What Exactly Is An Every Name Index?

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In a survey of about 800 genealogists on Facebook in 2013, 90% of respondents indicated an every name index could be a "make it or break it" feature of a buying a book to add to their research library.  At the same time, we began to look at the trend of self-publishing family histories and even local histories and noticed that many newer books, particularly those self- published titles, were missing this kind of index. Some books had no index at all!
As a family history researcher myself, I have done it a thousand times...  Pick up a book because of the title and immediately flip to the back pages to see if I can quickly find some link to someone in my family.  Whether it is a book of transcriptions, a family history, or a town or state history, I almost always immediately flip to the index to see "what's in it for me."  I don't mind spending money on books to add to my library, but I don't have an unlimited budget, so I try to focus my money on where it will be the most helpful and an easy way for me to judge that is through the index.

Don't get me wrong.  I don't mean to say a book without an index is not a useful book. But the cold, hard truth of the matter is some books get left on the shelf because they are missing this key tool for researchers. Without an index, and in particular, an every name index, it is a more difficult sell, even though there could be that key piece of brick wall breaking evidence in there, or a scandalous story our side of the family doesn't know about.

Most people know what an index is and how it is used by researchers, but what is an every name index, and why does your next family history or transcription project need one?  An every name index is EXACTLY what it sounds like. It's an index, listing every name found in your book.  How the index is compiled is a matter of style, but the bottom line is if there is a name in the book, there should be a name in the index pointing to the page number.  As you can imagine, for the genealogist or family history researcher, this index becomes an invaluable tool helping lead the reader directly to the people they are most concerned about.

Think about this scenario.  You write a book about the Higgins family of Maine and you know there are lots of Higgins descendants who you can market the book to, as well as people interested in local history of the major towns referenced in the book, but after spending all that time on writing this important history, you publish without an appropriate every name index.  We've already established as many as 90% of researchers consider the every name index to be a potential deal breaker when it comes to buying a book.  Even though your book may have a whole chapter dedicated to a family someone is interested in learning more about, they may only get as far as flipping the book to the back cover only to realize there is no name reference for them to look at before sliding it back on the bookshelf.  As many as 90% of potential customers could reconsider their purchase based on this simple tool

Remember, an every name index is not just extra work, it is a marketing tool designed to help move more books. It makes the final product look more professional and it gives credence to you as a serious researcher who takes pride in the work they have created.

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