Making Sense of the Index

Open the index book, and see if it is a standard index and easily understood. There are many variations to indexes. Each has its own name, and many are still in use. There are Russell indexes, Cott indexes, and others. Look inside the front cover. There should be a diagram or chart and an explanation of the indexing system used in that county. Read it carefully. If, after a few minutes, you are still unsure, ask the clerk to explain the system.

In the following figure, using the so-called Russell system of indexing, go to the index book with the initial letter of the surname you are tracing. Then determine the first key letter as listed at the top of the figure (l, m, n, r, or t), to find where in the deed books the surname is indexed. For example, if the surname is Martin, you are searching in the M index. Ignoring now the initial letter of the surname (you are already in the M book), search for the first key letter. The next letter is a, not one of the key letters (l, m, n, r, and t), so it is ignored. The next letter, r, in Martin, is the first key letter of that name. Looking at the columns, you note that Martin is therefore indexed on pages 14, 24, 34, 44, 54, and 64.

TO LOCATE NAMES IN INDEX

Determine first key-letter following initial letter in Family Name. Find section number in the column headed by said key-letter, opposite given name initial desired. Names not containing a key-letter will be located under "Misc." Corporations, etc., will be located under the first key-letter following the initial letter in the first word of the name, or if no key-letter, under "Misc." Always omit the article "The."

Given Name Initials

Key Letters and Section Numbers

1

m

n

r

t

Misc.

ABCD

11

12

13

14

15

16

EFGHI

21

22

23

24

25

26

JKL

31

32

33

34

35

36

MNOPQR

41 | 42 43

44

45

46

STUVWXYZ

51

52

53

54

55

56

Corps., etc.

61

62

63

64

65

66

Sample of the Russell index, arranged by certain key letters.

In the left column of the same figure, the letters ABCD, EFGHI, and so on represent the initials of the given name. If you are searching for Abraham Martin, go to page 14 of the index. If you are searching for Mary Martin, proceed to page 44 of the index.

If you are searching a name such as Rowse in the Russell system of indexing, since there are no key letters (l, m, n, r, or t) following the initial letter of R, you would use the Miscellaneous column. (Anything not falling within the key letters is considered miscellaneous.) Abraham Rowse would be on page 16, while Mary Rowse would be on page 46. The Russell index, though prevalent (and still in use), is only one of numerous types of indexes.

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