Anyone involved in genealogy research or anyone who reads obituaries has surely noticed that the newspaper obituaries sections are getting smaller and smaller every year. It's been going on for at least a decade and it is only getting worse.
People rely on the Obituaries section of the newspaper to find out about the people in their communities, to learn about their ancestry and to keep up to date with the passing of friends and family. Obituaries are a valuable resource for professional and amateur genealogists because they give so many clues about the deceased. Obituaries contain information about births, deaths, and associations, surviving family, educations and accomplishments of the deceased.
Public figures, celebrities and other people that the newspaper deems newsworthy get a free obituary in a prominent location in the newspaper, but people without that status must pay dearly. The reason for this is simply greed.
Many of the larger newspapers are charging huge fees to publish even a short obituary. The families of the deceased are paying $100.00 or more for an obituary that only contains the person's date of death and the funeral date, time and location. This cost makes people less inclined to publish their families' obituaries and if they do publish them, they publish only the minimum amount of information. Many people are opting out of submitting an obituary to larger newspapers.
So many people are lost and don't know where to find obituaries without paying a fee or where to publish obituaries without paying. But rest assured that many small towns and larger cities with privately owned newspapers, still have reasonable rates or free obituaries submissions.
If you've recently lost someone and want to submit an obituary call your local or community paper first and see what their obituary policies are. You'll find a list of newspapers where you can publish Free Obituaries online at ObituariesHelp.org.
If your interests are in reading the obituaries rather than submitting one, visit the Newspaper Obituaries section at ObituariesHelp.org. Here you'll find a list of every newspaper that does not charge you to read the obituaries and many of them have archived obituaries you can access for free too.
Charging for obituaries is essentially charging to report an event in the community. These newspapers have questionable journalistic integrity if they continue to charge an exorbitant fee for news, the news of someone's death. Often, the handling of obituaries is left to the classified ads department of the newspaper, as it there is something for sale. A person's passing is not a commodity for sale like some classified ad. A person's passing is an important event in the community and in the lives of those who were friends, family or had any contact with the deceased.
Newspapers have been responsibly reporting the deaths of community members for centuries longer than any of us have been alive. But the charges that apply to obituaries now make it very difficult for anyone to publish anything more than a line or two about loved ones. The amount of information is reduced and in some cases it eliminates a public record of the death.
It saddens me to think that future generations will not be able to locate information about their ancestors simply because it was too expensive. Future generations of historians, genealogies and family researchers will have an even harder time piecing together clues to form the big picture of a family's ancestral story.