HELP! There’s Help?

I’m writing to you from my hotel room in Duluth, Georgia.  I’m here for the Atlanta Family History Expo, where I’ll be presenting two different classes on over the next two days.  If you are in the area, be sure to come by the free exhibit hall.  There will be lots of genealogy vendors showing off their products and services.  And, of course, I hope you will stop by our booth and say hello.  I love meeting our contributors.

We started a pretty good discussion on Monday about quality.  I promised I would write several follow up posts to keep that discussion going.  So, today’s topic is, “Where Do I Find Help?”

We love the eager, new keyers who join us each week.  Anxious to contribute in a meaningful way and “just get started,” many of them download their first image set and away they go.  For those of us who learn by doing, trial and error seems to work pretty well in most cases.  And, a lot of what we do is fairly intuitive, especially with some genealogy experience.  However, when accuracy ratings plummet or we come across something that doesn’t quite fit our understanding of how we should be keying, we go searching for answers.  Here are the helps I use, pretty much in this order.

  1. PROJECT INSTRUCTIONS:  The first time you open an image set for a given project a project instructions box pops up.  Be sure to read it.  If you need a refresher you can always find it at the top of the keying tool under Help | View Project Instructions.
  2. FIELD HELPS:  You may have noticed that the text in the box on the far left at the bottom of your keying tool changes each time you move to a new field.  That’s because every field you key comes with its own instructions.  We operate under general keying standards but we try to give you additional help and account for any project-specific differences that may arise.  Be sure to read those (and every once in a while re-read them, especially if you key multiple projects).  You can also click on the SEE EXAMPLE link at the bottom of the field help to be taken to the…
  3. WIKI:  Each project has its own page in the Wiki.  When a project is first launched this page contains the project instructions, form type examples and field helps (many with examples).  As a project progresses many of our contributors update the field helps to clarify the instructions or provide additional examples from images they come across while keying.  It’s always a good idea to read through the project page on the wiki when you first start on a project.  But, it’s also a great resource if you come across anomalies or problems as it is constantly being updated.
  4. MESSAGE BOARDS:  A core of our most experienced community members are very active on our message boards.  Find the appropriate category, skim through the list of topics to see if your question is already being addressed.  If not, feel free to post your question (with a specific subject line so others can find the answer as well) and you’ll see very quickly just how generous and helpful our community really is.
  5. SUPPORT:  If all else fails, click on the Help menu at the top of your keying tool and select Contact Support.  Their response might not be immediate but they will get back to you with an official answer.  (Then you can update the Wiki or post a response on the message board yourself to help others along the way.)

With all of that said, let me close with one more thought.  One of the classes I teach as I travel around to these conferences is called, “Getting The Most Out Of Your Subscription.”  I share some of my most-used and beloved features of the site.  I have taught this class to hundreds of people.  In the process, I am always a little amused at how things I couldn’t imagine living without are completely unknown to many people.  And, invariably, one or two of them will visit me in the booth during the conference and show me how they use the site, teaching me something that hadn’t occured to me.

My point is this, just because something is obvious to you, doesn’t mean it’s obvious to everyone.  And, I’m certain, there are things that others find obvious that have never occured to me.  So, while some of what I share may seem fairly basic to some of you, it may be a revelation to others.  The bottom line is that we have a community of thousands of contributors who participate in the World Archives Project for a wide variety of reasons.  You are using your discretionary time to contribute to something meaningful with good intentions and a desire to produce quality keying.

But, we can all use a little help from time to time.  So, thanks to all those who setup and test these projects for us.  And thanks to all of you who patiently and kindly help the rest of us as we seek answers in the Wiki and on the message boards so that we can get records out quickly – but well-done.

Until next time – Happy Keying!

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Reader Comments

Thank you for your very passionate post! At times I wonder myself why I enjoy keying images so much. I’ve spent many years linking my father’s family genealogy. Thus, the World Archives Project is an opportunity to give back as a volunteer, using keyboard speed and accuracy to help others locate their ancestors. Link by link, it is fascinating to trace back a family history, and learning this skill correctly as it is just as easy to lose continuity with incorrect information. I have contacted distant relatives living within five miles, and across the country in California, with whom we shared our memories (for better or worse), and continue to stay in touch. provides opportunities to learn what to do with records, with the assistance of a well crafted dashboard. The World Archives Project serves multiple reasons to bring individual documents to life online, with a fulfilling sense of accomplishment. How I wish I could shuttle on down to Georgia, but I can imagine your passion for your work is contagious, and wish you the best!

Like Susan, this is an opportunity to give back and be released from the hours of tedious searching through indexes and microfilm that I did when I started this more years ago than I want to admit! It has become almost addictive! “Pass it forward” has become a real buzz word, and I’m getting a charge from doing it this way.

Where can you see how many points you’ve accumulated?

Thank you for your post. This blog should be required reading before downloading your first images. The trickle down effect would be so beneficial. Informed keyers, more records keyed, faster turnaround of arbitrated records, (less rejected) and records online sooner. I love doing my favorite project (Buffalo Soldiers) and while sometimes difficult, it can so rewarding. Thank you for allowing me to enjoy this project

I have just downloaded the keying software and am anxious to get started. However, when I type my username and password, it says “logging in…” for a long time and then says that my entry doesn’t match their records. Do I need to wait a certain amount of time after downloading the software before attempting to use it?