Obituary Arbitration in 6 Easy Steps

January 16, 2014  - by 
Obituary Arbitration Tip

FamilySearch needs hundreds of additional arbitrators to help with the new obituary projects, both to help publish the records and to help others get past the learning curve for this new record type.

Follow these six easy steps to become a master obituary arbitrator.

  1. Commit the indexing tips found in “2014: The Year of the Obituaries” to memory. You need to be even more knowledgeable with those steps and the instructions than the indexers. Index as many batches as it takes to memorize the instructions.
  2. Read the project instructions, field helps, and how-to presentations. Answers to many situations you will encounter while arbitrating obituaries can be found within the instructions.
  3. Do record matching first for every image! You will be able to accurately arbitrate the batch only after you do record matching. Make sure to remove records for individuals not specifically named in the obituary (see #8 in the list of indexing tips).
  4. Organize the record matching fields. When starting to record match, you might not see the given names and surnames of the relatives and nonrelatives, making it difficult to match them up. If this happens, organize the fields so that the name fields are visible by doing the following:
    1. Click the View menu.
    2. Click Record Matching Fields.
    3. Scroll down to the bottom of the Selected Fields list.
    4. Select Given Names.
    5. Click the up arrow about 16 times until Given Names follows Deceased’s Titles or Terms.
    6. Repeat steps 3 through 5, but this time select Surname and move it until it follows Given Names.
    7. Click OK.

    Now the given names and surnames of the relatives and nonrelatives should be visible so you can record match.

  5. Continually refer back to the project instructions and updates. Refresh your memory now and then to be sure you are making accurate arbitration decisions. This is especially important because indexers will rely on your decisions to learn how to index these new types of projects correctly.
  6. Arbitrate <Blank> vs. <Empty> records. If you have to arbitrate between an empty record and a blank record, press Ctrl+Shift+B to mark the record as blank.

When in doubt, ask for help. There is always more help available if you need it. You can contact your local stake indexing director, group administrator, or FamilySearch Support. To find their contact information, while in the indexing program, click the Help menu, and then click Contact Support. You can also work with a friendly arbitration mentor.

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  1. I am looking for my ancestors and would be happy to contribute any information to family My maiden name is Russell and I have went back as far as 1700’s. I think this web site is so cool.
    I found out my relatives were the Medlocks, Dunn’s, Watkins, Martin’s…

    1. Cindy, Log in to and establish an account for yourself then enter your family names into Family Tree. that way others will have access to all the good work you have done.

    1. If the text is clear but it’s in a different language, I type the whole obituary into Google translate or some other translation software. I realize it’s not perfect and not always word for word, but I usually get enough to see relationships, gender, names, dates, etc. I have wondered about this myself. Anyone have a better method?

    2. Great question. You should index the first image that is in English and mark the second image as No Extractable Data in the Image Type field. Later, FamilySearch will take all of those German obits and create a separate indexing project for them. You can find this info in the field help for Image Type (at the bottom) and in the Project Instructions tab, the first bullet point under “What Is Unique about This Project.”

  2. I guess I need to take a vacation from indexing death. The last dozen batches all got sent back for re-indexing and I just got asked to be an arbitrator!

    Never mind that the batches I did had already been resubmitted when I got them. Can certain batches be caught in “resubmit” glitches?

  3. RE batch
    US, Idaho—Obituaries, 1880–2013 [Part 2]/100464707[619]
    DISGRACEFUL ARBITRATION. Based on the corrections, evidently there was a 2nd part that wasn’t included in the batch as I received it. This batch should have been handled differently. What is wrong with some people???

  4. In Item 3 you say
    “Make sure to remove records for individuals not specifically named in the obituary ”

    I’m puzzled by the reference to ‘remove record’ In the list of authorised actions an arbitrator can do I can’t see an option to ‘delete’ an entry

    Do you mean by ‘remove’ to arbitrate it ‘blank’ or physically remove the record?

    If you are meaning ‘delete’ where can I find this bit in the Instruction Guide

  5. On page 21 of the in-depth guide to indexing obituaries it states; if a specific date was not recorded, index the most recent date in the document as the death date.
    1. Most recent to our date?
    2. Most recent to the birth of the person?
    Half-way down the obit is the date 8-24-4. Why is this date not used as it is most likely the date of death and the 8-25-41 is the date of publication.