Obituaries + Volunteers = A Treasure Trove of Searchable Stories

February 6, 2014  - by 
Obituary Treasure

FamilySearch has declared 2014 the “Year of the Obituary” and is working with partners and the larger genealogy community to collect and digitize millions of obituaries from the United States, with other countries soon to follow. The goal for this year is to index 100 million names from these historical documents, including the name of the deceased, relatives, and all other individuals found in each document.

FamilySearch and GenealogyBank: Helping to connect more than a billion relatives. Learn More ▸

This massive collection of obituaries will add a fabulous new dimension to online family history research. Obituaries are a “treasure trove” of valuable genealogical information. Each is a unique story of a person’s life. Many obituaries include a photo of the person along with the names of generations of family members.

The success of this indexing campaign depends on volunteers.

Tens of thousands of additional volunteers are needed to keep up with the volume of obituary indexing projects coming this year. This represents an excellent opportunity for societies, archives, schools, and churches to participate in a meaningful act of service that will pay big dividends for generations to come.

Many indexers will enjoy indexing obituaries because they are so interesting to read and are virtually all typewritten. However, each obituary is as unique as the deceased person it portrays, and this uniqueness can make obituaries deceptively tricky to index correctly. Good judgment and a willingness to closely follow the instructions are crucial.

Volunteers are encouraged to start immediately. The quirks of the project may take some getting used to, but help resources are readily available, including:

If you haven’t indexed before, get started today by following these steps:

  1. Go to and click Get Started.
  2. Follow the download instructions.
  3. Open the indexing program using the new indexing icon on your desktop.
  4. Sign in with your FamilySearch or LDS Account.
  5. Enter your profile information.
  6. Read and agree to the license agreement.
  7. Click Download Batch.
  8. Select a project to index.

To download a set (or batch) of obituaries to index, do the following:

  1. While in the indexing program, click the Download Batch button.
  2. Select Show all projects.
  3. Scroll down to US indexing projects, and select a project that includes the word “Obituaries.”
  4. Click OK.
  5. A message will pop up offering help. Use the help resources as needed, and then click Close to begin indexing the batch.

Although 2014 is the “Year of the Obituary,” this collection will likely require several years to fully index. Working together we will unlock this treasure trove of fascinating information for researchers everywhere.

Latest posts by Katie Gale (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Why don’t we use OCR – Optical Character Recognition, which will scan images or text into text? If the source is typewritten, this is definitely available instead of typing everything again.

    1. Some websites do that for obituaries, but it’s very difficult for the computer to recognize all of the relationships and piece the family members together. That’s why the Relationship field is so very important in these indexing projects. FamilySearch indexing volunteers make it possible to create a much more rich and full search experience using these obituaries.

  2. Do you have any records from South Africa, for black South Africans. Cape Town, Western Cape, Eastern Cape areas. Is the a plan on making those records available here? I live in the States/Utah trying to do my family history work and it is even a greater challenge than most. Thank you.

  3. In 2014 after 25 years I published our Family History. Today for a friend I needed to check an item. How disappointed I was with the records. All other sites have been taken over, and it is pay for this and pay for that. In this site there is no accessible information other than what I entered. How much better was your sitet from the 1990’s and to the reference I am looking at now amongst my papers for 2002. At this time I could printout a Families History, the Mum and Dad, the children and whom they married all for free. This was for the UK. How glad I am not having to try to do Family History Research today and in the future.
    03.01.2015. 12.24p.m.