Tips to find an obituary for a specific person

Tips to find an obituary for a specific person

If you’ve ever read obituaries about your ancestors, you know how useful they can be. Biographical information, names of family, religious affiliation, and other information may be included. The information contained in an obituary for a specific person can assist fill in gaps, lead to other records, and break down brick barriers.


The oldest documented obituaries were written during the Roman era. For centuries, obituaries were reserved for the rich and famous. However, when newspapers got more popular, things began to change with the invention of the printing press and the linotype machine. Obituaries were an important tool for tracking both the living and the dead during the American Civil War.


An obituary may contain important details that can help you connect with your ancestors. It may even be able to fill in gaps you weren’t aware of! Hundreds of thousands of obituaries can be found in FamilySearch’s free online record collections. Is one of these your ancestor’s obituary? You can find an obituary for a specific person.


Determine the most important details in the obituary

If you know the following information, you will have a better chance of finding an obituary for a certain person:


A death date or a set of death dates. From a death certificate or a family record, you may be able to determine the exact date of death. Even if you don’t, other records can usually be used to determine a death date range. If your ancestor appears in the 1851 England census with her spouse, but her husband appears in the 1861 census as a widower, your ancestor most likely died between 1851 and 1861.

It’s a graveyard. You may not have this exact information, but even if you don’t, you can typically make an educated guess. According to religious, government, or other sources, where did the person last life?


Surname at the time of death for women. If you’re looking for a female ancestor in a country where women’s surnames were frequently changed at marriage, attempt to find out what the woman’s surname was at the time of her death. Vera Webb married a man with the surname Brantley, for example. She later married a man called Stephens for the second time. She never married a second time. Her obituary is more likely to be found under the name Vera Stephens.

Members of a family Information about known family members might assist you in determining if you have the correct obituary, especially when investigating a common name.


Obituaries can be found online.


It’s a good place to start because online searching is straightforward and quick. Where can you locate online obituaries?


Try looking via the Historical Records Collections on FamilySearch. In the Filter by Collection Title box, type “obit” to narrow down the results. That way, you’ll get all titles that contain the words “obituary” or “obituaries.”

Check out and, both of which are FamilySearch partners.

Visit sites like Find a Grave and Billion Graves to learn more about cemeteries. Obituaries made by users may be included in individual grave records.


Look at websites like Genealogy Bank and Newspaper Archive for newspaper archives. Google has news archives as well. Try Trove if you’re looking for information in Australia.

Smaller newspaper websites, such as Halton News or New York State Historic Newspapers, are also worth checking out. These websites can be a gold mine for ancestors who lived in the newspaper’s circulation area. You can find sites like this by doing a web search.



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