Thursday, January 5, 2012

Obituary Index is Very Much Alive

One of MPL's most used local history and genealogy resources is the Obituary Index. Who started this miraculous thing and who maintains it? Read on.

By Sherie Brown, Director, Massillon Public Library
Indexing the obits onto a card file began under the supervision of previous Genealogy Specialist Rosemary Hayes. This was years before computers.

Once computers came along, I attended a MOLO workshop on Microsoft Access database software and created the original electronic format, the fields are the same as we're using today. At that time, the database was housed at MOLO (Mideastern Ohio Library Organization, which merged with others to be NEO-RLS) and their IT guru Denny Hoops made it more searchable with Cold Fusion.

Dale Blickenderfer came along at that time, a retiree with super computer skills. He had multiple computers networked at his house. He had infinite energy and time to devote to the cause, so he supervised other volunteers in data entry into the database I created. He started with that card file.

By Donna Cline, MPL Volunteer
The online obituary database project has been an ongoing work in progress for 15 years. Over the years, volunteers have contributed hundreds of hours to this project.

1. The first step is to read the microfilm which has the the images of all the newspapers of Massillon on them. Unfortunately some papers were lost because of fire or flood or some dates there was no paper because of strike or for other reasons.

2. Then the volunteer must record all the deaths and blurbs referring to deaths in the obituaries, local town happenings, "salmagundi" column, and miscellaneous new items.

3. Next someone enters this information into the database so it may be used by people locally and in far off places.

Genealogists and others discover much useful information, such as relatives; husbands, wives, parents, siblings, children, cousins, etc; place of death, birth, cemetery, and were to find in the newspapers the information they need.

The database has the name, newspaper date and page the article is located. There is also a MORE at the end of the information. It is important especially in the 1800's to look at the MORE. In the MORE section there may be notes explaining where to look, such as the specific roll numbers of the microfilm and article.

When it was thought that the project was finished, we realized that the 1800s had not been completely recorded on the database and many names had been missed. There are 37 rolls of film for that time period. So - back to reading and recording and data input. At this time 37 rolls are being read. These papers are very difficult to read and find the names because of fading, style of printing,and style of writing.

To date, the database is 117,146 names.

Volunteers currently working on this project are Barbara Adams, Donna Cline, Dave Halter, Jeanne Harbaugh, Melva Hoffman, and Karen Rohr.

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