One Man, One Million Names

Contributed By By Patti Hosford, Gastonia North Carolina Stake Public Affairs Council

  • 20 September 2013

Reading records such as this, David Dawson of North Carolina has transcribed one million names, helping people across the world achieve family history goals.

Article Highlights

  • Six years ago David Dawson learned about indexing in his stake’s family history center.
  • He and his wife developed a routine of indexing 4–5 hours each morning.
  • After reaching one million names, David already plans to index another million.

“You can spend as much or little time as you have to give. It is habit forming.”
—David Dawson, FamilySearch indexer 

Over the past seven years, FamilySearch indexers have completed more than one billion searchable records. David Dawson of Mount Holly, North Carolina, has personally accounted for more than one million of those records.

Six years ago while researching at the Gastonia North Carolina Stake Family History Center, he learned about indexing. At first he indexed a couple times a week while his wife, Marian Dawson, researched. Soon they purchased a laptop computer and began indexing on a daily basis, usually four to five hours each morning before going on a daily two-mile walk.

The Dawsons are busy people. Since retiring, the couple has served missions in Ecuador and Fort Hood, Texas. They have also served as members of the temple presidency for the Columbia South Carolina Temple. They live near their children and grandchildren, who are all active in the Church and community.

“Indexing is a perfect activity for keeping mentally alert and active,” said Brother Dawson. He also finds indexing relaxing, rewarding, and easy to do. “You get started indexing by turning on the computer or find a friend to teach you.”

Brother Dawson explains that two indexers review the documents and record the information into data boxes. Their input is then compared, and any differences are sent to a third person (an “arbitrator”), who reviews the document and decides which information is correct. “You do your best to decipher the information, knowing that a second person is indexing the same information you are. Indexing gets easier as you grow accustomed to the old-fashioned cursive writing and old documents.”

He has done both indexing and arbitration but now concentrates on indexing. He likes census reports the most. Even though he’s indexed more than one million names, he has yet to find a family name of his own; however, he knows the hours he has spent over the last six years have provided vital information for other family history enthusiasts.

“You can spend as much or little time as you have to give. It is habit forming,” Brother Dawson said. And what a great habit it is to have! He already has plans to reach his next million names, which will continue to help people all over the world achieve their family history goals.