US, Michigan, Van Buren County—Obituaries, 1880–2005 (Pilot)


Project Instructions



Read the Instructions

  • Please read these project instructions carefully before indexing any batches.
  • Review this page and the field helps frequently for updates to the instructions
  • Click here for examples of how to index this project.
  • Click here for a summary of project updates.

Sample Images

What Is Unique about This Project

  • For each obituary or death notice, you will select a record type: DeceasedRelative of Deceased, or Nonrelative.
  • Index the name of the deceased first; then index all the other names, each as a separate record, in the order that they appear on the obituary or death notice.
  • If a person’s name appears multiple times on a record, index the name only one time.
  • If stepchildren, foster children, or adopted children were listed in the obituary, treat them as biological children of the deceased when you index the Relative's Relationship to the Deceased field. Children with these relationships would be indexed as SonDaughter, or Child of the deceased, as appropriate.
  • If stepsiblings, foster siblings, or adopted siblings were listed in the obituary, treat them as biological siblings of the deceased. Individuals with these relationships would be indexed as BrotherSister, or Sibling of the deceased, as appropriate.
  • If stepparents, foster parents, or adoptive parents were listed in the obituary, treat them as biological parents of the deceased when you index the Relative's Relationship to the Deceased field. Individuals with these relationships would be indexed as FatherMother, or Parent of the deceased, as appropriate.
  • Do not assume the gender of a relative based on given names; if gender is not clearly indicated in the obituary, either directly or with pronouns or titles or terms, use the corresponding generic term in indexing the relationship. For example, if no gender was indicated in the obituary, you would index Child instead of Son or Daughter, or Parent instead of Mother or Father, or Sibling instead of Brother or Sister.
  • When two newspapers were recorded on the same document, you should index the name of both newspapers in the order they appear. Click here for an example.

Indexing Names

  • Many women were listed with the names of their spouses, along with the title Mrs, for example, Mrs George Johnson.
  • In these cases, you would index the name and title fields as follows:
    • Given Names: George
    • Surname: Johnson
    • Titles or Terms: Mrs
  • Search the obituary carefully; the actual given names may be listed elsewhere in the obituary and should be indexed if they were listed.
  • Do not create additional records for individuals unless they were actually mentioned in the obituary. For example, if the obituary listed Mrs George Johnson as a surviving daughter, you would not index a record for George Johnson himself, unless he was actually mentioned, as in “Mr and Mrs George Johnson.” Or if the obituary says, “Mr. Andrew Stephens and wife,” you would not index a record for the wife unless a name was given for her.
  • If the surname of an individual was not listed in an obituary, do not assume a surname from the surname of the deceased or of another person in the obituary.
  • In this project, if the names of a couple were recorded as “John (Mary) Smith” or “Mary (John) Smith,” Smith should be indexed in the Surname field for both John and Mary.

Indexing Dates

  • Index the death date if one was included in the obituary; however, an actual death date was often not recorded.
  • If no death date was recorded, index the most recent date from the record. This date is usually the publication date, which was often stamped or written next to the obituary. Obituaries were usually published within a few days of the death date.
  • If the death date was referred to, such as “last Sunday” or “on Wednesday,” but not actually given, do not try to calculate or determine the date of death.

Indexing Places

  • Index the place of death if one was listed in the obituary.
  • Do not index street addresses or the names of hospitals in the place fields.
  • Do not assume a place of death. If an obituary was printed in the Grand Rapids Press, do not assume that the individual died in Grand Rapids unless the obituary actually indicates that Grand Rapids was the place of death.
  • Do not index words of approximation, such as the words “near,” “about,” or “around.” For example, if an obituary states that the deceased died or was born “near Fort Wayne, Indiana,” index Fort Wayne as the town or city and Indiana as the state; do not index the word “near” in any fields.

Number of Records per Image

  • If an image has fewer than 11 records, you will need to mark the unused records as blank in the data entry area. (Do not add more entry lines.) To mark a record as blank, select any field in the record, and press Ctrl+Shift+B, or:
    1. On the menu bar, click Edit.
    2. Click Mark Field or Record.
    3. Click Mark Record Blank.
  • If an image has more than 11 records, you will need to add entry lines in the data entry area to match the number of records on the image. To add entry lines:
    1. In the menu bar, click Tools.
    2. Click Records per Image
    3. Click in the Number of records box, and type the number of records on the image.
    4. Click OK.

How to Index Combination Images

  • Sometimes, a single obituary will be split between two or more images. In this case:
    • Index the obituary once, using data from all images that show the obituary.
    • Index all the records in the data entry area for the first image of the obituary.
    • View the next image while continuing to index fields for the current image, and index as much information as possible.
    • After the obituary is indexed, mark the other image or images of the same obituary as No Extractable Data Image in the Image Type field. The information will have been indexed with the previous image.
  • If multiple obituaries or death notices were published about the same person and these obituaries appear on different images, then each of these obituaries should be indexed as separate records. 

Rotate Images

  • Some images in this project that are upside down.
  • You can rotate an image 90 degrees to the left or right.
  • To rotate an image 180 degrees, click the Rotate image right (or left) by 90 degrees icon twice.
  • To rotate the image 90 degrees counterclockwise, click the Rotate image left by 90 degrees icon. Note: You can also click the View menu, and click Rotate Left.
  • To rotate the image 90 degrees clockwise, click the Rotate image right by 90 degrees icon. Note: You can also click the View menu, and click Rotate Right.

Brightness and Contrast

  • To change the brightness of an image, click the View menu, and click Brightness and Contrast.
  • To darken the image, move the Brightness slider to the left of zero; to brighten the image, move the slider to the right of zero.
  • To change the contrast, click and drag the Contrast slider to the right.
  • To sharpen the image, click the View menu, and click on Sharpen to adjust the slider.

Handwriting Help

  • Many of these records are handwritten. The handwriting resource on the data entry screen may help you decipher the handwriting.
  • To access this resource, click on the Handwriting Help icon (an inkwell with an orange feather quill).

Additional Information