I’ve seen many different ways of sharing obituaries on genealogy blogs, some effective and others practically useless to other researchers. So what’s the best way to share an obituary or a death notice that you’ve come upon as part of your research? To me, these should be the goals of posting an obituary to your genealogy or family history blog:
- Share information with other family members who remember the deceased.
- Share information related to a person’s death to assist other genealogy researchers.
A good obituary post consists of three parts: 1) a scanned or digitized image of the obituary, 2) a transcription of the text, and 3) a brief source citation. The example for this blog post is a recent post to my personal genealogy blog, Destination: Austin Family on 13 July 2014 entitled Sunday’s Obituary: Catherine Sullivan O’Keefe 1837-1928.
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Digital Image – Do’s and Don’ts
It isn’t feasible to include the entire newspaper page as your image, and many of us may have received a “clipping” with little or no information as to date, location or newspaper. Here are some tips on including an image of the obituary in your post:
- Use a clear, large image. You want an image that is large enough to be effective when the post is shared via social media. I usually use images that are 300px wide at a minimum. For some clippings, you may want to use a white background and crop the clipping so it is at least 300px wide. If an image is too small, it won’t appear on social media shares such as Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest.
- Use a descriptive file name. After scanning, the image will likely be auto-assigned a file name that starts with “img” such as img 024.jpg. The file name should describe the image, such as: Catherine Sullivan OKeefe Obituary. (Notice how I excluded the apostrophe in the name O’Keefe since it is not allowed in file names). My original file name of 19280216 SULLIVAN Catherine Obit LJR p5 col3 reflects my own file naming protocol and would not produce good SEO results.
- Add Title and ALT text. When adding an image to a blog post, always complete the Title and the ALT text fields. In Blogger, after inserting the image, click the image, select Properties and then complete the fields. Doing so should improve your blog post’s rank in search engines such as Google and Bing. In addition, for the visually impaired who use a screen reader (which reads webpages aloud in a computerized voice), the description helps the person understand what the image represents.Title text: Obituary of Catherine Sullivan O’Keefe 1837-1928ALT text: Obituary of Catherine Sullivan O’Keefe 1837-1928 from the Lowville Journal Republican, 16 February 1928
Transcribe the Obituary Text
If there is one area where most bloggers go wrong, it is the transcription section. I know it can be a hassle to transcribe text, switching back and forth between your blog post and the image. However, the transcription is usually already in my research log and it is just a matter of copying and pasting the text. When there is no transcription of an obituary and only an image, key information such as surnames of survivors and locations will not be available for searching on Google, Bing and other search engines. Adding a transcription makes your blog post more valuable to other researchers and easier to find on search engines. To assist in the transcription task, consider using a program such as GenScribe or Transcript OR upload the image to Google Drive and enable the OCR feature to get a jump start on transcription.
Optional: Add a Note
Some authors try to put the obituary in context so that other family members understand where the deceased fits in on the family tree. In my example, I added the following:
Note: Catherine Sullivan was my 3rd great-grandmother (Thomas MacEntee > Jacqueline Austin > Alfred Austin > John Ralph Austin > William Dence Austin > Catherine O’Keefe > Catherine Sullivan) and I have her wedding silver from the late 1850s.
Don’t Forget the Source Citation!
Finally, while your family and friends who read your genealogy blog won’t be interested in all the source info, it is important for other researchers. If you only have a clipping or a scan of a clipping, try your best to locate the original source. Once you have source information, add a source citation at the end of the post using a generally accepted format such as that found in Evidence Explained.
Source: Mrs. Catherine O’Keefe, digital image, NYS Historic Newspapers (http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/, accessed 13 July 2014), Lowville Journal Republic, published 16 February 1928, Volume 69, Number 17, p. 5, col. 3.
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The Final Word on Obituary Posts
Obituaries are a valuable research tool for genealogists and at the same time they can hold sentimental value for the friends and family of the deceased. When posting obituaries to your genealogy or family history blog, make sure you’re providing as much information as possible in order to serve different reader audiences.
- GenScriber http://genscriber.com/genappsd/
- Obituaries in Genealogy: A Research Tool http://www.legacyfamilytreestore.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=QDOBITGEN&Click=86792
- Optical character recognition (OCR) in Google Docs http://googledocs.blogspot.com/2010/06/optical-character-recognition-ocr-in.html
- Transcript http://www.jacobboerema.nl/en/Freeware.htm
©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.