Genealogy Search Tips

9 Tips for Finding Obituary Information

Discover an Ancestor's Date of Birth, Place of Birth, Occupation, Name of Father, Maiden Name of Mother and More

There are many different sources for obituary information. Some sources are more relaible than others, some are only good for certain time periods and some are not always accurate.

We have seen different years of death for the same individual in different documents - so it is beneficial to have data from more than one information

College and University Alumni Magazines

Sometimes you know an ancestor's death date but don't have access to a newspaper that probably printed the ancestor's obituary.

You might try an organization such as a university or college from which your ancestor graduated. Many alumni magazines have published alumni obituaries and many of these previously, published magazines are available and free online.

Google's Indexed List of Books, Magazines and More

Google's indexed list of books, magazines, almanacs, directories, legal publications and more contain community histories, biographies, obituaries and other information that can be very useful to genealogists.

Go to Google's website and on the left side click Books (you might need to first click "More" to find Books). Then enter your ancestors' name, city, town or county where he or she died. Add or eliminate search terms based on your initial results.

Local Genealogy Society

In some cases you might know an ancestor's death date but the obituary is not online and you don't have access to a library in the area where your ancestor died.

Look online for a local genealogy society or genealogy group in the area where a newspaper might have published the obituary. The genealogy society or group might have volunteers who will look for the obituary at no charge or for a nominal fee. The local library might also have procedures for obtaining obituaries for people who do not live in the area of the library.

Funeral Home Website

If you can't find a recent newspaper obituary online try the funeral home's website. More and more funeral homes publish obituaries on their websites and these are usually the same obituaries that the funeral homes send to the local newspapers.

On these sites you might also find photos of the deceased, comments in the deceased's guestbook, life stories, a life timeline and more.

Death Indexes

Death indexes are good places to find death dates. If you enter death index and a state name into a search engine you will probably find a number of online death indexes for that state. A website might list individual death indexes for some of the counties, cities or towns in the state.

An individual death index might provide the death date and an obituary or the death index might provide the death date and the name of the parents of the deceased.

Find a Death Date and the Obituary

In many cases you can find the death date of a deceased US citizen in the Social Security Death Index.

If you know a person's death date (or even just the death year) it is much easier to find obituary information for that individual.

Find a Death Date

To facilitate the ordering of copies of death certificates many states provide a free online index of death dates. So a person can search the state's records to find the death date of an ancestor before ordering a copy of his or her death certificate.

Users of these indexes are not required to buy a copy of a death certificate. So you can use a state index to try and find an ancestor's death date - then with the death date you can try to find an obituary in a local newspaper or use the death date in some other way.

Find a Death Date

Use a search engine or meta search engine to find a death date. Key in an ancestor's name in quotes AND the year of death AND the county or town where the death occurred. You can also try the name in quotes AND year of death AND obituary.

You might find a death date or an obituary that was published in a local genealogy society listing, newspaper, newspaper almanac, genealogy forum or some other source.

Find an Obituary

Sometimes you know the year of an ancestor's death but don't know the month or day. Try to find a local newspaper that was published weekly during the year of your ancestor's death.

There may be no index or an available index might not be very complete and so you might need to look at each edition of the newspaper until you find your ancestor''s obituary. A local library might have microfilm copies of the newspapers and it might also have copies of the newspapers online. Check the local library's website to find out what online resources are available.

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