Wednesday 30 October 2019

Ancestry launches obits collection with 750m records

Ancestry has announced the launch of its Obituary Collection, 1800s—current. The upload of the collection seems to have been done in a couple of installments since the tail end of September, which would be understandable since the new collection holds 750,694,785 records!

This searchable collection holds extracted facts — names of the deceased, and family members, relationships, important dates and locations — from nearly 200 million obituaries.

Key facts are extracted from the obituary pages of historical
newspapers held in sister site's database
The obituaries were published in historical titles now digitised by Ancestry’s sister site, the largest online newspaper archives in the world (525+ million pages from across the US and beyond). While the site holds both an image of the printed obituary and a transcription, Ancestry's new searchable collection holds only the extracted facts but is available to all subscribers. If you want to view images of the original published newspaper page, you need a separate subscription to or an Ancestry ALL Access membership.

The indexed details are pretty thorough though, so many researchers won't need to view the published page. Take a look below at a couple of examples I've screen-grabbed from some search result pages. The earlier obituary is not quite so detailed, but the name of Michael's place of origin in Ireland is given (albeit mis-spelt), and the names of two siblings is an unexpected bonus for an 1890 death record.

More than a century later, the obituary to Eleanor Tobin provides only a little more information: her place of origin in Ireland, maiden name, husband's name, children's names and a sibling for good measure.

The only negative is the poor spelling of names and placenames. Transcriptions have been created by computer and while you'd expect errors, the frequency of them is more surprising. These are, after all, typed and printed papers being transcribed, not handwritten documents.

None the less, with more than 750 million names to search, this will be an important collection for any Irish family historian seeking details of their Irish-American ancestors.

In addition to the new Obituary Collection, Ancestry recently upgraded its US Obituary Collection, which contains obituaries from 1930 to the present day. These obituaries come from online sources and include the names of all family members listed in the obits and their relationships to each other. The latest update adds 40 million records, making a new total of more than 178 million searchable entries in this collection.

Sample results from Ancestry's Obituary Collection, 1800s-current