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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Obituary Index

Quite a few years ago, the library started a project to index all of the obituaries published in the Weirton Daily Times newspapers that we had on microfilm. We decided to work on this project because people were coming into the library to look for obituaries, mostly for genealogical purposes, but they didn't know the date that the notice had appeared in the paper or the date that the person had died.  Locating this information on a roll of microfilm was a very time consuming process and many people were leaving in frustration before they could locate the information they needed. Although some papers now have searchable digitaized versions of the current issues, this was not true when we started this project and  is still not true of many of the back files.

The library staff organized a volunteer project to begin indexing the obituaries in these back issues by having people go through each issue on microfim and write down the name, age, location if listed, and date the obituary appeared. These notes were then typed in to a digital file and transferred to a web page. This has been an ongoing project for well over 10 years now with many volunteers from several different organizations involved. It is a useful tool for our staff to use when helping patrons, and since it is available online, it is also useful to many others. We can tell people are using the index by the hits to those specific web pages.

At this point we have 80 years of the Weirton Daily Times on microfilm and the index is completed for 50 of those years! We are currently working our way up from 1931 through the late 1970s with some volunteers, and a staff member is taking a few minutes every day to keep up with the current newspapers. While transcribing the obituaries for 2011, we discovered that over 2,000 obituaries appeared in the Weirton Daily Times last year!

We often have complete years that have not been posted online, so if you find that you need to locate information for years not posted, call the reference desk. They will gladly check our printed copy to see if the year has been recently completed.

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