Do you, like me, find yourself regularly turning to the obituaries in the newspaper? No matter what world, national or local events might have my attention that particular day in the newspaper, I always find myself checking the obituaries. Scanning the names and photos, I look for people I’ve known, might have met or heard about. Inevitably, I end up reading most of them – regardless whether or not I had any connection to them. I find fascinating the stories, memories, personal histories and linkages with family and community. The heartbreaking stories of loss, celebrations of lives lived and how we memorialize and remember our loved ones has always intrigued me.
Over the last while, staff in the Grace Schmidt Room have been thinking about how obituaries connect and fascinate us all. For genealogists, obituaries unlock family relationships, histories and personal stories and open new avenues of research and discovery. To the local historian, an obituary provides personal signposts to a community story or chapter of history. The lack of indexing for historical obituaries has frustrated staff and researchers alike.
To that end, I am happy to announce that we are launching a new volunteer project to undertake the creation of a searchable online index to obituaries in our local newspapers. We’re looking for volunteers who would like to scan obituaries from our newspaper microfilm collection, index the obituaries, and check the obituary indexing submitted by fellow volunteers. With the exception of the scanning work, volunteers will be able to work from home – we’ll send you digital files needed, including a data entry form. Completed indexing files will then be sent to a fact checker and returned to us for upload. If you are a regular obituary reader and are interested in indexing current editions of newspaper, please let us know when you apply. Information about the Obituary Indexing Project can be found here. If you are interested in applying, you can find the application form here.
Our project will also include obituary related programs and events in the fall. Stay tuned to the blog for more details!