I am currently preparing an index for a family history. The index will include places as well as people. A town, county, and state name index is important to family histories. The reason for including place names in the index is to allow the reader to follow a larger family group on its migrations to various places.
In another family history, covering colonial and federal period Massachusetts, the family consistently expanded outwards to New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and New York, making the project that much larger. By including these items in the index, the reader can follow a particular branch of the family in its outward peregrinations.
Sometimes, if the family history is large enough, or complex enough, separate indexes might work better to allow for quick finding in the text. You might want to consider having the primary family in its own index, everyone else related to the primary family in a general index, and place names in a third, or subject index.
A subject index in a family history would include topics such as farming, occupations, the names of prominent universities the family members have graduated from, and other such matters. One of my current indexing projects includes references to about a dozen universities and several dozen more graduates of those universities. As is a major feature of the family history, it is imperative that they be indexed; perhaps names of graduates under the university heading, or perhaps just the universities referenced where they occur in the text. It is a judgment call whether to index the graduates and universities together.
The level of detail in a surname index can be important, especially with larger family histories. People oftentimes name their sons and daughters after other members of the family. For instance, a son would be named after one of his grandfathers. This pattern can continue for generations. In the index, one would ideally include the birth and death years, as well as at least the middle initial, if not the full middle name, of each member of the family with the same given name.
© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research
This post originally appeared on the defunct Seattle Book Scouts’ Blog in 2009.