Obituary Daily Times Contributors' Handbook

Manual Data Entry

Print a copy of this handbook as a reference guide while you are indexing.

This part of the handbook is to help you, the contributor, understand the format for manually indexing obituaries.

General Format:

There are 6 fields for every obituary you index, separated by semicolons - no more and no less. In every record there should be exactly one comma and five semicolons:

Surname, Firstname; Age; Place of Birth>Death; Pub Name; Pub Date; Tagname

We will look at each of these fields one at a time, to give you a better understanding of what makes up each of these fields. Some fields contain several elements.

Field 1: Name

A. Last name: The person's last name is always entered in capital letters. As usual, every rule has an exception and the exception here is MC, MAC, VAN and ST names. These should be listed as Mc, Mac, Van and St (and then capital letters for the remainder of the last name). Most last names will be one name and not have a space between the first part and the rest of the name. There are other exceptions, such as Native American names. Also see Double Surnames below.

Example:        Correct       Incorrect         Correct     Incorrect
                McDONALD      MCDONALD          DeMEO       DEMEO
                McDONALD      Mc DONALD         LaSALLE     LASALLE
                McDONALD      McDonald

Accents should never be used in the indexes. Names like "Côté" should be entered as COTE.

B. Double Surnames: People who have double surnames should be listed as SMITH-JONES. If it is determined through reading the obit that the maiden name was SMITH, then add it as you would any other maiden name. Some people were given double surnames at birth, while others obtained them through marriage. By checking for a maiden name, you will be able to determine which situation you are working with.

Example:   SMITH-JONES, Mary Ann
           ROYCE-JAMES, John Adams III

C. First name: The person's first name should have only the first letter capitalized. The remainder of their name should be in lower case letters. No exceptions apply. A persons first name is not normally Robert J Mrs, unless there is no other information available. When the woman's first name is given, it is used, instead of the husbands name.

D. Middle name and initials: The middle name always follows the first name. If there is no middle name, only an initial, it belongs here. Do not use a period after the initial. No exceptions apply.

E. Titles, prefixes and suffixes: These always follow the middle name or initial. No punctuation (periods or commas) is used. The title Mr Mrs or Ms should only be used if the gender of the deceased is not obvious from the person's name. If military rank etc are given, do not include it. No exceptions apply.

Example:   JONES, Terry J Mrs 
           JONES, Earl E Sr Dr
           JONES, Earl E Dr

F. Nicknames: If given, a nickname always follows the middle initial, title and/or suffixes, enclosed in double quotes.

Example:        "Bill"

If more than one nickname is given, each should be entered in a separate set of double quotes separated by a single space.

Example:        "Bill" "Will"

G. Maiden names: The maiden name follows the middle name or initial and nickname, is always in upper case as any other surname and is enclosed in parentheses. It is important to remember that some cultures allow for the man or the woman a choice of last name(s), so a man could have a maiden name. It could also be a double last name, so it is important to read the obit you are indexing and try to determine if a maiden name is involved.

Some people have stated that trying to locate the maiden name or first married name within an obit takes too much of their time. These are important elements for all researchers, take the time to look for them.

Example:        SMITH, Mary A (RAND)
  1. Unknown Maiden Name: If the maiden name can not be determined and it is evident that the woman was married, then include the parentheses with one space inside.
    Example:        SMITH, Mary A ( ) [THOMAS]
  2. Never Married: If you can determine that a female had never been married, then use the word "miss" after her name, without the " " marks.
    Example:        SMITH, Mary Jane miss
  3. Nuns: Nuns pose a problem because they are often listed in an obit with both their birth names and their religious names. They are entered according to the following two rules:
    1. If only a single name is given, treat it as any other name followed by the word Sister:
      SURNAME, First Name Sister
      SMITH, Agnes Augustine Sister
    2. If both a birth name and a religious name is given, put the birth surname in the surname field, the birth first name in the first name field and the religious name, without surname, in the nickname field preceded by the word Sister:
      SURNAME, First Name "Sister Religious Name"
      SMITH, Mary J "Sister Agnes Augustine"
      Do not include the order (eg SC or SSF) and "Sister" should be spelled out rather than abbreviated to "Sr" to avoid confusion with "Senior".

  4. Also Known As (aka) Names: Occasionally you will run into a situation where the obituary listing has more that one name for the same person as is often the case with movie stars or stage personalities. In this case, use the birth name as the usual and treat the aka name as a nickname.
    Example:        LEACH, Alexander Archibald "Cary Grant"

H. Other Last Names: Married two or more times: This field is normally intended for other married names. If you can determine that the person was previously married (at some point, even if divorced or widowed at death), then enter the other last name or names separated by one space into the field always using capital letters and surrounded by square brackets and the brackets separated by one space. The same rules apply here as in the last name field. The results will look like this:

Examples: SMITH, Mary Jane (JONES) [ANDERSON] 
          SMITH, Mary A ( ) [THOMAS] [ANDERSON]
All indexes will have a semicolon (;) placed immediately after the last element in the name field.

Field 2: Age

Use only whole numbers. (Remember your math teacher in school trying to teach us whole numbers vs. fractions?)

If the child is 11 months or younger, the age is to be listed as "0". If the child is 12 months to 23 months is age, the age is to be listed as "1".

The words "infant", "baby", "at birth", "14 months" or, "14 months and 3 days", etc., are not whole numbers and do not belong in this field.

Enter one blank space and the age.

Example includes other name field semi-colon (blank space) age semi-colon.

Example: SMITH, Mary A ( ) [THOMAS]; 55;

All indexes will have a semicolon (;) placed immediately after the last element in the age field.

Field 3: Place of Birth>Death

Contact your state moderator or a trainer for a copy of the abbreviation listing.

Enter one blank space following the semi-colon from the previous field.

A. Place of Birth: If no birth place is listed skip to B. Enter the city in upper and lower case letters followed by 1 blank space then enter the abbreviation for the state/province of birth. If the place of birth is other than USA or Canada, the three character country abbreviaton is entered following the state/province in all upper case. If only a state or province is given, enter that. If only a country is given, enter that. Do not enter any commas or periods. Now enter a greater than sign >, no space before, no space after.

RULE: If the birth state/province/country is the same as the death state/province/country do not enter anything for the place of birth.

Note: A city of birth should not be entered without a state/province/country of birth.

B. Place of Death: Enter the place of death in upper and lower case letters following the same format as above.

C. No Death place listed: Enter one blank space.

Some obits will list three or more place names. Three places are never used in the ODT indexes. Just the place of birth and the place of death, as outlined above. Place of death should be place where the death actually occurred; not the place of residence at time of death.

Examples include previous fields.


SMITH, Mary A ( ) [THOMAS]; 55; Madison WI>St Louis MO;
JONES, Betty A (SMITH); 98; Calgary AB>Montreal QC;
JONES, Betty A (SMITH); 98; London ENG>Montreal QC;
JONES, Betty A (SMITH); 98; Boston MA;
JONES, Betty A (SMITH); 98; ; (no death place given)

All indexes will have a semicolon (;) placed immediately after the last element in this field.

Field 4: Publication Name

Enter one blank space following the semi-colon from the previous field.

This is the newspaper abbreviation that was given to you for the newspaper you are indexing by your moderator or trainer. This is the only abbreviation you should be using to ensure consistency with the other publications and to insure that a publication is not being indexed by more than one person at a time. This is a required field for all indexes. If the province/state of death is not the same as the province/state of publication of the newspaper, then the place of publication is added in parentheses following publication name and separated from it by a single space.

Examples includes previous fields.


SMITH, Mary A ( ) [THOMAS]; 55; Madison WI>Atlanta GA; Atlanta J;
SMITH, Mary A ( ) [THOMAS]; 55; Madison WI>St Louis MO; Atlanta J (GA);

All indexes will have a semicolon (;) placed immediately after the publication name or state of publication.

Field 5: Publication Date

Enter one blank space following the semi-colon from the previous field.

This is the date that the obituary appeared in the newspaper, not the date of death. The method of entering dates which has been adopted by the Obituary Daily Times is year-month-day: YYYY-M-D. i.e. 1996-6-5; 2000-6-12; etc. Do not use a leading zero in month or day.

Date examples: Correct        Incorrect       Correct      Incorrect
               1999-2-28      1999 2-28       2000-1-1     2000-01-01
               1999-12-25     12-25-1998      2000-2-14    14 Feb 2000


SMITH, Mary A ( ) [THOMAS]; 55; Madison WI>St Louis MO; Atlanta J (GA); 2000-1-10;

All indexes will have a semicolon (;) placed immediately after the date.

Field 6: Tagname

Enter a blank space and then your tagname in lower case letters, exactly as agreed upon when you became a contributor.


SMITH, Mary A ( ) [THOMAS]; 55; Madison WI>St Louis MO; Atlanta J (GA); 2000-1-10; themike

Completed example below - includes all fields:
Name;(blank space)Age;(blank space)Birth>Death Place;(blank space)Publication Name;(blank space)Publication Date;(blank space)Tagname

Name                       Age  Death place             Newspaper       Date       Tagname

SMITH, Mary A ( ) [THOMAS]; 55; Madison WI>St Louis MO; Atlanta J (GA); 2000-1-10; themike

The example below shows an index without an age or death place but it still contains the six fields necessary to make it a valid obituary index:

SMITH, Mary A ( ); ; ; Atlanta J (GA); 2000-1-10; themike

Updated: 20000521 wes
Updated: 20000806 kpb