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If you are in the midst of a genealogy hunt, obituary records can make for fascinating reading. Through a final tribute to a deceased ancestor, you can learn a wealth of information about the person and his or her family. Obituary records are typically found through local newspapers that print these notices at the time of a death. While finding the obituary record may take some work, the information you unearth may be well worth the effort. Obituary records may be the first place you search for information about a person, or it may be the final stop after a compilation of research that led you specifically to that location. Either way, obituary records are sure to enrich your genealogy search in a number of ways.
Information Found in Records
Obituary records vary considerably, based on the newspaper that originally printed the notice. In addition, family members often initiated the obituary and were responsible for providing the information on the deceased to the publication. In some cases, obituary records may only contain the name of the person and the location of the funeral service. Others might be rather lengthy, including the person’s occupation, religious affiliation, hobbies, family members and cause of death.
In many cases, the information obtained through obituary records can be used to take a genealogy search further. For example, if you discover some of the immediate survivors of the deceased, you can use those names to search for additional information about the family. You may discover the individual served in the military and turn to military records to find more facts. If you learn the occupation of the person, you may search records for the business to see if additional information can be found. Marriage, divorce and court records can all be accessed based on information provided through obituary records.
The obituary also makes a nice keepsake while you are building your family tree. This document can often be printed for free off the Internet if you can find the record online. If not, you can usually request a copy from the archives of the publication. Online obituary searches may also allow you to find and print the obituary for your records. What a lovely addition to a scrapbook or family heirloom project!
Locations for Obituary Records
Most obituaries were printed in local publications at the time of death. If you don’t have a precise date of death, try locating that information first through a free death records search or by perusing cemetery records for the area. Once you have a date of death, you will need to search the archives of that publication within a few days after your date, since obituaries are typically published within a week or two after the death actually occurs.
Some individuals, particularly those who were well known in the community, may have obituaries in more than one publication. These notices may be identical, or they may offer slightly different facts that will give you even more information about the person you are researching. If you find the obituary in one newspaper, it is a good idea to check other publications for the same date to see if additional notices were posted.
Restriction to Obituary Records Access
Access to obituary records is never restricted. Once the death notice appears in a publication, it is a matter of public record. The real trick will be actually locating the obituary notice, since there may be many newspapers and dates to weed through in order to pinpoint when the notice was posted. However, once the obituary is found, it can be used by anyone who would like to download the information or request a copy from the publication. If you do request a copy, it is likely the publication will charge you for the research and the copied notice.
Online Obituary Records Search
Because obituary records can be challenging to find, many archivists and genealogists turn to online public records searches to find the information they are looking for. Many online archive services allow you to look for notices based on the location of the death and the name of the deceased. In most cases, you will choose the location first (usually by state), and then you will get a listing of the publications for that state. Once you choose a publication, you can enter the name of the deceased, as well as any other pertinent information, to see if any records match your request. At that time, you can either print the notice you find or contact the publication directly to request a copy from their archives.