How to Abstract an Obituary for Genealogy Research

Obituary ClippingObituaries often contain information helpful to genealogy research. Unfortunately they’re subject to copyright so you can’t legally transcribe nor share them unless they are in the public domain. The next best alternative to transcribing them is to abstract them.

A genealogical abstract is a summary of the pertinent details from the source. While some of them are entertaining and well written, your primary interest as a genealogist is in extracting the evidence from the obituary so that you can analyze it with other evidence and reach sound conclusions. Abstracts help you do that and you can share your abstracts without concern over copyright infringement.

I have a system for abstracting obituaries that I’m going to share with you. It consists of a method and a simple template. In the following series of videos I introduce you to the method and template then walk you through abstracting obituaries from different periods to demonstrate the use of the parts of the template and cement the five step process. Two of the obituaries I abstract in the demonstration are from 1851 and 1875 so a transcription would be more appropriate because the material is excluded from copyright protection. I suggest using the method and template a few times after watching the videos to really get it down.
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Processing a Source in

Capturing a source citation, abstracting or transcribing information, and making assertions about each piece of information are integral steps in genealogy research. allows you to store and report the data from all of these steps and use it in creating a proven genealogy. This series of videos shows you how it can be done by taking you click-by-click through the example of citing and abstracting an obituary, capturing the event, characteristic, and relationship information, and recording the evidence in
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Want Faster Image Downloads from

If you aren’t using’s advanced viewer yet you need to see the results I got when I tested it—sorry, no support for Mac browsers. As the chart below shows, an image that took 21.9 minutes to load with the standard viewer on Internet Explorer 8 took only 6.9 minutes when using the advanced viewer. Firefox did even better, loading the same image in only 1.7 minutes with the advanced viewer. The test image was a 1920 census page at 200% resolution.

Image Load Time (minutes)

The accompanying video will show you, click-by-click, how to install the advanced viewer. It will also demonstrate the features you can use once you have it installed.
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Is Family Tree Maker for Mac Too Expensive?

“Why is the Mac version of Family Tree more expensive than the Windows version?” I’ve read the question in the comments here and on Twitter. Here’s the scoop and thanks to GenealogyTools member Roger, the secret to a significant discount:

The Mac version price is higher because in bringing Family Tree Maker back to the Mac, Ancestry have had to pay to convert the program (a process called porting). They’ve got to pay for this expense and let’s face facts, Mac using genealogists are a tiny minority. That means the cost is spread across a much smaller group so the price will be higher.

We can complain, but it won’t do any good. We can refuse to buy it in protest, but that may simply lead to them leaving the market again. I think it’s better for us to have more competition. That’s why I welcome Family Tree Maker to the Mac.

On to the secret to a greater discount.
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The Dangers of Judging Reliability by Source Presence

Relying on sources as a soundness indicator in genealogy is like trying to understand a court case, but only having the witness list and the verdict. Sure you’ll know the outcome and you’ll know who was called to testify, but you won’t be able to understand why the decision was made. You won’t know what was asked nor what answers were given by whom. You won’t have a sense of the veracity of the testimony. And you won’t be able to get your own sense of whether the right decision was made. It’s the same thing with genealogy.
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Genealogy Virus Continues to Spread

I was disappointed yesterday to hear of another outbreak of the virus that’s sweeping through genealogy. A new GEDCOM (GEnealogy Data COMmunication) file sharing site sprang up. I’m disappointed because this nonsense undermines the practice of genealogy. Mostly this is because many (if not most) GEDCOMs being shared contain incorrect conclusions. Sharing incorrect conclusions is the single biggest threat to our hobby. It wastes an incredible amount of research time.

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Researching Distant Records Now Easier

Geographically distant genealogists have been helping each other find records for years. It’s a service referred to as lookups. It works like this: if you’re looking for a record that you haven’t been able to locate locally nor online, you arrange through email or a forum, to have a genealogist who is local to the record do the lookup for you and send you a scan or photo.

Finding and transacting a lookup has gotten easier since has become available. This service connects genealogists and providers of lookups, handles payment, notifications, service ratings, and document delivery. It has the promise of a centralize source of lookup providers. This helps those of us in need of distant record location as well as those who are willing to do lookups.

In this video: Getting Distant Records Through Genlighten, I show you how to find a provider, request a lookup, and how to retrieve the resulting image.