- Associated Press - Friday, July 15, 2016

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - Technology has changed quite a bit over Vernon Cook’s lifetime, but that hasn’t stopped him from embracing the advance.

Cook, 90, a family history enthusiast from Echo, Oregon, spends two to six hours each day digitizing historical records from around the world. So far he has entered more than a million names into his computer.

Each day he boots up his computer and downloads a new batch of census records, ship manifests, immigration papers, birth certificates, obituaries, marriage licenses, draft cards or other records that might enable someone to locate information about an ancestor. He looks at the scanned-in PDF image and deciphers the handwriting, typing the information by hand into a database that makes the names searchable online.

Cook said it’s a good way to keep his brain active.

“I’m 90 years old,” he said. “I can’t do much of anything else. It’s good to sit down and do something productive.”

The program, known as indexing, is through FamilySearch.org, a free family history database run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This weekend the website is sponsoring a worldwide indexing event, challenging participants to get online and index names from July 15-17. The goal is to get 72,000 people participating over 72 hours. Organizers are especially interested in people fluent in multiple languages to help out with non-English records that are piling up fast.

Cook doesn’t get paid for his work for the website, but said he enjoys the idea of helping thousands of people find their ancestors and learn about their heritage.

“I enjoy doing obituaries and getting that information about families and relationships,” he said of his favorite type of record to index. “… Once it’s indexed it’s in the electronic database. You can call up a program and find a relative instead of having to go to the cemetery or the courthouse.”

Cook said he started almost 10 years ago. This month alone he has indexed 4,032 names and over his lifetime he has entered a total of 1,016,337 names into the website. His daughter Darla Hartsteen said the project gives purpose to her father’s day.

“He does it all the time,” she said. “When I get home from work, I know where he’ll be.”


Information from: East Oregonian, https://www.eastoregonian.com

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