Finding That Elusive Relative--- Obituary Research Why Use Obituaries? An obituary is a published or unpublished death announcement. A particular obituary may be a simple two-line death notice or an elaborate biography of the deceased. They can provide a wealth of information and help you learn more about your ancestor. 1. Name of your ancestor. Sometimes they are listed by just initials. Now keep in mind that this will not always be the full legal name, so consider it a secondary source for the name. 2. The date, time and place where the person was buried. Again a secondary source because you can't be sure who turned in the information. 3. Date and place of birth, and date and place of death. A secondary source for above-stated reasons. 4. Surviving relatives. This is the goldmine you are searching for. Although it can't be considered a primary source because of the above-stated reasons, it will list the "known" surviving relatives (at least the ones the informant remembered at the time) and their relationship to the deceased. 5. Dead relatives. Often the obituary will include the names of the deceased spouses or children that passed before them. Obituaries are usually printed in a funeral program, a newspaper or in a local history. Recently, funeral homes have published the obituary online along with a memorial page. Sources for Obituaries Obituaries weren’t commonly published until the 1800s. In Colonial times, usually only death notices were published in newspapers. Obituaries have only been specifically indexed online for the past few years. You will find that obituary indexes will usually only date from the late 1960s or 1970s. However, many obituaries have been published in newspapers, and the number of online collections for newspapers is growing. You may wish to see United States Newspapers and Digital Historical Newspapers at the FamilySearch.org Wiki for more information about newspapers. For additional sources you might try the following: • • The Library of Congress, Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers. This site also contains the US Newspaper Directory, 1690 to Present, with the locations of the repositories of most of the newspapers published in America. Cyndi's List at http://www.cyndislist.com/ contains many links to obituaryrelated sites. Scroll down and click the topics Obituaries or Newspapers. • • • Use a Google search to look for online obituaries. To do this you need to find the name of the paper in the location where you think the death took place. Use websites refdesk.com Newpapers- USA and Worldwide to help you see if there was a paper near the locality. Once you find the name, type the name of the location and the word “newspaper” or “obituary”. FamilySearch Research Classes online at Familysearch.org Local genealogical and historical societies, public libraries, and some newspaper publishers maintain clipping files of obituaries. Printed abstracts of obituaries can also be found in various published sources, such as genealogical periodicals. A bibliography of published sources is: Jarboe, Betty M. Obituaries: A Guide to Sources. Second Edition. Boston, Massachusetts: G. K. Hall, 1989. WorldCat 19372997FHL 973 V43 An appendix describes obituary indexes available at major libraries. Additional Published Obituaries The following suggestions can help you locate other published obituaries. Some obituaries are published in local genealogical and historical society websites. Go to The USGenWeb Project at www.usgenweb.org or The WorldGenWeb Project at www.worldgenweb.org/ to learn more. Other sites host large collections of obituaries arranged by geographical locations. GenealogyBuff.com has a large data library with hundreds of thousands of obituaries from varying timeframes. There are two large user-contributed obituary forums, one for the United States and the other for Canada. An obituary index, the Obituary Daily Times (ODT), is hosted on RootsWeb. Founded in 1995, ODT has more than 13,000,000 indexed obits, and the list is increasing at the staggering rate of 2,500 a day. It is entirely supported by volunteers, numerous submitters, and a host of moderators. This free index is among the largest in the world, and searching is easy. You can also subscribe to the related Obituary Daily Times Mailing List for a regular index update. Instructions for subscribing are on the website. As this is an ongoing project, one would want to check it periodically. A funeral home may also help in locating an obituary. For assistance in locating a funeral home, FuneralHomes.com, may help in locating a particular funeral home within a given state. The Family History Library has some obituaries. Go to the Family History Library Catalog to find book and film numbers for them. The following instructions will help you find records for a specific locality using the Place Search: 1. Click Place Search 2.Type the locality that you want to search, and click Search. 3. A list of matches will appear. 4. Click on the locality that most closely matches the one you want. 5. Click Keywords search, enter Obituaries or Newspapers to view the record holdings. There is also a Mennonite Obituaries Index 1930-2001 online. Index is from The Mennonitische Rundschau. Index covers the world and includes the following: • Surname • Given Name • Maiden Name • Birth Year • Death Year • Place of death • Country • Issue • Page You can read the actual Mennonite Obituaries Here. (http://www.mcusaarchives.org/MennObits/index2.html) If your family is from Pennsylvania, Illinois or many eastern states, they may be found on this site. www.Ancestry.com (a subscription site) has good search capability for their obituary collection for the United States and Great Britain. Websites • • • • • • GenDisasters contains newspaper articles about train wrecks, tornadoes, fires, accidents and other explosions. Often these articles contain detailed death information. Genealogy Buff - Library - Genealogy Data Files Obits Archives is a large collection of Newspaper obituaries in the United States. Can search by all sources or by location. OldDeathRecords.org contains transcribed obituaries and death notices from the 1800s to about 1960, and necrology lists from various sources. List of Surnames in the All-Year Obituary Indexes for Various Primitive Baptist Church Periodicals Obit City Your local library and interlibrary loan Although your local library may not have a newspaper collection for the place where your ancestor lived, you may still access to newspapers from distant libraries there. Many historical newspapers have been microfilmed. Local libraries often have a service called Interlibrary loan by which they can order microfilm copies of old newspapers from other libraries for a reasonable fee, usually paid by the patron. Telephone your local librarian to learn which newspapers covered your ancestor's area and time period. Also ask which libraries in your area offer interlibrary loan services and what the fees are. Check with the state historical society or the state archives for microfilmed newspapers. Web sites Since digitizing and storing thousands of images of newspaper pages on the Web is expensive, free online collections of digitized historical newspapers are rare. However, modern day newspapers are increasingly found for free online. Free access to "historical" databases can often be found at local libraries or at your local Family History Center. Historical newspapers online • • • • • • • • NewspaperArchive.com ($) Ancestry.com ($) Digital Historical Newspapers (free) Online Historical Newspapers Website (lists of both free and $) Wikipedia (lists both free and $) genealogybank.com ($) Library of Congress - Historic American Newspapers (free) Google News Archive (free) Current newspapers online • • • • • • RootsWeb Obituary Daily Times (free) has a searchable database of over 14 million modern-day obituaries extracted by volunteers. Most are from 2000 or later, but some date back to the 1980s. ABYZ Newslinks (free) has a directory of links to newspapers online organized by state and city. OnlineNewspapers.com (free) links to United States newspapers online. SHG Resources State Handbook and Guide (free) links to current U.S. newspapers online. RootsWeb Newspaper Index. Database contains 454,372 records (48,485 surnames). Selected states, counties and newspapers (as contributed). WorldVital Records.com has an extensive collection of online newspapers.
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