Sunday, April 25, 2010

Looking for Obituaries?

I was trying to help a patron at the Phoenix Family History Library recently to find an obituary of her loved one, and I realized how few online sites I could refer to her.  My history with researching obituaries has been minimal, and I found the best luck just has been using Google (see my tips on Google searching).  So, it became my mission to try and list some of the better online sites for searching obituaries.  First, here are some things to keep in mind:

Things I have learned when searching for obituaries:
  • Knowing where your decedent last resided or was buried will be your best bet (newspapers or funeral homes in those areas may have your obituary).
  • Time period of death determines where to search.
  • Newspapers are dying, which limits resources for recent obituaries.
  • Newspapers now contract with memorial sites that charge the family for publishing the obituaries, so obituaries may not even be published (though there may be a death notice).
  • Newspapers (some) do archive their obituaries, however, you are lucky if they predate 2000.
  • Larger genealogy search sites host newspapers' archived obituaries, but finding small town obituaries may be limited.
  • It was not required that an obituary be published (some families withheld publication).
  • Double-check spelling of person's name, and research all variations including misspellings.
Let's get to the meat of this article - where do I search?  (These links take you to the actual obituary search pages, so if there is a broken link, please email me.)
  • obituaries - collection of obituaries from newspapers and various online sources.  ( is free at the larger LDS Family History Libraries.)
  • or both share the same search engine called ObitFinder, but each list their items differently
  • has obituaries from 1977 to present, but be sure and go to "View Title List" to see the date range of obituaries for your newspaper.  (There is a fee for this site, but they have a 30-day trial for only $10.)
  • Obituary Daily Times at - you can search by name and date, but it doesn't have the actual text of the obituaries.  Never fear, they provide the means to obtain those but you need to do a little more work.
  • US Gen Web Obituary Project - you can search for obituaries, plus submit them as well.
  • Obituaries Today - has some good obituaries you should check (dates vary).
  • -- Lots of ads, but it does take you to the current newspaper sites (as opposed to taking you directly to the obituaries or to archived obituaries).
  • Genealogy Buff has user-contributed obituaries and links to other sources.
  • National Hall of Records - this site was touted by BYU's Ancestors' series as a trusted source for online obituaries, death notices and memorials, however, I found that most of the names I found seem to have come from the Social Security Death Index as opposed to being true obituaries.  However, I did find that they had a really good Funeral Home & Cemeteries site (mostly funeral homes appeared on my searches as opposed to cemeteries).  I was excited to see you could post an obituary, but for a mere $295 a year (yikes!).  I'd just assume post them freely on a webpage at which gets a lot of hits.
  • - this is a pay site, but free at a Family History Library.  Last time I searched this site I did find that these same newspapers can be found on other sites.  Therefore, not my first choice to start searching, but still a good site to check. 
  • Obituary Links Page has some obituaries and lists funeral homes (mostly Canadian). 
  • Obituary Central -  Looks like it is more of a links page to other sites, some of which have bad links.  Nevertheless, always good to check as a last resort.
 Other resources I found that may be helpful:
Since I am still searching for the best obituary sites, check back often.  You may find I have removed a few and hopefully have added a few!

April 26, 2010 update:  Don't forget to check your public library online resources.  The Phoenix Public Library allows you to access (via online from your computer at home) ProQuest.  ProQuest has over 10.5 million obituaries and death notices of Atlanta Constitution, Boston Globe, Chicago Defender, Chicago Trubine, Los Angeles times, New York Times and Washington Post, from 1851-1994, depending on newspaper.  (See my other post re What's Available at your City Library.)  Here's some information about ProQuest's Obituaries.


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