Using Newspaper Obituaries to Locate Lost Family


If you've lost touch with a part of your family or you are looking for ancestral ties, the best place to start looking is in newspaper obituaries. Surviving family is usually listed. If it's a recent obituary, you can contact these people directly, if not, you can contact the children of the deceased.

What is an Obituary?

An obituary is a notice that announces the death of someone with a description of the person's life and list of family members. An obituary is a valuable tool for genealogists and family tree researchers because it contains clues about the deceased and the deceased's family. The obituary is often written by the funeral homeor mortuary, but many people choose to write an obituary for their loved one that is published in the newspaper and included in the funeral program.

Newspaper Obituaries: A Town's Lifeline

No matter how big or small a community, there is always a newspaper serving that community, and has been for decades and longer. Newspapers reporting on the events of people's lives and deaths can be a valuable way to link yourself to long lost family. Unlike vital records that give specific dates, and limited information, newspapers report on more than just the facts. They give details of the lives lived, births, deaths, marriages and special events in people's lives.

Where Can You Find Newspaper Obituaries Online

We live in an exciting era, where everything you want to know is available online, including newspaper obituaries. Most newspapers publish their obituaries online rather than in print because it is very costly to print lengthy obituaries. You can find complete lists of newspaper obituaries at There are even old obituaries archives and archived obituaries and death notices published online that you can access from the comfort of your own home.

Where to Start Your Search of Newspaper Obituaries

Start with known ancestors. Search for their names, surnames and variations on the spelling. Narrow your search by including an approximate timeframe and if you can, include a geographic location. It doesn't have to be specific, but a county or even a state will work. You'll see how much information comes up. Not only from newspaper obituaries, but articles and features as well.

Following the Leads From Newspaper Obituaries

Often all the important information is included in the newspaper obituary. You can then make a list of the surviving family as it appears in the newspaper obituary and begin searches on those names. You might even make exciting discoveries about your ancestors. Perhaps you'll find there was a great uncle you never knew you had.

Or perhaps there were several newspaper obituaries from that time period of people with the same surname. Follow each lead and each name until you determine if they were a relation or not. Each clue in a newspaper article gets you one step closer to locating lost family.

What to do if you can't find the name in Newspaper Obituaries

It isn't often that your search comes up with no positive results, but in the rare case that it does, you'll have to call or write to the local libraries, historical or genealogy societies. They will have more records on microfilm than online and they will be able to help you. But before you get out and start pounding the pavement, make sure you check out, where you'll find a complete list of free and paid services that can help you locate your family. Newspaper obituaries are a wealth of knowledge that can lead you right to your long lost family.

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