Assistance in Locating an Ancestor’s Obituary

newspapersOne of the main type of documents a family history researcher looks for is the newspaper obituary on an ancestor. It really only became a common practice to place an obituary on a deceased relative in the late 1800s in America.

The late 1800s into the early 20th century was the Victorian and Edwardian eras when things were to be done in a proper formal way and many times to the extreme. This was especially true to have a newspaper write-up on the complete life of the dearly departed.

For present-day researchers, it is a gold mine of information not only on the ancestor who had just passed away when the obituary was written, but would also provide information on their parents, siblings, children, schooling, occupation, military service, membership in organizations and places they lived. The main item to remember is that the information in the obituary was usually supplied by a spouse, sibling or adult child and there can be mistakes or misinformation. Also a newspaper obituary might not have appeared in the paper for days or even weeks after the person’s death.

A great site which offers assistance from volunteers within the United States in obtaining copies of newspaper obituaries is by Rootsweb. The volunteers are listed first by state names and then broken down into counties within each state. The number of volunteers will vary from county to county.

Most counties have old newspapers available at the newspaper office or generally at the public library. The newspapers usually have been photographed and placed on microfilm for viewing and to make copies. Other locations in a county with newspaper access might be the historical and the genealogical societies. Many museums for a county, especially those which emphasis history, will also have copies of actual newspapers or on microfilm. Any local Family History Centers in an area will have information on local obituaries. So each county volunteer is already familiar with the best sources in their area.

The full directions for making a free obituary request are provided on the site. Besides individuals with their email address to make a request, also for many counties are the digital online web site of obituaries from a public library, a newspaper, or society. Checking out the online web sites for a specific obituary is best to do first before contacting an individual to search.

If you do not see the county you are looking for, check with regional locations, such as ‘South Florida’ which would cover several counties or check neighboring counties. A copy of an obituary is a huge necessity for a researcher.

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