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Warning - Obituary Errors on Ancestry.com

Updated on December 1, 2019
Virginia Allain profile image

Genealogy makes a fascinating hobby. I want to share what I've learned and help other researchers track their family information.

Oh Oh, Mistakes on Ancestry Obituaries

Source

Recently, Ancestry.com rolled out computer-generated hints based on scans of Newspapers.com obituaries. This makes a great amount of information available to researchers. Unfortunately, these hints are filled with errors.

I'll explain the problem so you won't fill your family tree with mistaken information. Since I subscribe to Newspapers.com, I'm able to fact-check the hints I'm receiving.

The Warning Ancestry Gives

"These facts were pulled from a record by a computer and may not be accurate. Obituary records often include facts for family members of the deceased, some of whom may be living."

An Example of the Mistakes in the Hints

This is a family member, so I knew right away that Cora's last name was not Stafford and the father's name was not Martin Schultz.
This is a family member, so I knew right away that Cora's last name was not Stafford and the father's name was not Martin Schultz. | Source

What Went Wrong Here?

  • In some cases, the computer mistakenly attached parts of two separate obituaries. This seems to happen if it is in two columns instead of the whole being in one column.
  • In other cases, the optical-character-reader had trouble interpreting a font. Example: it lists the location as Ru-h-Sinlby County. The actual location in the news clipping is Rush-Shelby County. The same clipping shows that the children's names are not Hana gun/Y A Goner. The actual name is Mrs. Hanagan Wagoner.
  • The computer-generated hint also omits some information. Going to Newspapers.com and reading the actual article provides the full date of death, not just the year. It also tells what caused her death, where she was born, and where buried. I was also able to find the state when I read the actual clipping, not just the county where she died.

Seeing the Actual Obit

When you click on the hint to see the details, it shows the computer generated "facts." You need to view the actual image to make sure they are not garbled.
When you click on the hint to see the details, it shows the computer generated "facts." You need to view the actual image to make sure they are not garbled. | Source

Checking the Hints

To go to Newspapers.com to view the actual clipping of the obituary does require a subscription. There are free newspapers online as well (Chronicles of America) but I have my best finds on Newspapers.com.

Correct the Errors You See

If you view the clipping and see what the names and dates should be, make corrections so future searchers will have the right information.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Virginia Allain

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    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 days ago from UK

      This reminds me a little of issues with subtitles on the news. Sometimes I have to read between the lines to guess what the correct words should be, as the computer has misheard and made an incorrect choice. It just goes to show that computers are not infallible.

    • Ladymermaid profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      7 days ago from Canada

      Wow thank you for the warning. I would certainly not have expected this degree of inaccuracy from such a well recognized website.

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