Obituaries and death indexes feature prominently in recently-updated collections at Ancestry.com. These collections take us around the world: from Australia to the U.S., Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, then to Germany and The Netherlands.
Featured: Obituaries and death indexes
Genealogy giant subscription website Ancestry.com has updated 17 collections, several of which relate to obituaries and other death records. Many of these collections focus on recent deaths, which may not seem as valuable at first glance. But many obituaries contain genealogical clues back one or two or more generations, helping you link ancestors and descendants to each other in your family trees.
Furthermore, clues about a person’s death can lead you to all kinds of additional records: civil or church death records, tombstone inscriptions, cemetery and funeral records, wills and probate records, and even memorials in church or civic publications. So this is one must-have record type for every possible person on your tree for the past 100 years, or even more!
All the following collections come from Ancestry.com, where you can go to Search > Catalog to find the individual collections named below. (Just enter the collection title in part or full.)
Australia/New Zealand obituaries
“Australia and New Zealand, Obituary Index, 2004-2018,” now has more than 377,000 records. This is a fairly recent collection, but we also reported last month on updates to a sister collection of Australian newspaper vital notices dating back to the 1830s.
British Isles obituaries and deaths
An offsite collection that’s indexed on Ancestry, “Web: UK, Coal Mining Accidents and Deaths Index, 1878-1935,” now has nearly 103,000 records. According to the collection landing page, “This data is published by The Coalmining History Resource Centre. You can often find additional information by visiting the source website, including references, publication information, comments, historical context, and even images.”
The “England and Wales, Death Index, 2007-2017” at Ancestry.com now has more than 1.2 million records. The collection description says, “This collection is a compiled index that covers approximately 55% of the total deaths that occurred in this time period. This index provides death details for people in England and Wales, specifically their name, gender, date of birth or age at death, date of death, and residence place at death.”
“UK and Ireland, Obituary Index, 2004-2018” now claims more than 1.6 million records of recent deaths. “The collection contains obituaries from hundreds of newspapers. We work with partners to scour the Internet regularly to find new obituaries and extract the facts into our database. Where available we include the original URL link to the source information.”
The “Scotland and Northern Ireland, Death Index, 1989-2017” now includes over 525,000 records. It’s “a compiled index that covers approximately 45% of the total deaths that occurred in this time period. This index provides death details for people in Scotland and Northern Ireland, specifically their name, gender, date of birth or age at death, date of death, and residence place at time of death. However, they do not include the General Register Office (GRO) reference information. The index also contains a small number of records for people in Jersey and Isle of Man.”
Canada obituaries and notarial records
Ancestry’s collection of “Quebec, Canada, Notarial Records, 1637-1935” now tops 16.5 million records! According to the site, “Notarial records are private agreements (contracts), written by notaries, who are considered legal professionals. This collection consists of notarial records for Quebec from the years 1637 to 1935. Each notary set up practice and kept sets of records for documents they created.”
Looking for Canadian obituaries? The “Canada, Obituary Collection, 1898-2018” now has more than 1.4 million entries. Its historical depth—more than 100 years—and its inclusion of recent deaths set it apart from some other obituary indexes reported here.
Germany vital records
The collection “Mainz, Germany, Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1798-1875” now has nearly 900,000 records. The site offers excellent background for this database: “The current capital of the Rhine-Palatinate state in Germany, Mainz has a rich and storied history….Since the late 18th century, Mainz has been at times under French, Prussian, and German rule, and for a brief spell, it was a democratic free state.
“Initially, registrations of births, marriages, and deaths were kept by religious denominations, but with French occupation in the 1790s, a system of civil registration modeled on the French system was implemented in 1798. This collection includes civil registrations of births, marriages, and deaths beginning in 1798 and extending to 1875. In 1876, civil registration was implemented across unified Germany, and some of those records can be found in other Ancestry collections.”
The Netherlands: Obituaries and more
The Ancestry.com collection “Netherlands, Newspaper Announcements Index, 1795-1945” now has over 5 million records. “This collection consists of an index to announcements and advertisements from various newspapers. Approximately forty percent of the records are death (Overlijden) announcements. Just under one-quarter of the records are birth (Geboorte) announcements, and nearly as many are miscellaneous (Diversen) announcements or advertisements. The remaining records consist of marriage (Huwelijk) announcements. Details vary depending on the event….Also included is the name of the archive where the original record can be found, as well as a link to the record on the source website. In most cases, additional information about the original record will be available via that link. In some cases, images of the original records may be available via that link as well.”
United States obituary and death records
Two enormous collections of U.S. obituary and other death records have been updated at Ancestry.com. “U.S., Cemetery and Funeral Home Collection, 1847-2018” has passed 9 million records. The site describes the collection as one harvested from cemetery and funeral home records all over the Internet (to which individual entries link, wherever possible). A related collection, “U.S., Obituary Collection, 1930-2018,” now has nearly 40 million records, and is also described as a compilation of records gleaned from many resources online.
Got Oregon Trail ancestors? The “Willamette Valley, Oregon, Death Records, 1838-2006” collection now has more than 158,000 records. It “contains a collection of various death records for Willamette Valley, Oregon. Most are from Marion County. They include funeral home records, cemetery records, newspaper obituaries, and death certificates transcribed or compiled by members of the Willamette Valley Genealogical Society.”
Now topping 5 million records, the “New York, Death Index, 1852-1956” collection “consists of indices of deaths from the state of New York. Details vary, but may include the following information for the deceased: name, death date, death city, age at death, gender [and] certificate number.”
More to learn about obituaries
Not motivated enough yet to pursue obituaries for your relatives? Read our free article, 12 things you can learn in obituaries, and you’ll probably change your mind! An obituary isn’t just a record of a death: it’s often a window into a lifetime.
About the Author: Sunny Morton
Sunny is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Premium Podcasts. She’s known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.
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