Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Obituary Index

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Eastern Washington Genealogical Society member Carol West Nettles about the Obituary Project that EWGS volunteers have been working on for the past two years. I asked how the project got started. Carol told me that someone suggested to her when she was 3rd Vice President that our society ought to have an obituary index that could be placed online for people around the globe to access. (Third Vice President of EWGS is in charge of the committees of the library volunteers, extractions, and historian.)

There are numerous collections of obituaries in the downtown branch of the Spokane Public Library. Besides the most well-known--the Patchen File in the Genealogy Room, which fellow EWGS team blogger Charles Hansen wrote about here--there are copies of obituaries that Charles located while doing lookups in his duties as society researcher, and there is a scrapbook of more in the Northwest Room. Carol said that they started indexing with the Patchen File as it was the most obvious beginning place. Currently, there are 112 drawers in the Patchen File card catalog; however, many of the cards do not contain obituaries, but are indexes to local histories, as Charles mentioned in his post. Currently, a little more than half of the obituaries from the Patchen File have been indexed by about 10 volunteers. These range from about 1910 to about 1994.

When completed, the Obituary Index will be placed online on our new website at for anyone with Internet access to locate. This will be helpful information for those with Eastern Washington roots. They will be able to access the index and then can contact Charles to photocopy the obituary for a small fee which will benefit the society.

When I asked Carol if she was in need of more volunteers, she said, "Absolutely!"  Besides needing people to index the information (training is quick and painless!), she will need volunteers to do checkups and corrections once the files have been completed. Some people prefer to work in teams: one person reading the pertinent information from the card, while the other person keys it into the database. Indexing must be done in the genealogy room, either from the society computers or on your own laptop. However you choose to help, you can contact Carol here or call her (number is in the member directory).

Written for the 1st Edition of the Carnival of Genealogical Societies.

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