How To Find An Obituary For A Specific Person

What is an Obituary? 

An obituary is a written notice of someone’s death. It typically offers details about the decedent’s life, life milestones, family and familial relationships, etc. as well as provides information about their upcoming funeral services.

While searching for an obituary may have been a more challenging and complicated process in the past, finding an obituary of a specific person is not nearly as complicated today. With the help of innovative technology and today’s rapid communication, the process of searching for a loved one’s obituary or even that of an old childhood friend is now quick, easy, and convenient. 

What can an obituary potentially include?

Obituaries can provide plenty of information about the deceased. They normally include biographical details, relatives’ names, religious beliefs, and much more. If you find an obituary for a particular person, the information contained may fill in gaps, give information of other records, and thus, help break down brick walls.

Why is it necessary to publish an obituary? 

Obituaries are published to memorialize the deceased and create a lasting legacy in their honor as a tribute. One of their prime purposes is to inform loved ones of the deceased of their passing and provide essential information about their funeral services. They also help to survive loved ones hold onto the memory of the deceased and keep track of important family history information that will be precious for future generations..

Typically, obituaries are published in newspapers and online memorial pages. Generally, obituaries are published in renowned and larger newspapers. However, they can also be published in small, local, or regional newspapers as well. With its exponential popularity, social media is now the most common platform to announce obituaries these days. People use different platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or WhatsApp to announce obituaries. Social channels are the fastest and most direct way to send information or communicate with the people you want to inform about the death of a loved one.  

History of obituaries published

The world’s first historically known obituaries were published way back in the Roman Times. Traditionally, publishing an obituary was first limited to nobles in society. Later, with the invention of the printing press, this started to change as newspapers became common and soon anyone could easily have an obituary written for them. During the Civil War, obituaries were used as a vital way to keep track of the living and the dead. With the passage of time, obituaries became increasingly common and more comprehensive, including more details of the life of the deceased as we see in today’s obituaries.

How do you search for an obituary?

Whether you’re looking for a close friend or family member’s obituary, or simply looking to learn more about your family history and past generations, here are 8 helpful ways to find an obituary. 

  • You can try searching in the  Family Search Historical Records Collections. Filter the list by typing “obit” in the Filter by Collection Title box. In this way, one may get all titles with “Obituary” or “Obituaries.”
  • You can check Family Search partner sites like Ancestry.com and findmypast.com.
  • You can also visit cemetery sites just like Find a Grave and Billion Graves. Individual grave records may have obituaries added by users.
  • You can also look into newspaper sites like Genealogy Bank and Newspaper Archive. Google also has news archives. In case you’re researching in Australia, try Trove. And don’t forget smaller newspaper sites, such as Halton News or New York State Historic Newspapers. These sites can be a goldmine for finding ancestors who lived in the newspaper’s publication area. You can locate sites such as these by searching online.
  • The Chronicling America website, maintained by the United States Library of Congress, offers access to digitized newspapers from 1789 to 1963.
  • Similarly, FamilySearch Research Wiki can help you in locating obituary collections. For example, to find obituaries for Hungarian ancestors, search for “Hungary Obituaries.”
  • Your public library website may also have a family history or genealogy section that offers access to digital newspapers.
  • Memorial sites such as Lifememory host obituaries from newspapers. In addition, users may also publish obituaries directly to the site.

What If You Don’t Find Anything Online? 

  1. You can surf the Chronicling America website which provides a directory of newspapers in the United States from 1690 until the present. This directory provides lists of libraries and other repositories for newspapers that are not yet digitized. You might be able to access microfilm or even a physical copy of the newspaper you need.
  2. You can also consider uncommon sources. In her 2019 presentation at the  BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, Cara Jones recommended looking for obituaries in untraditional publications like alumni magazines, church newsletters, professional employment publications, historical society publications, and more. 

Example: Finding Vera May Webb’s Obituary

Let’s look at an example. Suppose that you’re searching for an obituary for Vera Webb mentioned above. Here’s the data you have about her:

  • Vera was born about 1900 in Georgia, United States.
  • Webb is her maiden surname.
  • She married a man named Cleo Brantley.
  • Later, she married a man surnamed Stephens.
  • She died 14 April 1983 in Georgia, United States.

Using this information,  you have decided to search the Genealogy Bank:

Unnamed

These are the results we got: 

Unnamed (1)

After finding this result, you would open this obituary and find that not only it is for the right woman, but it also gives a complete list of her children and siblings, as well as married surnames for the women. 

As you can see, it is relatively easy and quick to find an obituary. Ultimately, obituaries are legendary tokens that have existed since ancient times in one way or another. Beyond their primary purpose of informing loved ones of the deceased’s passing, they help preserve and uncover meaningful information about those before us and keep their memory alive for generations to come. 

If you or someone you know would like to honor your loved ones with an obituary that is easy and quick for others to find and have continuous access years from now, submit one to our database and a Life Memory representative will be in touch with you to guide you and let you know more about your submission.

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