Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Searching For Obituaries Of The United States And Canada

One of the sources of genealogical information that most family history buffs should consider when researching your ancestors is notifications of their passings that have been published in newspapers and magazines. In many cases, I've seen that information not found elsewhere can be discovered that will assist genealogists with their efforts to track down the families.

Many newspaper obituaries have been microfilmed and in many cases, indexed, which helps make searching these invaluable records that much easier. Not all funeral notices have been indexed, but this is usually one of many ongoing projects of local genealogical societies in their efforts to make records more open and accessable.

Information contained in a simple newspaper obit might be something simple such as "Mrs. Smith died last saturday" or could include much, much more detail about the deceased and their position in the area.

Examples such as this would be considered a goldmine for most researchers and even if you believe you are aware of all the details surrounding the death of one of the individuals you are searching for, always be sure to look for an obituary in the local newspaper where they lived and you might want to check to see if an obituary appeared in the newspaper where the person had lived as a child or where their family had originally resided. There are many examples of notices of the passing of those who lived in an area for some time but had recently moved.

There are many websites that offer searchable databases of obituaries from both the US and Canada, as well as for countries around the world. One obvious choice is, which has links to hundreds of newspapers throughout the United States and Canada, but primarily these obituaries are more recent, usually within the past two or three weeks at the most, which will not help if you need to look farther back in time.

Another choice for those looking for obituaries up to about ten years ago might be to search whether the local funeral home or the cemetery where they were buried has set up a website. The cemetery website could also provide information about any cemetery transcriptions available either on the site or being kept by the local genealogical society. An option you could look into is to contact the local library, or genealogical society as they would likely have access to old newspapers on microfilm or indexes that they could consult. Using the inter-library loan program is another choice that may be available, either through your own local library or Family History Center. Searching for published indexes either online or in book form may be a solution as well.

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