Friday, February 21, 2014

Which Obituary Collections Are In 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 was curious as to what types of obituary records would be indexed, so I went to the Indexing Projects page and looked at the Current Projects, and saw the top of the list of the current projects:

I decided to search for a keyword on this page, so I typed Ctrl-F and entered the word "obit" in the search field.  That found 17 matches, including the below (3 screens from the U.S. collections):

The highlighted U.S. obituary indexing projects on the list are:

*  U.S., Arizona -- Obituaries, 1993-1994 (Pilot)
*  U.S., Idaho, Minidoka and Cassia Counties -- Obituaries, 1972-2013 (Pilot)
*  U.S., Idaho -- Obituaries, 1880-2013 [Part 2]
*  U.S., Idaho -- Obituaries, 2007 (Pilot)
*  U.S., Illinois, Cook County -- Obituaries, 1970-1990 (Pilot)

*  U.S., Indiana, Daviess County -- Obituaries From the Washington Times Herald, 1984-2012
*  U.S., Michigan, Van Buren County -- Obituaries, 1880-2005 (Pilot)
*  U.S., Michigan -- Muriel Obituary File, 1930-1975 (Pilot)
*  U.S., Michigan -- Muriel Obituary File (Pilot) [Part A]
*  U.S., Minnesota, Steele and Clay Counties -- Obituaries, 1865-2006 (Pilot)

*  U.S., Montana, Cascade County -- Obituaries, 1880-2002 (Pilot)
*  U.S., Ohio, Crawford County -- Obituaries, 1860-2004 (Pilot)
*  U.S., Ohio, Crawford County -- Obituaries, 1860-2004 (Pilot) [Part A]
*  U.S., Pennsylvania -- Obituaries, 1977-2010 
*  U.S., Utah -- Obituaries, 2010-2013

Each collection being indexed has a project description page.  Here is the page for the U.S., Idaho -- Obituaries, 1880-2013 [Part 2] project:

The description page says:

"This is a collection of obituary clippings, funeral programs, and death certificates from various newspapers in southeastern Idaho. The clippings are alphabetized and are from 1880 to 2013."

I will try to index some batches in this collection in the another post.

Readers are encouraged to help with this indexing project.  The more indexers there are, and the more hours they contribute to the project, the sooner we will have obituary collections like the ones noted above to search and find our ancestral families.  I think that this project is really worthwhile, and will be a significant contribution to the online digitized genealogical resources.

One of the major questions I had was "Where are they going to get these records?"  It is apparent to me that the record collections listed above are mostly those done by volunteers in local LDS stakes, genealogical societies or historical societies, and consist of records that were microfilmed by the LDS Family History Library over the past 50 years or so.  There are many other clipping collections in local and regional libraries and repositories, and those may be a fertile field for local societies to digitize and index those collections.  I recall visiting the public library in Sharon, Mercer County, Pennsylvania back in 2004, and seeing the two bookcases with 5 shelves each loaded down with notebooks of newspaper clippings from the previous 100 years or so.

Another question was "If they are newspaper clippings after 1923, how will they address copyright issues."  The copyright issues dealing with actual newspaper page images, or portions of a full page, is another issue.  It's likely that many obituaries were clipped from newspapers and put into one of the record collections that were microfilmed.  That may be fair use, and it may not be.  It would be interesting to hear one of our expert legal genealogists opine on this.

It's funny - this was a really big deal made at RootsTech, but I don't recall seeing a blog post about the projects, how to do it, or user experiences in indexing obituaries.

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

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