FamilySearch Indexing:US--Obituaries and Death Notices, Additional Helps

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Maiden Names in Obituaries

Anyone else getting a lot of arbitration back with the maiden name of a deceased female put in the "Given Names" field? I thought if the maiden name could be inferred from parentheses or from the last name of the parents, it should be put in the "Surname" field.

Although I'm starting to believe that this falls under the "Never Infer A Surname" rule--meaning that if the maiden name is in parentheses, it goes under surname; if not, then it goes under given, whether or not the parents' last names match or not. We must simply exclude external thought, and "Write what we see."

From one of those arbitrators moving them back: That is exactly what it is. Please see p 32 of the Indexing Obituaries pdf (the new one). In the last example, bottom right corner: "Mrs. Bennett was the daughter of Eliss and Syvilla Treisch Soladey and was born in Morrow." The directions say to index both Eliss and Syvilla as Parents "because no specific indication of their genders was given." Because what probably is indeed the mother's maiden name is not in parentheses, we cannot assume that is what it is, and must leave it up to the researcher to make that determination.

In the basic instructions for indexing, it does say that if the "middle" name of a woman matches her parents' surname, we should index it as one of her surnames. Without seeing the names of her parents, however, we cannot assume that it is her maiden name.

A maiden name may be inferred if the middle name is in parenthesis or the middle name matches the surname of the parents, In the Mrs Ida Soladey Bennett obituary, Soladey matches the parent surname and therefore it would be indexed GN Ida SN Soladey Bennett. The parent named Syvilla Treisch Soladey would be indexed as GN Syvilla Treisch SN Soladey since there is no indication that Treisch was a maiden name versus a second given name.

You may also infer a maiden name if it had said Ida Bennett born Soladey (or nee Soladey)

Inferring Last Names in Spouses, Children and In-Laws

A tidbit I glossed over several times in the pdf presentation on indexing Obituary and Death Notices, was the idea of whether or not you infer a last name for spouses and children.

And the answer seems to be that you NEVER infer a surname, for spouses or children.

Surnames in Children

Oftentimes you'll see something like: "Nancy Smith Jones, beloved wife of Arthur Jones was survived by 3 sons, John, William and James." You are supposed to leave the sons' surname field blank in this case. If it doesn't say John Jones, William Jones and James Jones. You don't put Jones!

Surnames in a List

If it says something like "survived by 3 sons, John, William and James Jones," you can go ahead and put "Jones" on all 3 sons. It transfers to all 3.

Spouse's Name Appears in Between

It seems to be the ONLY EXCEPTION to this "Never Infer Surnames" Rule is if mentions spouses in parentheses in the middle of the spouse's first and last name, then the last name WILL TRANSFER to spouses, for example: "survived by 3 sons, John (Wendy) Jones, etc" You would index John Jones and Wendy Jones. [See page 14 of the presentation]

Spouse's Name is Not In Between

For everything else, the presentation gives an example to NOT transfer a surname to a spouse. A similar example to the presentation's would be: "survived by son John Jones and wife Wendy" which they instruct to index as "John Jones" and "Wendy <Blank>" [ see page 34 of the presentation]

More examples of NOT inferring a surname: Judy w/o John Farmer" (where w/o means "wife of) would be Judy <Blank> and John Farmer

Mary Smith Hooper, beloved wife of Henry" would be Mary Smith Hooper and Henry <Blank> [See pages 36-37 in the presentation]

A Female Relation is Listed First

"Jenny Jones (Peter)" would be Jenny Jones and Peter <Blank>

"A Male Relation is Listed First"

"Barry Baker (Mary)" would be Barry Baker and Mary <Blank>


A Link to the Presentation -->[[1]]

Does someone know how to make that link look better?


Inferring Gender for In-Laws

I've seen a couple relationships within the lists of Children/Grandchildren that have the look of same gender relationships.

Do we not assume gender under the "Relationship to Deceased" field when it states a spouse in parentheses? Can we only record gender when it says, son John Jones and wife Suzie? and in all other cases record them as Child-In-Law?

If the document states survived by her children, John and wife Suzie, it is permissible to consider John a son and Suzie as a daughter-in-law.

  If it says survived by children John (Suzie) there are no gender clues  John is a child and Suzie is a child-in-law.  

If it says survived by children John and Suzie, Tom and Mary, according to page 31 of the obituary PDF - it does not state which of the couple is the child and which is the spouse/ in law so all would be indexed as child.


Inferring Gender in Aunts and Uncles

Because we know that inferring gender is a No-No while indexing obituaries, what about when you have a list of Aunts and Uncles with no specific declaration of which in the list are the Aunts and which are the Uncles. Are we to guess which names seem feminine and masculine and assign the names the appropriate Aunt / Uncle label?

The answer must be NO NO NO!.

Because the English language does not supply a gender-neutral term for an Aunt and Uncle (like it does for sibling, spouse and child) we must index these listed names as "Relative."


"Relationship Issue"

Occasionally you see something like - survived by sister-in-law Mary (Mike) Jones. What is Mike's relationship to the deceased? Brother-in-law? Other Relative? Non-Relative? I see all these answers indexed.

Each obituary must be indexed based on its entirety. In the above question question if the brothers were previously named with their wives, it may be that these in-laws are from the other side of the family ( wife or husband's brothers or sisters)

It should be indexed, Mary Jones - Sister in Law  and  Mike Jones - Brother-in-law  The last name would transfer with his name in parentheses between Mary and Jones. 

Take a look at pages 13 and 14 of the Indexing Obituaries PDF. The instructions clearly show inferring the son-in-law or daughter-in-law relationship when a spouse's name is in parentheses. For example, on page 14, Son Timothy (Linda) Bennett is indexed as Son Timothy Bennett and Daughter-in-law Linda Bennet.

ADDITIONAL HELP: Just saw this on the indexing obituaries FAQ blog:

Note: Use the context of the document to know if the relationship of the couple might be less traditional than husband and wife. When in doubt, use a gender-neutral relationship term such as Child-In-law or Relative.

So I would stick with the instructions unless there's any doubt implied in the document or names.

I think the point of this question was somewhat missed. The deceased has a brother The brother is dead. The brother's widowed wife has remarried and is listed with the new husband. So what is the relation of this new husband to the deceased? Not really a relative I would think.

Respectfully disagree ....... The widow, if listed, is obviously still considered a sister-in-law to the family. Even if she has remarried, her new husband deserves the same respect as we assign to say foster children .... they are indexed as child, daughter, or son. They are just as much of a relation as the new husband, albeit in a somewhat different context. I believe the new husband therefore deserves the title of brother-in-law since he is married to the sister-in-law. He definitely deserves at the very least the relation of relative. It is not up to us to choose which people to either include or exclude as "related" persons if they are listed as relatives.


Is a Significant other a Domestic Partner?

If the Obituary says survived by a "significant other" John Smith, would you make the relationship as a Non Relative or Domestic Partner?

>I believe either would be acceptable. Anyone disagree?

Index All Names?

Some indexers are including the names that are part of donation addresses. For example, donations may be sent to the Daniel Webster Grange & Marion Jones, and the address follows. Would you index Marion Jones?

Yes - It is cleaner to just index all the names rather than to sort out which ones might be important to someone and which ones may not be.

I agree as long as it's a person that the donations are going to - I wouldn't index the name of the hospital the deceased died at as a person if the hospital was named after somebody. Same with the church, charity, or funeral home. Only index names that are listed as actual people. I think we're allowed to assume that much.


Godsons, Goddaughters and the like?

Do we index them as "sons," "daughters" and the like? Or non-relatives?

Godsons, Goddaughters and the like are indexed as non relatives UNLESS a specific relationship had been indicated.

Recently I reviewed instructions for relationships and I believe I read that as a rule of thumb we should remove prefixes (ie: stepchildren, stepfather, etc) and use child, father, etc, for the correct relationship. Wouldn't that also apply to Godchildren/Goddaughter/Godson ?

- Referencing the paragraph above, you may be right about including them as son/daughter/etc. Pg 39 of the New indexing Obits presentation shows indexing a "granddaughter of the heart" as a "granddaughter". The surname of the individual is different from any other name in the obit. So the individual does not appear to be a direct relative, but is indexed as such.


Just a general comment: On the "5 Things to Know..." page of the Indexing Obituaries PDF, the 5 item states "Use your best judgement". Unfortunately we can all see things a bit differently while using our best judgement. Discussions like the above definitely help to get us all on the same page, literally. So thank you to those who have contributed...has definitely helped my work!