Hayes Presidential Library’s Obituary Index- History and Scope
Started in the 1970's on cards, the obituary card file indexed death notices and some marriage notices from local newspapers. The earliest Fremont papers were from the 1830’s and have been completed for obituaries up to the current day. In 1986, a computer program was set up to handle this index and in 2000, was mounted on the web as an online database. Starting in 2001, public libraries in Ohio have become partners and have been entering their data into the system.
From about 50,000 cards in the old card catalog, the index has grown to over 3,700,000 entries in the database in 2019. It is unique to most obituary indexes that are available elsewhere in that it is cross-indexed by maiden names and previous married names listed in the obituary and is searchable by a variety of methods. It is indeed a powerful index to local names.
The Library cannot guarantee every reference will be full of good information or even unique information. When our staff and volunteers indexed the obituaries they were told to include any article on a person, thinking a genealogist would want everything they could find about their ancestor. Sometimes that means that an obit reference is just a one-liner saying the person died or a marriage notice.
The Library staff cannot look up several references and send you the best one for the price of one. The small fee charged covers the time it takes to look up one article, printing it and sending it via mail or email.
The original index was compiled by Hayes Library Staff and a small army of volunteers who have read the original newspapers, in hard copy or microfilm, listed the deaths and then input them into the computer system. The time spent on this superb reference tool should not be measured in hours, but years. Starting in 2001, other libraries started entering their data into this index, so it extends far beyond the holdings of the Hayes Presidential Library.
In the beginning, the index covered newspapers from Sandusky County, but other counties which appear include Erie, Ottawa, Seneca, Huron, and Wood counties.
In October 2001, Tiffin Seneca Public Library staff started entering their obituary card catalog and completed adding over 100,000 names in 2004.
Since then, many other libraries throughout the state have joined the partnership, bringing the total to over 60 libraries in 2018. See the map on the top page for all the partner libraries. Funding for some of the libraries has been provided by Northwest Ohio Library District (NORWELD) and a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, awarded by the State Library of Ohio.
This database contains about 90% newspaper citations and about 10% other sources. Obituaries is a term used loosely for death notices - some may be lengthy articles, some may be brief one-line notices.
Some marriage notices have been indexed. However, only a small percentage of the marriages have been indexed - do not use this index as your only search for a marriage.
Besides obituaries, a variety of other sources have been indexed into this database, mostly from the Hayes Presidential Library.
Examples of these other sources are probate case files, funeral home records, society membership records, biographical files, brief references in history books, etc. Hayes cannot set a standard fee for copying these items because they can range from one page to fifty or more. If the item is located at the Hayes Presidential Library, contact the library staff (419-332-2081 or [email protected]) to find out the cost for copying this material, starting around $5, going up depending on the number of pages to be copied. If the item is located at another library, please contact that library directly.
This resource is an index to a source - usually a newspaper obituary. If the names and dates are not what you know personally to be true, the library cannot change the original source (the newspaper) to reflect that. If you have seen the newspaper source and the information in our index does not match what is in the paper, then we can correct the index. We will do this only if you send us a copy of the paper article showing the discrepancy. Thanks for your help in making this index as accurate as possible.
At any time, you can also add a Comment to an individual that can be seen by anyone looking for that name, stating that you are related and would like to correct an inaccurate newspaper article or add additional information in the Comment section – be sure to give your reason for the correction (e.g. different date from death certificate, etc.). In the Comment field you can also offer to exchange information.
Explanation of Headings:
Names were copied exactly as written in the newspapers so researchers should check all possible spellings. Sometimes two completely different spellings were given in two different papers but it is obvious they are the same person. It is up to the researcher to check all variants. If a name (spouse or parent) was not included in the source, it will not be added to the entry. We do not correct mistakes made in the newspapers.
Maiden names are indexed by the Hayes Library volunteers if they appeared in the obituary, along with names for women who married more than once.
Age at death is listed, if known. Not all entries are deaths, however, so there are many entries with no age given.
City or place of death is given. Sometimes a person resided in this area, but died in another town or state, so the place of death is not necessarily the place where the person resided.
Date of death is given. There are many entries with no death dates and that might signify that the entry is not an obituary. There are thousands of marriage announcements from the newspapers that have been indexed, along with a variety of other sources, such as high school yearbooks, that do not include a death date.
Different libraries have indexed different amounts of data – some have only entered the name and the date of the newspaper. Over the 30 years of indexing, not all indexers put in all possible data. To be thorough, a researcher should check the actual obituary for complete data.
John Ransom, Head Librarian
Hayes Presidential Library & Museums
Fremont, OH 43420