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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Writing Memoirs: Start With a Christmas Memory!

One of the best ways to get started writing your genealogy memoirs is to start with a Christmas memory, a few memorable moments from the past. Choose a Christmas Day from your youth; allow your mind to freely wander, recapturing the sweet sounds of carols, bright colors of the season, and gifts of peace, love and hope from the era.

Make a few notes including the year, the place, the people in the memory, and anything else you can remember. Then use your notes to turn your memory into a short story.

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10 Simple Steps to Start Writing Your Genealogy Memoirs Today

The Plan

Here’s a foolproof 10-step organizational plan for writing your memoirs and life stories. Just follow the steps and they will guide you through the process of starting, developing and completing your personal stories. There’s nothing like true stories to bring your family’s genealogy to life!

Creating a Life Map

To start, make a list of the personal memories or memory fragments that you can recall from your youth. Next to each memory, write your age at the time of the occasion and then organize the list by age. This list will become your Life Map and your invaluable working tool for writing your memoirs.

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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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