists of almost impossible handwriting. I feel now that I should have given it up.


I wouldn’t be overly concerned at this point, you toughed it out, and it did get arbitrated.

Just be sure you’re square on the project rules and keying standards. And aren’t missing names. What happens on handwriting, happens. And your accuracy will recover.

You sometimes have to decide how much you want to tackle. Some people love puzzles and like to work them out, but I’ve never been one of those people.

I’m doing this for a “fun” activity and if it gets too stressful all the enjoyment goes away.

Right now I’m really enjoying the California World War I photos. Yes, they are really easy, but also really neat to see all the photographs

You gotta have balance

I have another tip for new keyers. When you are keying really old handwritten records, you might see what looks like the letters fs, but it is actually the letters ss. For example, the last name Basset might look like Bafset, but you would key it as Basset. And also the country name Prussia (which is actually part of Germany) would look like Prufsia. I was reviewing some Ohio marriage records from 1835 today and I came across a mistake that the keyer made. They had interpreted the last name Basset as Bafset, and so they keyed it as Bafset.

This was a great article for us newbies. Thank you so much! It does take a while to get comfortable with new projects, but if you hang in there it gets better.

I’m way less active right now, due to my “needs improvement” status. I do love puzzles. I put a lot of time and effort into figuring things out. Had 4 or 5 months of “Exceptional” (or whatever the top rating was) and made the mistake of trying the Erie Co NY census. Every time I open up my project page, I get slapped by my accuracy rating. So demoralizing. I occasionally key an easy project set, hope for the best, and am waiting for those nasty Erie County NY pages to age out.

As someone said above, I do this for fun and to help others. Being told my efforts aren’t up to par negates both the feelings of helpfulness and the fun.

@Linda Please don’t worry about accuracy on Illegible Erie county pages.

I know how ugly they are. They will stop dragging down your accuracy eventually.

There are about 30-40 really ugly sets left in keying mode floating about. I will probably have to key most of them. For some reason I’m still rated at exceptional for that project. I’m not entirely sure why considering the amount of guessing I had to do. (I think maybe the reviewer looked at it, decided they were pretty much illegible anyway, saw my keying to be more or less ok, and passed it on unaltered)

All lovely ‘warm; thoughts, however if we just keep keying & not necessarily correctly, where is the point? If we can’t see a name it’s not quite the thing to ‘guess’ it.

Just having pondered through census reports again, where correctness was often a myth,I have to wonder why? I love transcribing,but if we have no definite, rules for keying names on hard to read images, it seems like a waste of effort.
How can anyone possibly attain & keep a 100per cent rating?

I’m so glad to have read this post.
I just started keying a few days ago and today began some records on Buffalo Soldiers. I used Google to see if I could figure out some of the names and the locations, but I felt like a cheater so I went ahead and just “typed what I saw” which wasn’t a lot.
Now that I know it’s okay to Google, my accuracy will so greatly improve! My time spent definitely won’t, though… I got so involved in the stories of the places and soldiers I Googled today, I spent more time reading than I did keying!