Otherwise, future generations won't know who's mentioned where--and they might not take the time to read all the way through.
With an index, they can look up individuals quickly and easily. And for family history researchers, the index gives us extra help seeing connections between people, events, dates. See my sample format for indexing here.
I have three sets of documents that have been passed down in the family:
- Farkas Family Tree reports and minutes. My mother's family accumulated 500 pages of meeting minutes from the 30 years of the Farkas Family Tree, a family association that began in 1933. I scanned 'em all, read 'em all, and then prepared an index listing every person mentioned. It took a while, but above you can see the results. Mr. & Mrs. B, the first family members listed in the index, were only at one meeting, June 1946. Others in that family were mentioned numerous times, as shown in this index. Who could resist looking up their parents' or grandparents' or first cousins' names? That's the allure and advantage of an index.
- Father-in-law Edgar J. Wood's diaries. For decades, Edgar Wood kept a brief diary with 1-3 sentences per day. I indexed every family and friend mentioned in the diaries, including names that were unfamiliar. Eventually, cross-referencing the entries led me and my husband to be able to identify cousins and pinpoint the exact relationships between most of the folks named. Without indexing, we wouldn't have connected the dots between people discussed in multiple entries.
- Letters to Mom during the 1930s/40s. I have transcribed these dozens of letters and will index these soon. Preparing a time line based on the index will help me follow friends and relatives during the years after Mom (Daisy Schwartz) graduated high school and before she married Dad (Harry Burk).