In celebration of Family History Month, FamilySearch International (FamilySearch.org) and GenealogyBank (GenealogyBank.com) today announced an agreement to make over a billion records from historical obituaries searchable online. It will be the largest—and perhaps most significant—online US historic records access initiative yet. It will take tens of thousands of online volunteers to make GenealogyBank’s vast U.S. obituary collection more discoverable online. Find out more at FamilySearch.org/Campaign/Obituaries.
The tremendous undertaking will make a billion records from over 100 million US newspaper obituaries readily searchable online. The newspapers are from all 50 states and cover the period 1730 to present. The completed online index will be fairly comprehensive, including 85% of U.S. deaths from the last decade alone. The death collection will easily become one of the most popular online genealogy databases ever, detailing names, dates, relationships, locations of the deceased, and multi-generational family members.
Obituaries can solve family puzzles, tell stories, dispel myths, and provide tremendous help with family history research. A single obituary can include the names and relationships of dozens of family members. For example, Alice E. Cummings’ obituary (See above) sheds light on where she lived during her lifespan, her personal history, and it provides information connecting five generations of ancestors and descendants in her family tree—14 people in all.
Dennis Brimhall, CEO of FamilySearch, explained that obituaries are extremely valuable because they tell the stories of our ancestors’ lives long after they are deceased. He invites online volunteers to help unlock the “treasure trove” of precious family information locked away in newspaper obituaries.
“Billions of records exist in US obituaries alone,” Brimhall said. “The average obituary contains the names of about ten family members of the deceased—parents, spouse, children, and other relatives. Some include much more. Making them easily searchable online creates an enormously important source for compiling our family histories. The number of people who will benefit from this joint initiative is incalculable.”
GenealogyBank has over 6,500 historical U.S. newspapers and growing, spanning over 280 years. The death notices in these publications go beyond names and dates. They can provide insightful first-hand accounts about an ancestor that simply are not available from censuses or vital records alone.
“Obituaries, unlike any other resource, have the ability to add incredible dimensions to an individual’s family history research. They contain a wealth of information including facts and details that help capture the legacy of those who have passed on,” said Dan V. Jones, GenealogyBank Vice President. “The unique life stories written, dates documented, and generations of family members mentioned are often only found within an obituary, which makes them such an invaluable resource. Obituaries have the unique power to both tell a story and enable individuals to learn more about their family relationships. GenealogyBank is proud and excited to partner with FamilySearch in bringing these obituaries to researchers all over the world.”
Volunteers Are Key
The success of the massive US obituary campaign will depend on online volunteers. The obituaries are fairly simple to read, since they are digital images of the typeset, printed originals, but require human judgment to sort through the rich, historic data and family relationships recorded about each person. Information about online volunteering is available at FamilySearch.org/indexing. A training video, indexing guide, detailed instructions, telephone and online support are available to help new volunteer indexers if needed.
FamilySearch.org volunteers have already indexed over one billion historic records online since 2006, including all of the available U.S. Censuses, 1790 to 1940. In 2012 volunteers rallied in a record-breaking effort to index the entire 1940 U.S. Census in just four months. Today, the US censuses, 1790 to 1940, are the most popular online databases for family history research. Indexed obituary collections can be searched online at FamilySearch.org and GenealogyBank.com.
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
GenealogyBank.com is one of the largest exclusive collections of newspapers and historical documents for family history research. It provides information on millions of American families from 1630–today. Over 6,500 newspapers provide first-hand accounts of your ancestors’ lives that simply can’t be found in other genealogy resources: obituaries, birth and marriage notices, photographs, hometown news and more. Over 380,000 historical books and documents from 1749-1994 include military records, widow’s claims, orphan petitions, land grants, casualty lists, funeral sermons, biographies and much more. Discover the stories, names, dates, places and events that have shaped your family story at GenealogyBank.com.