Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Updating Birth and Death Dates: A Much Easier Process 25 Years Later

When I worked on the 5th book-form edition of the bibliography 25 years ago finding birth and death dates was a time-consuming look-up process in libraries--so much so that I rarely attempted to fill in the information. This was probably also the case for my predecessor in the project, Leslie Morton. Years ago one of the only convenient ways to know a death date was from reading an obituary when it appeared in the newspaper, etc. Today, with so much indexed on the Internet, including newspaper obituaries and Wikipedia articles, and digital versions of biographical tools like Munk's Roll, finding biographical details tends to be so much easier. In the month since the bibliography went online I have been able to fill in around 1000 birth or death dates, and in some cases I have also corrected misspellings in author names. However, as one would expect, there are still several hundred of these that have eluded me, so far.

Another aspect to this part of the project is that so many of the authors have passed in the 25 years that elapsed since the 5th printed edition and the new online edition. As I filled in hundreds of death dates I felt peculiarly like an undertaker, at least from the record-keeping standpoint.

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