Monday, November 12, 2007

Research for a good cause

Don't miss this wonderful story by the Miami Herald's Ana Veciana: Ann McFadden is a detective of death.

McFadden was doing some genealogical research several years back and found that it was nearly impossible to find a newspaper obituary because news libraries didn't index them or didn't have staff to research them. So she decided to create her own obituary index.

I've run into some of McFadden's indexes while compiling lists of local research online sites. She's done indexes of about 120 years of Miami newspaper obituaries, cemetery indexes, and works with the Miami-Dade Public Library to index other news clipping files, too.
"She's done a phenomenal amount of indexing that makes our job 100 times easier," says John Shipley of the library's Helen Muir Florida Collection. "Ann is my hero."

It's hard to put a value on this sort of work but people who've worked with unindexed news files in the old days know that this work is precious. There's nothing more disturbing than not being able to get access to past news that you know is there somewhere. What a contribution to our history, especially as the work is basically unpaid. I hope there are other researchers doing this but I wish there were money to fund things like this, too.

Luckily the digitization of old newspaper microfilm files continues and more and more papers are becoming available, but access is not always easy, even then.

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