Friday, October 7, 2011

Southwest Michigan Obituary Index Partners With Ancestry

At the Librarian's Luncheon at Ancestry Day in Fort Wayne, Indiana, July 23, it was announced that would launch a new beta site, Member and Institutional Collections, the concept being that it would be an environment where libraries, historical & genealogical societies, archives and individuals could upload "collections."  Since we have been looking for an updated online environment for the Local History Collection's large indexes, this announcement was of great interest.

Several years ago, the Van Buren District Library launched it's online version of the Southwest Michigan Obituary Index (SWMOI), with entries from the Michigan counties of Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo & Van Buren.  The online home for those years has been the Van Buren County GenWeb site, sponsored by the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS).  The site's webmaster, Joan Jaco, has done a marvelous job maintaining the index and its updates during that time.  It's drawback, however, is that searchers didn't have the opportunity to do a fill-in-the-blank search for an entry by key terms such as last name, first name, date, etc.

Over the last few weeks, working with the Ancestry project manager, Mark Weaver, the SWMOI's nearly 119,000 entries have been uploaded and fully indexed allowing for a similar search format as researchers have come to expect on the rest of Ancestry's community of search screens.  Although the original database includes fields for last name, first name, issue date of newspaper, newspaper code and page, at this writing only a search by first & last name seems to be enabled.  However, we are working with Ancestry to make all five fields searchable.  More about that later...

The Member and Institutional Collections site is not yet accessible through the main pages.  Anyone, with or without a membership, can access the beta site for free.  To access the SWMOI database click here, or access it through the VBRGS or Van Buren County GenWeb sites.  Also, the Southwest Michigan Marriage, Engagement, Anniversary & Divorce Announcements Index was added today, just short of 4,000 entries, and is fully searchable. 

Keep in mind that these are only indexes and don't include images themselves at this time.  Ordering information is included with the databases.  And, since this is a beta site, expect things to change often as all of the bugs are worked out and improvements are made. 

Eventually, when the beta testing is finished, the Member and Institutional Collections will become part of the main collection of Ancestry community of databases.  This also means that it will make its way to becoming Google searchable.

For the Local History Collection, if all goes well it will mean online access to others of its large indexes including the Michigan Schools Every-Name Index, the Southwest Michigan Military Registry, and perhaps the Local History Master Index which will soon be going over the 2 million record mark.

For more information about the SWMOI and Ancestry partnership, please contact us.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown woman
photographer - W. H. Blair, Martin

Can you identify the young woman in this photo?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the five character catalog number with your e-mail.