Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Indexing Obituary Collections Using FamilySearch Indexing

FamilySearch made a big announcement at RootsTech 2014 that they were starting an Obituary Indexing project - see a blog article at Obituaries + Volunteers = A Treasure Trove of Searchable Stories, posted 7 February 2014.  One of the recurring themes at RootsTech was that "Dead Men Don't Tell Stories ... But Their Obituaries Do!"  FamilySearch also declared that 2014 was the "Year of the Obituaries" on 16 January 2014.

The first blog article highlights an Indexing Obituaries video that helps potential indexers understand the indexing process.  There is also a link to a PDF presentation for Indexing Obituaries and Death Notices.

I wrote Which Obituary Collections Are In FamilySearch Indexing? (posted 21 February 2014) and indexed a few batches last week.

This post will describe some of my experiences in indexing batches in this collection:

1)  First, I had to download the updated FamilySearch Indexing program and install it on my computer (I think a new version is being released soon).

2)  That was easy to do, and I opened the program, logged into FamilySearch, and tried to figure out what to do next.  The Dashboard looks like this:

I checked the instructions again (I recommend reading them carefully!) and decided that I needed to Download a Batch (the button is in the upper left-hand corner of the screen above right under the "My Work" title).

3)  That gave me a list of available projects to work on:

There were only two "Obituaries" projects - one for "Idaho -- Obituaries, 1880-2013 (Part B) and one for "Obituaries of German Immigrants, 1871-2013.  Both were labeled as "Intermediate" in difficulty level.

4)  I chose the Idaho project, and downloaded a Batch by clicking "OK":

5)  I clicked on the "Work on Batch" button on the screen above, and a helpful set of "Project Instructions" appeared in a new window:

6)  After closing that window, I now had my first batch to index.  It appears that a Batch in this collection consists of three items to index.  Here is the screen for the first item:

Over on the left, is a list of "Image Record" numbers of the form "01-01."  The first number is for the item number in the batch, and the second number is for the person number in the batch.  Each person named in the actual record gets a person number for indexing purposes.  For the person number 01-01 above, I entered the appropriate information from the prompts provided by the program.  As always, you enter only the information clearly provided by the record information.  Although the birth date and death date for the person were provided in the record, I did not enter the age because it was not explicitly given in the record.

I finished that batch of 3 record items quickly just by tabbing down the "Image Record" list on the left-hand panel.  When I was done, I clicked the "Quality Checker" button in the right-hand panel and after completing that, I clicked on the "Submit Work to the Computer and Server" icon on the menu line above the "Header Data" tab - it's the first one on the left.  It took me awhile to figure that out being a relative newbie to this process.

My other problem was figuring out how to insert <blank" into the balance of the "Image Record" items when there are no more persons to be indexed from the record.  The keystroke on Windows is Ctrl-Shift-B.  And then my dilemma was how to enter <blank> in the indexing fields for those marked "<Required>"  I tried "Ctrl-Shift-B" and it wiped out everything I had entered so I had to enter it again (but now the <blank> indicator was in the fields already.  So I guess that if you indicate <blank" before you enter any information, you'll be OK.

In order to submit the Batch and have it accepted, I had to reach 100% Complete.  On the screen above, I was at 57% complete because I had not entered <blank> in any of the blank fields.  After I did that, I was at 100% complete.

Even then, I still had not submitted the batch.  Back on the "My Work" screen (second image above), I had to click on the "Submit Batch" button and have another quality check

As you can see on the image above, the records were from a set of burial or death record cards in Idaho.  I wondered if there were actually obituaries, rather than index cards, in this project.

7)  I downloaded another batch, and this one had an actual obituary in it:

8)  If readers have suggestions for how to deal with the blank lines, I would appreciate knowing them.  I didn't see an explicit instruction about putting <blank> in the Age and other fields in the instructions - maybe I missed them.

9)  Well, that was interesting.  I either forgot how to do it since I indexed the 1940 U.s. Census in 2012, or they've changed the program.

I encourage readers to participate in this Obituary Indexing project, and any other project on the list to be indexed.  I'm going to try to do some Indexing every week.

It will be interesting to see how far the Obituary Indexing Project gets in 2014.  100 million indexed names is a pretty ambitious goal.  But if 100,000 indexers do it, that's 1,000 per indexer on average, so its doable just as the 1940 U.S. census indexing was achieved in only 5 months.

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copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


ponderingthebible said...

There are three ways to enter the official "blank" message.

1. while in the field when in Windows (I don't know about Macs) press Crtl+B and it will record the field as blank

2. you can right click while in the field and blank should be one of the options that come up, you click on that and it is entered.

3. finally if you look on the icon line below the image there are a set of little rectangles (I guess they are supposed to represent one cell or more in a spreadsheet -- something like that). Hover the mouse over the one with a single cell and a red X and you will see that it represents one field blank so press on it.

The other options in that area allow you to say that all of the record is blank or unreadable.

I agree, not obvious in the instructions.

Geolover said...

Where is the source information? If this material is just going to be in a miscellaneous obituaries collection with no specific source, it will be nearly useless -- and deceptive, since your first item gave no indication that it was an extract from an obituary.

Nancy said...

Some fields are not required and I don't think those need to be marked blank. The ones that have "required" in them before you start typing need either a word or to be recorded as blank.

If you want to get rid of the extra lines in a record -- let's say you only need to use 6 of the 12 in an obituary index -- there's an icon just above the indexing field that will allow you to delete the lines you don't need. (It looks like a table with 4 boxes, one highlighted in red with an "X" next to it. It's on the right side of the string of icons.) Click on that it will eliminate one line at a time. It takes less time to delete the whole line than to mark each box in the line blank.

I don't know those explanations answer your questions or not.

Anonymous said...

Try page 19 & page 10 of the pdf: Indexing Obituaries and Death Notices.