Newspaper obituaries are an important part of any genealogical search. When you know only the name and date of death of an individual, a newspaper obituary can help you find other information about the person and his or her family. This additional information can then help shape the rest of your research.
An obituary is a notice that announces the death of someone with a description of the person's life and list of family members. Sometimes an obituary can be called a death notice. An obituary can be published in a newspaper, online or in the funeral program. There are subtle differences in the obituary based on where it will be published and when it was published.
The best resources for obituaries are at the library but more and more newspaper obituaries are becoming available online as more and more newspapers upload their archives onto their websites. If you are searching for an obituary from before the year 2000, you'll have to go to a library and view the newspaper on microfilm or purchase a subscription to an obituary repository. For a list of online Newspaper Obituaries. visit ObituariesHelp.org to find newspaper obituaries from across the country.
When searching for obituaries it's important to investigate all possible newspapers that the obituary might appear in. Start by locating the newspapers of the city or region that the person was born in, lived for several years and the city they died in. If the deceased lived in several cities or has surviving family living in a particular city, chances are that the obituary many appear in more than one newspaper. It is also likely that the obituary may have different information depending on where it is published. Sometimes the city in which the person lived the longest will have a longer more in depth write up of the life and family of the deceased. But to make sure you get all the details, be sure to find the newspapers from all the cities and townships that the person had any contact with.
First and foremost you will need to know the deceased's full name and approximate date of death. Knowing the exact date of death is even better because then it narrows your search to the date of death and about one week after. You are usually safe not looking more than a week after the date of death because obituaries are usually published as a death notice that includes the funeral service information or as a death announcement as close to the date of death as possible.
In addition to the name and date of death, date of birth is important too. There can be several people in the same community with the same name so knowing how old the person is when they died can make identifying the write ancestor much easier.
Of course you will also need to know the location. Where the deceased was born, where they died and where they spent most of their lives. As mentioned before, knowing the places the deceased lived will help you find the right newspapers and can lead you to different versions of the obituary.
Genealogists both professional and amateur come to rely on the information found in obituaries to guide them on to other research. An obituary is the last and sometimes only article every written about a person and it can contain important information about who the person was, their relationships and interests. In short, obituaries add color and details about a life that otherwise may not be known. Clues about the clubs the deceased attended, awards, military service and religious affiliation can all be discovered in a well-written obituary. Most genealogists begin their research with obituaries so they know where to research next. For example if you find an obituary that gives the names of military regiments, you can then research military records about the battles the deceased participated in. The possibilities for research are endless when you start with newspaper obituaries.