“Do you have obituaries for all your relatives who have died in the past 40 years or so? You should.”
Obituaries–even the most recent ones–can jump-start your research on a new family line or tackle a branch that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
Why? Our “collateral kin” (cousins, aunts and uncles) often lived near, intermarried with and otherwise had contact with other relatives we really want to find.
That’s where recent obituaries come in. The lists of names they contain help us identify relatives (and their spouses) we may not even have known about. Places mentioned can lead us to more records, as can clues about jobs, church affiliation and where someone went to school.
FamilySearch and GenealogyBank are indexing millions of recent obituaries from GenealogyBank’s extensive newspaper collection. Search the free index, with ongoing updates (24.4 million names recently added) at United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, 1980-2014. Search by name or browse by state and then by the name of the newspaper. Check back often!
Click here to read a post about how valuable an obituary was in helping me learn more about my long-lost great uncle Paul McClellan.
Learn more about newspaper research (including how to find obituaries) in Lisa’s book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. There’s an entire chapter on online digitized newspaper collections, and one on online resources for finding newspapers (either online or offline). Yet another chapter is devoted to African American newspapers. This book will teach you to find all those elusive obituaries–and plenty more mentions of your family in old newspapers.