Latter-day Saint Life

He’s dug up 30,000 obituaries to add to FamilySearch. See how scouring death notices has “added zip” to his life

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Dale Adams poses for a portrait in front of his computer at his house in Park City.
Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

Dale Adams, a retired Ohio State University professor, has found a second career in downloading and preserving obituaries for family history purposes

Two years ago, along with the rest of the world, Dale Adams had a problem. Only his problem wasn’t just figuring out how to negotiate life around a pandemic.

He also had to figure out how to do it alone.

His kids and grandkids lived out of state. Being with friends was too risky. At 86, he was in the category called “most vulnerable.”

Before anyone knew how to spell COVID, his plan was to move out of his Park City home of 25 years and take up residence in an assisted living facility where someone else would cook his meals, repair the plumbing, provide entertainment, and be there to talk to.

Now he was going to have to stay put and fly solo.

But if one word sums up Dale Adams it would be resourceful. He is a man who knows how to adjust and move on. As an agriculture economist—he got his doctorate at Michigan State and taught at Ohio State—he traveled the world studying the plight of the rural poor and considering ways that might be lessened.

His travels took him from Colombia (where he spent three years) to Uganda to Thailand and most everywhere in between.

“I mostly attempted to improve economic systems so they made poor peoples’ lives less miserable,” is how he modestly sums up his professional career. “I’ll leave it to more objective observers to determine what, if anything, I accomplished.”

His diversion from his professorial duties was studying history. While living in Ohio, Dale—who grew up in Pleasant Grove and is a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—liked to spend his off-hours touring LDS historic sites in nearby Kirtland, Ohio, as well as Missouri, Illinois, and upstate New York.

“I realized even though I was born and raised in Utah, other than fishing and hunting I didn’t know that much about it,” he says. “I made up my mind to go to as many out-of-the-way, off-the-road places that I could.”

By the time he reached his 80s and his travel became less energetic, Dale made a welcome discovery: through the Utah Digital Newspapers website ( he could sit at home and still travel the state.

The UDN program began, thanks to a government grant, in 2002. Its lofty goal is to digitize all of Utah’s newspapers, bringing online millions upon millions of pages printed in various towns large and small through the years. From its offices at the Marriott Library at the University of Utah, UDN has already digitized close to 3 million pages.

About four years ago, Dale started reading obituaries in these online pages. Not for morbid reasons, but out of a desire to keep the person in the obit alive. Their memory, at least.

Read the rest of the story on Deseret News.

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