Ancestry.com recently updated its “U.S., Obituary Collection, 1930-2017.” This is a database of information harvested from online obituaries throughout the United States. It is also a database whose title changes as time moves on and it is updated.
Because the data is read by computers and the database entries are automatically created, there are issues. As of 1 November 2017, there were over 70,000 entries for individuals who were born in “about 2016” and died in 2015. A small random sampling of these entries were for individuals whose death notice did not include an age or a date of birth. It seems a little bit unusual that the apparent “default birthdate” for these was “about 2016.” It would seem that the default birth date should be before the death date.
There may be other date concerns stemming from obituaries with no date of birth or age, but I didn’t take the time to perform any additional date based searches. It’s not just the dates that area problem.
The automatic reading of the items resulted in a 113 entries that had a first name of “Pending.” Most of these individuals whose first name was “Pending” had a last name of “Arrangements.”
It is not difficult to see how this happened. Death notices are put in newspapers and online before the funeral arrangements have been finalized. The entry for one “individual” named “Pending Arrangements” indicated that they were living in East Moline, Illinois, and died at the Heartland Health Care Center.
Ancestry.com does provide an URL for where the obituary or death notice was located online. Some times this is to a specific article or item. Other times this link is to a funeral home’s main page and the user will have to find the obituary by searching the site.
The URL for the individual named Pending Arrangements made it clear how the information was recognized by the computer. There were several death notices in the Quad-City Times on 30 May 2017 under the heading of “Pending Arrangements” as shown:
These sort of things are simply what happens when automatic processes are used to create records.
There are also search results in “U.S., Obituary Collection, 1930-2017” for:
- firstname graveside lastname service
- firstname ogden lastname newspapers
- lastname visitation
- firstname private
There are undoubtedly more.
Take care using “U.S., Obituary Collection, 1930-2017.” Any database can create errors and the informed user is best equipped to make efficient use of the database.
The option is to search the internet yourself.