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Friday, September 21, 2007

More on Searching Obituaries in Proquest

I recently posted instructions from Proquest on how to search for obituaries. Several of you responded that the instructions did not work for the T&G. There is no option in the T&G interface to select "obituary" as a document type to narrow the search. I went back to Proquest and told them this. Their reponse in part was "The Worcester Telegram & Gazette does not use a separate designation for Obituaries in their electronic feed to ProQuest." The woman I spoke with recommended that you use a date limiter to find an obituary. Bet she's never worked on a reference desk before! I told her that people don't often have a clue what the date is and if they think they have a clue they are often mistaken. So I went to the source...George Labonte, the T&G Librarian, to get his input. I am posting his comments with his permission:

"Here's my suggestion:

Go to the "advanced" search tab. Type the name of the deceased in the top search line. Leave the operator "and" in front of the second line and type "deaths" (without quote marks) on the second line. Click on the menu to the right, and choose "Section." Most obituaries in the T&G appear in the Deaths section. Obits of prominent people may appear in other sections.

For most names, that will suffice. If the searcher is looking for a very common, name, change the designation to the right of the name on the first line from "Citation and document text" to "Citation and abstract." That may help narrow the search results. Currently the ProQuest interface does not allow you to confine a search to the headline, which would be the most efficient search.

Another way to narrow results is to add a date element. That is done in the section below the textual search elements. If a searcher chooses "Specific date range," spaces will open to the right in which a beginning date and a closing date may be entered. Follow the style indicated.

It's important to remember that there is no law that requires that obituaries be published in the newspaper. Submission has always been voluntary. Sometimes a name only appears in the "Recent Deaths" list. (You must search the entire document and not just the abstract to find such a name.) That is the only free publication of a death notice now available in the Telegram & Gazette. If the name only appears in Recent Deaths, the entry usually includes the name of the funeral director, who could be a further source of information. Last, remember that coverage of obituaries on ProQuest begins in January 1989. Obituaries before that date are only available on microfilm. In Central Massachusetts, the Worcester, Auburn and Shrewsbury Public Libraries hold our microfilm. In Boston, our microfilm is available at the Boston Public Library and the Statehouse library. Library of Congress also collects T&G microfilm. "

1 comment:

Barbara Oberlin said...

And don't forget to plan for middle initials.

Obits often print a middle initial when listing a person's name. If you search for a name without planning for that initial, the name won't show up. Trust me, I've tried.

When you enter a name in the top search line enter it using the following convention:

Firstname w/2 Lastname

That way the stunningly literal search mechanism will know to search for the deceased's first name within 2 words of the last name and you will have planned for a middle initial (or middle name, for that matter).

CMRLS Regional Reference Center, Worcester Public Library, 3 Salem Sq, Worcester MA 01608