OBITUARIES IN FAMILY HISTORY

2015 by Donald R. Snow

This page was last updated 2015-03-03
Return to the  Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page  or  Don's Class Listings Page .

    WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION

  1. Instructor is Donald R. Snow ( snowd@math.byu.edu ) of Provo and St. George, Utah.
  2. These note are posted on  http://uvtagg.org/classes/dons/dons-classes.html .
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  4. The problem for today:  How to find and work with obituaries in family history.
  5. NEWSPAPERS AND OBITUARIES

  6. Newspapers started in the US in 1690 in Massachusetts -- see Publick Occurences Both Forreign and Domestick, 1690 
  7. Obituaries in newspapers -- very sketchy at first, became more extensive in latter 1800's; small town newspapers usually had more information since it was big news; may be news articles, as well as the obit
  8. Interesting example -- Warren Ladd read his own obituary in the morning newspaper -- The Lowell Sun 30 Dec 1893 -- http://www.newspapers.com/clip/496797/read_his_own_obituary/ 
  9. Newspapers now charge to print obituaries -- is expensive, but a wonderful tribute, memorial, and they provide genealogy information -- Example:  Diane Manwaring Snow -- Salt Lake Deseret News 2012
  10. Some newspapers publish death notices, even if the family doesn't pay for an obituary
  11. Obituaries are public and not subject to privacy laws like vital records, so you can find current information from them; they are primary sources for death and burial only 
  12. FamilySearch has major project indexing obituaries now since they contain so much genealogical information
    1. FamilySearch never filmed many newspapers, so they contracted with NewsBank and other organizations to index their filmed obituaries and news articles
    2. Class at RootsTech 2015 (RT1913) estimated that FamilySearch Historical Records now has 5.47 billion searchable names and the obituary project will add another 7.5 billion searchable names so it will more than double the total number  of searchable names
    3. Articles about collaboration of FamilySearch and GenealogyBank (NewsBank) to index obituaries and news articles -- http://www.leedrew.com/2014/08/massive-us-obituary-collection-added-to.html  and  The Ancestry Insider 
  13. Starting in 1977 newspaper type was set digitally, so newspapers before 1977 are called historic and from 1977 on are called modern
  14. Many historic newspapers have never been digitized and are only available on film and in libraries -- Library of Congress is giving grants to digitize all newspapers
  15. FINDING OBITUARIES

  16. Check FamilySearch Historical Records -- to see just obituary collections there type "obituaries" (without the quotes) in type of records
  17. Check obituary indexes -- GenealogyBank (commercial),  Ancestry (commercial, but free to LDS and at FHC's),  Tributes.com (free),  Obituary Research Guide USA (guide to finding),  Online Searchable Death Indexes and Records (list of online indexes),  The Obituary Daily Times (index to current obits)
  18. Check  Find A Grave (free)  and  BillionGraves (free) -- they frequently have links to obituaries
  19. Google the name with variations, e.g. ' "Eldon Snow" OR "Eldon S. Snow" OR "Eldon Stafford Snow" ' (without the outside quotes) or "eldon AROUND(3) snow" (proximity search)
  20. Find the locality where they died -- Social Security Death Index  helps for U.S. 
  21. Determine newspapers in the locality at the time -- Linkpendium  has list by state and county, gives links for newspapers online and shows other newspapers of that time and locality; see also  Library of Congress Chronicling AmericaNewspaper Archives and Morgues , and  National Digital Newspaper Program 
  22. Write or visit public libraries in the locality -- many have collections of obituaries clipped from newspapers in their area, "vertical collections", i.e. folders in file cabinets 
  23. Utah records
    1. Early Utah listings in Deseret News -- see my notes  LDS and Utah Records  for complete listings
    2. Utah Digital Newspapers 
  24. Other newspaper websites
    1. BYU Library Newspaper Collection 
    2. MyHeritage -- includes World Vital records
    3. NewsBank Historical Newspapers -- commercial division of Proquest; estimated that they cover 90% of all current deaths in US -- Wikipedia NewsBank article
    4. Newspapers Online (commercial)

    CLUES IN OBITUARIES AND OTHER DEATH RECORDS

  25. Obituaries are (almost) primary documents for death and burial and secondary for everything else; verify all data and relationships given by finding additional sources
  26. Be sure to view the original obituary since there may be more, e.g. a photo; GenealogyBank obits do not include the photo even if the original newspaper obit did 
  27. People mentioned -- many will be relatives and you may get clues from where they come from
  28. Membership and activities mentioned -- churches, organizations, military, schools, occupations, businesses (may have licenses, e.g. medical, dental, construction), unions, places lived, hobbies, clubs, vacations
  29. May get additional clues from funeral parlor records, cemetery, sexton's records, burial plot (Is it a family plot with others buried nearby?)
  30. Symbols on tombstones give clues -- http://msghn.org/usghn/symbols.html
  31. City directories  may give additional information about addresses and businesses 
  32. Utah Death CertificatesOnline Utah Death RecordsUtah Cemeteries and Burials Index -- Do Google searches for other states 
  33. Check Veterans Administration, if they were military, and pension records
  34. SCREENSHOTS, SAVING, AND ATTACHING OBITUARIES

  35. Use a screen capture program to save screenshots of obituaries, e.g. FastStone Capture 5.3 (last free version) -- most obits are on scrolling windows; FastStone Capture can capture the entire scrolling window -- label it so it sorts in timeline order -- see Timeline notes on my webpage for details 
  36. If obituary is online, use RecordSeek (browser button is Tree Connect) to save it in your Family Tree Source Box and attach it in Family Tree
  37. Screenshots or scans of obits can also be posted on FamilySearch Family Tree.
  38. CONCLUSIONS

  39. The notes for my Newspaper class has many more links -- http://uvtagg.org/classes/dons/dons-classes.html  
  40. Obituaries contain a wealth of family history information -- save all links and info about the person to get a complete story

  41. Return to the  Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group Home Page  or  Don's Class Listings Page .