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Help and advice for Devon Book Indexing Project

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The Devon Book Indexing Project

Indexes presently being prepared, or already completed

This project seeks to encourage genealogists who possess, or have ready access to, interesting Devon-related books (in particular parish histories) and articles that name lots of individuals, to help provide fully-detailed indexes to these books and articles on the Web - perhaps accompanied by an offer to answer emailed queries concerning particular names that appear in the index. (Web space is provided in GENUKI/Devon for such indexes, so that they will automatically be included in the GENUKI/Devon search facility.)

I have provided some such indexes in GENUKI/Devon already - see for example:

The technique that I used to construct the above indexes is quite simple, and made use of Microsoft WORD, though other techniques are possible. I went through the book to be indexed, typing in the names as I came to them, though often economising on typing through the use of copy and paste, and inserting a page break as I came to the end of each page. (The fact that WORD displays the current page number makes it easy to check that one has not got out of step.) One thus produces a sort of skeletal transcription of the book, matching its pagination, but consisting only of the items that are to appear in the index.

Each of these items have to be made into WORD index terms, either directly using the WORD commands for doing this, or by mimicking the effects of the commands by means of an appropriate form of global editing. Then WORD's index construction command can be used to generate a neatly formatted index automatically, with multiple citations of the same name on different pages all brought together, which I can then readily convert into a web-page.

Such an indexing task does not take long, but it is worth announcing one's intention to index a particular book beforehand, to avoid duplicated effort. I also strongly recomend letting me have early sight of an index, however it is being produced, after just the first few pages of a book have been dealt with, just in case there are any problems.

Minimally, an index should provide the full names of any Devon-related persons mentioned in the book, and all the page numbers on which these names appear. (Names should be given with the surname first, to aid alphabetisation.) When such an index is prepared then, especially if the book's title is not very informative, it would be helpful to preface the index with a brief statement describing the contents of, and time period covered by, the book.

A specific suggestion for a suitable format for a more detailed index has been made by Mick Curtis. This involves the use of five columns - Name; Place; Date; Event; Page No.(s):

Sometimes there may only be a name and perhaps a date:

Bloggs, Joe; <blank>; <blank>; <blank>; 43, 105

Other entries would be more comprehensive:

Bloggs, Joe; Clovelly; 1909; Birth; 24

<blank> ; Ashton Lodge; 1873; Demolition; 77-79

An example of such an index is to be found at

An index in this format will take more effort to produce but will be much much more useful - moreover there would not be any copyright problems, if such an index was produced for a book which already had a conventional index.

On the other hand, if someone wishes to help but does not have Microsoft WORD, or some equivalent system, or has trouble with WORD's indexing facilities, then I'd be happy to accept an ASCII file of the form indicated below, which I could fairly readily turn convert into a skeletal transcription, from which I could then produce an index web page. This file could be produced using a simple text editor, or even by using a database or spreadsheet system, as long as it had a facility for exporting an ASCII text file.

PAGE 001
PAGE 002
Henry, James
Shakespeare, W.
Jones, Mrs.
Hancock, Aloysius St John
Jones (Senior), Mr.
Philpott, Rev. James
PAGE 003
James, Henry
PAGE 004
PAGE 005
James, W.T.
James, William
James, W.T.
PAGE 006
Lytton, Lord
Lytton, Lady
Lytton, The Hon. James
Henry V.C., Peter

Such a file contains a line "PAGE 001", "PAGE 002", etc., for each page in the book; these act as file dividers/headers. Each index entry is given on a separate line exactly as it is to appear in the index. It is given after the page headers in the file corresponding to each page in which it has been found. (It does not matter if by accident a particular index entry is typed in twice for a given page.)

NOTE: Unless the book concerned is out of copyright, the index must either (i) be evidently newly-created (such as if the published book has no index, or only one containing much less information than the new index), or (ii), be placed on the Web only after having contacted and obtained permission from the copyright holder. (It may well be the case that a request to place a modern book's existing index on the web would be regarded favourably by the author, since it could be viewed as a means of stimulating sales.)

(The above summary of the copyright rules matches the following response from a publisher to a query regarding indexing: "The compilation of a new index to a published book and its publication on the Internet would not appear to infringe either the author's or publisher's copyright in the book".)

To repeat a comment in my original posting on this subject: "There are now close to a thousand subscribers to DEVON-L. Just imagine if everyone produced just one such index, from a book that they possess or have borrowed from a library for the purpose! (I have not counted up the number of books that are listed in the GENUKI/Devon pages but I would guess that it is a couple of thousand or so by now, so there are plenty for you to choose from - though the obvious thing to do is to choose a book or paper that you have found particularly useful in your own personal researches.) The resulting resource would be unmatched, since no such collection of indexes exists anywhere to my knowledge - even in the Westcountry Studies Library in Exeter, with its marvellous Burnett-Morris Index."

Indexing offers should be sent to

Indexes presently being prepared, or already completed