Historical photos and images can bring depth and understanding to genealogical findings. In the case of sharing your family history with others in your family who don’t share your passion for genealogy, they are an essential part of bringing family history to life.
Flickr is a popular photo, image and video hosting and sharing service. It’s a great platform for sharing your favorite photos with family and friends. It’s also an excellent place to find images that fit into your family history.
An important part of the Flickr world is Creative Commons, which describes itself as part of a “worldwide movement for sharing historical and out-of-copyright images.”
Groups and individuals alike upload old images, tag and source them, and make them available to others through the Creative Commons. And when it comes to groups, the list of participants is impressive.
When searching the Creative Commons, be sure to look for your favorite libraries and historical societies. If you don’t find them today, don’t worry. Check back regularly because new content is being added all the time.
Here’s another example of what you can find at the Creative Commons. The Netherlands Institute of Military History (Nederlands Instituut voor Militaire Historie) has a photostream.
“Exercise Field Artillery Corps” album, image AKL092038, Netherlands Institute of Military History uploads at Flickr Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nimhimages/16026248719/.
According to the Netherlands Institute of Military History blog, “The Institute exists to serve all those with an interest in the military past of the Netherlands. Its sphere of activities covers the Dutch armed forces on land, at sea and in the air, from the sixteenth century until now. The staff of the NIMH administer a unique military history collection containing approximately 2 million images, of which they will be uploading many to the site.”
Back in 2015 when we first wrote about their brand new photostream it only included a couple dozen images, like the one shown here. Today they have well over 3,300.
Tips for Finding and Using Historical Photos at the Creative Commons
Searching for Historical Photos: On a photostream home page, click the search icon (magnifying glass) just above the first row of photos in the upper right corner. A search box will pop up at the top of the page. Enter Keywords to search for images within that photostream. (Image below)
Location isn’t Everything: Just like with brick and mortar libraries, don’t let the location of the library or archive hosting the photostream fool you! Their collections are not limited to only items in their area. If you’re in search of something specific, try the Flickr Advanced Search page here.
Understanding Downloading and Copyright: Those who post images to Flickr Creative Commons offer different rights to those who want to download and use their images. Described here (and searchable here by the kinds of rights you want), those rights may include the ability to use a photo as long as it’s for noncommercial purposes and proper credit is given. Perfect for a responsible, source-citing genealogist!
10 Favorite Flickr Photostreams with Historical Focus
It would be impossible to list all of the potential photostreams at Flickr’s Creative Commons that feature historical photos, so I won’t even try. However, I’m happy to provide this list of favorites, which illustrates the breath and depth of possibilities. I hope it inspires you to search out your favorite library or archive at the Creative Commons.
(Organized by number of photos)
Internet Archive Book Images
Though not currently organized by Albums or Galleries, there is something here for absolutely everybody! Use the search feature to zero in on what you want. (See tips section below)
The British Library
A gloriously eclectic mix of images. Just one example: World War I: The Canadian Experience. This photo album covers 1895 and 1924, and contain depictions of Canadians’ experiences of the First World War. From the British Library: “Either produced by photographers on home soil or individuals in Europe employed by Lord Beaverbrook’s ‘Canadian War Records Office’ the photographs provide a wide ranging account of the many Canadians involved in and impacted by the war.”
The National Archives UK
the UK government’s official archive contains more than 1,000 years of history, so their photostream is not to be missed! Nicely organized into Albums focused on location, the images offer a sampling of their massive holdings.
The U.S. National Archives
Nicely organized into a vast array of albums, these photos represent only a small sampling of the photographs in their collection which totals more than 25 million photos and 20,000 graphic images. Early on they focused on uploading photos from the Women’s Bureau, the Environmental Protection Agency, and a few staff favorites. According to the National Archives, “These photographs, most taken by agents of Federal agencies over the years, cover a wide range of subjects and themes documented in the work of the United States government. Higher resolution versions of many of these images can be obtained from the U.S. National Archives by following the links located below each image.”
SMU Libraries Digital Collections
Southern Methodist University Digital Collections includes the digital libraries and online digital collections from the six SMU Libraries. You’ll find an emphasis on digital collections of Mexican photographs, locomotives, Texas history, art, and currency notes, and more.
National Library of Norway
These images either fall in the public domain or the copyright belongs to the library and has been wavered. You’ll find photos, postcards, stereograph cards and other ephemera depicting life in Norway. With all of the portraits you may just spot an ancestor!
National Library of Norway photostream
The New York Public Library
Considering how many Americans passed through New York, this photostream is definitely worth a visit.
National Library of Ireland on The Commons
Here you’ll find a range of items from the Ephemera Collections of the National Library of Ireland. They provide a snapshot of different periods in Ireland’s social, political, economic and cultural history. They’ve also added items from their Manuscript collections, Prints and Drawings, Exhibitions, as well as photos from Library Events.
UBC Library Digitization Centre
of the University of British Columbia
Just one of many Canadian library photostreams, the UBC Library shows off it’s diverse image collection in well organized albums. My personal odd-ball favorite is the Tremaine Arkley Croquet Collection!
Library Company of Philadelphia
They’ve organized their current photo collection into more than 50 albums, making it easy to quickly spot the historical collections. Notable albums feature unique historical images from the Civil War era.
Our female ancestors in the U.S. military had to serve incognito. Only in the 20th century have women served openly and with greater frequency—and in combat roles. Here, military expert Michael Strauss salutes the women who have bravely served, including one in...
If there’s one thing we want to see coming online every single day, it’s new digitized genealogy records! A genealogical brick wall that has been sitting dormant for years can be broken down if just the right records becomes available. And we never know when that will happen.
This week I’m sharing some of the genealogy records that have come online in the last few weeks. These records comes from across the United States. They include wills and probate, police and mug shots, and cemetery records. Perhaps your ancestor’s record is among them.
As confirmed in the introduction of the publication, the Maryland Calendar of Wills was compiled in response to an already “long existent and steadily increasing need for such work, a need not only of genealogists, nor only for Marylanders now living in the State, but also for the large class of persons, whose ancestors are to be numbered among the men and women who took part in the nation-building as begun on Maryland shores, and whose descendants are now to be found in every State of the Union.”
Each record is available in a PDF format. Use the previous and next buttons at the top of the page to browse through the publication.
The General Index of Wills of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, 1633 to 1900 was compiled by Margaret Roberts Hodges from original indices, the collection of records were published by the Carter Braxton Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
You can also Search this index to more than 107,000 probate records from Maryland between 1634 to 1777 for transcripts and images of both Prerogative Court and County records. The amount of information listed in each record will vary but looking at images is always recommended.
Preceding the implementation of the first Maryland State Constitution in 1777, two sets of probate records were maintained, probate business was conducted at the capital by the central agency which, for most of the Colonial period, was known as the Prerogative Court.
The Commissary General was the presiding officer of the court and a Deputy Commissary was then appointed for each county. The Deputy Commissary recorded each probate record that was brought into their office, periodically they would send the papers filed in their office to the Prerogative Court where they would be recorded again.
Mugs Shots and More Going Back 150 Years
Records from the Indianapolis Fire Department and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department have been digitized and are available online.
Thanks to a $1.8 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, The Central Library in Indianapolis recently unveiled the collection, which includes some items dating back 150-years.
The items have been added to an existing collection of from the Indianapolis Firefighters Museum and include:
historical photos and
prisoner mug shots
IMPD Deputy Chief Michael Spears said “The City of Indianapolis has a police department of which it can be extremely proud. This collection is the most complete and definitive collection of documents, photographs, videos and other exhibits ever compiled.”
“The Indianapolis Fire Department has a rich and proud 160-year history, and through our partnership with the Indianapolis Public Library, we are preserving that history for future generations,” said Tom Hanify, Professional Firefighters Union of Indiana President.
You can search this unique collection for free at http://www.digitalindy.org/ If you have family history rooted in the Indianapolis area, you’re in for a treat because the website include a wide range of historical content!
118,000+ New Cemetery Records Added
From Internment.com: Interment.net added 118,768 new cemetery records since our last report (January 2018), covering 49 cemeteries across 14 states.
Interment.net is one the oldest and largest archives of cemetery transcriptions, since 1997, and is still committed to serving genealogists at no cost.
Contained on our website are tens of millions of records, covering tens of thousands of cemeteries, from across the world.
Our records are obtained from databases direct from cemeteries, churches, libraries, and government offices, as well as from complete works of tombstone transcriptions.
Here’s the list of cemetery records published recently:
Brome County, Saint-Cajetan Cemetery, Mansonville, 722 records
Arthabaska County, Lorne Cemetery, Kingsley Station, 63 records
Arthabaska County, Trout Brook Cemetery, Tingwick, 127 records
Temiscouata, Cabano Cemetery, Temiscouata-sur-le-Lac, 2,117 records
Bruce County, Culross and Teeswater Cemetery, Teeswater, 2,268 records
County Wexford, Ballyhuskard Graveyard, Ballynastraw, 120 records
Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Bayview Cemetery, Ketchikan, 5,291 records
Apache County, St. Johns Cemetery, St. Johns, 1,400 records
Monterey County, Holy Trinity Cemetery, Greenfield, 500+ records
Monterey County, Oak Park Cemetery, Greenfield, 500+ records
Napa County, Pioneer Cemetery, Calistoga, 950 records
Los Angeles County, Fairmount Cemetery, Azusa, 250 records
Genesee County, Garden of Peace Cemetery, Swartz Creek, 56 records
Genesee County, Swartz Creek Cemetery, Swartz Creek, 261 records
Clinton County, Rose Cemetery, Bath Township, 1,442 records
Clinton County, Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Bath Township, 1,806 records
Carver County, Chanhassen Pioneer Cemetery, Chanhassen, 850 records
McLeod County, Oakland Cemetery, Hutchinson, 8,755 records
Anoka County, East Bethel Cemetery, East Bethel, 100 records
Anoka County, Old East Bethel Cemetery, East Bethel, 178 records
Anoka County, Oak Leaf Cemetery, East Bethel, 650 records
New Madrid County, Evergreen Cemetery, New Madrid, 2,500 records (approx)
New Madrid County, Davis Cemetery, Kewanee, 14 records
New Madrid County, East Side Cemetery, New Madrid, 128 records
New Madrid County, Cedar Grove Cemetery, New Madrid Township, 25 records
New Madrid County, A.C. LaForge Cemetery, New Madrid Township, 4 records
New Madrid County, Augustine Cemetery, New Madrid, 2 records
New Madrid County, Byrne-Howard Cemetery, New Madrid, 32 records
St. Louis County, Eberwein Family Cemetery, Chesterfield, 9 records
St. Louis County, Harugari Cemetery, Manchester, 21 records
St. Louis County, St. Mary’s Cemetery, Hazelwood, 1,071 records
St. Louis County, St. Monica Cemetery, Creve Coeur, 801 records
St. Louis County, St. Peter Cemetery, Kirkwood, 3,589 records
St. Louis County, St. Ferdinand Cemetery, Hazelwood, 3,426 records
St. Charles County, Ste. Philippine Cimetiere, St. Charles, 369 records
Jefferson County, St. Vincent Cemetery, Fenton, 33 records
Scotts Bluff County, East Lawn Cemetery, Mintare, 1,900 records
Allegany County, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Houghton, 724 records
Allegany County, Caneadea Cemetery, Caneadea, 430 records
Allegany County, East Caneadea Cemetery, Caneadea, 102 records
Nash County, Rocky Mount Memorial Park, Rocky Mount, 4,192 records
Montgomery County, Happy Corner Cemetery, Englewood, 600 records
Comanche County, Ft. Sill National Cemetery, Elgin, 6,093 records
Elk County, Denison Family Cemetery, Jay Township, 3 records
Anderson County, M. J. “Dolly” Cooper Veterans Cemetery, Anderson, 2,811 records
Richland County, Fort Jackson National Cemetery, Columbia, 5,548 records
Lawrence County, Richardson Cemetery, Centerpoint, 55 records
Swisher County, Rose Hill Cemetery, Tulia, 6,107 records
Hays County, San Marcos City Cemetery, 6,391 records
King County, St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Kent, 760 records
Cowlitz County, Longview Memorial Park, Longview, 17,335 records
Kittitas County, Cacciatori D’Africa Cemetery, Roslyn, 25 records
Klickitat County, Stonehenge WWI Memorial, Maryhill, 14 records
Marinette County, Forest Home Cemetery, Marinette, 22,800 records
Marinette County, Calvary Cemetery, Marinette, 48 records
Marinette County, Woodlawn Cemetery, Marinette, 2,400 records
The Department of Veterans Affairs and National Cemetery Administration has created a new platform that creates digital memorials for all veterans in national cemeteries.
According to the website, the Veterans Legacy Memorial is “an online memorial space for Veterans managed by the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). NCA manages 136 national cemeteries as shrine spaces to honor our Nation’s Veterans and extends memorialization of the 3.7 million Veterans interred in NCA cemeteries to this digital memorial space, providing a VLM profile page for each.
To find the memorial profile of a Veteran, please enter the name of your Veteran in the format of First Last with no commas (“John Doe” not “Doe, John”). To search with additional information (branch of service, cemetery name, etc.), please click on Advanced Search.”
What Has Replaced Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness? It’s a question on many family historians minds, include Genealogy Gems Podcast listener Richard who wrote in with this question:
“Many years ago Bridgett Schneider hosted the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness website (RAOGK). This was one of the best sites to get assistance from people willing to give back at a free or very nominal cost (reimbursement). I know someone has attempted to create the same type of page using Wikia (RAOGK wiki) and I have just started working with it, but there are not many volunteers for this site yet.
I was a volunteer for the original RAOGK and will attempt to do the same with the wiki page, but I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction for any other types of pages like this. I depend on others so much because my parents’ families are from all over the U.S. My father was career Navy, joining in Minnesota going to Colorado, where my parents met, then moving to Washington DC area, Florida and back to DC. My mom’s family are all from the Minnesota and Oregon areas, so traveling to find information is not always easy. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.”
Here’s the scoop on RAOGK:
You’re right, no other website has really taken hold to replace RAOGK. And that’s because Facebook has filled the bill. Genealogists are joining in droves, and many create Facebook accounts strictly for their genealogy efforts. You certainly don’t have to have personal information posted in order to take advantage of the “genealogical crowd sourcing” ability of Facebook.
By “friending” other genealogists you start to build a group of ‘genealogy friends’ you can turn to with questions. But when it comes to specific areas, I go to the Facebook search box and search for Facebook groups on the topic I’m interested in.
For example, I am researching the Munns, Bax and Dixon families of Margate, Kent, England. A search or “Margate History” brought up a fantastic group devoted to the history of Margate. They have amassed an unbelievable amount of shared info, photos, postcards and documents. Not everyone is a genealogist, but everyone is interested in the history of Margate. It’s the first place I would go to post a question or request for help, and inevitably someone will have the answer or be in a location where they can help me.
Although the Margate group is “history” focused, you can also search adding the word Genealogy to your location search for a group.And if you don’t see a group that meets your needs, create one! From your Facebook account:
1. on the left side of the page under GROUPS click “Find New Groups”
2. Here you can join groups (Facebook will likely recommend some based on your profile interests)
3. In the upper right corner click the green + CREATE GROUP button
4. Give your group a name and select whether it is public or private
5. Start posting content to your group page
6. Start promoting the page on your profile page while also friending other genealogists and soon you will likely have a vibrant group that can assist each other based on a shared interest.
Bottom line: Facebook is the new RAOGK. And the upside is that Facebook expands the resources to folks who may be in a position to help through a shared interest while not necessarily being a genealogist.
I hope that helps. Let me know how it goes, and thanks for being a part of the Genealogy Gems community.
This week in Elevenses with Lisa episode 73 we are talking obituaries and the important role they can play in your genealogy. Obituaries can reveal a lot of really interesting and helpful information about your ancestors! My guest is Shannon Combs-Bennett, the author of the article A Genealogist’s Guide to Finding and Using Historical Obituaries published in Family Tree Magazine.
In Elevenses with Lisa episode 73 Lisa Louise Cooke and Shannon Combs-Bennett will discuss:
The backstory on obituaries (which is vital to understand about any genealogical record)
what they can tell you about your ancestors
where you can find them both online and offline
and strategies you can use when they aren’t where you expected to find them.
Episode 73 Show Notes
(Please note: This interview transcription has been minimally altered for ease of reading and clarity.)
Lisa: I think of obituaries as being such a cornerstone of the work that we do. It’s often one of the first places people start, right?
Shannon: Yeah, it is, they’re pretty accessible for most people. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper, though the further back in time you go. But they seem to be one of the basic, I guess you could call staples, bread and butter type documents that genealogists try to find.
Type of Death Records Found in Newspapers
(01:28) Lisa: Exactly. And we typically find them in newspapers. So, I’d love to start there. Because obituaries are not the only kind of death record we’re finding in newspapers, right?
Shannon: There are actually several different types of death records published in a newspaper.
Obituaries Of course the obituaries, which are the most common.
Funeral Announcements You can also have funeral announcements. So, you might not get the obituary, but maybe you can find the announcement that this funeral home is servicing this family or that this wake will occur at such and such place, or the religious ceremony will occur at this church with graveside services.
Card of Thanks In addition to that, you sometimes can find what were called for a long time card of thanks where families would put articles in the newspaper, essentially, in the advertisement and personal sections, thanking people for coming and participating in the service of their loved one.
So, there’s a wide variety of different types of information. And if you don’t know it’s there, you don’t know to go look for it.
Lisa: Exactly. I remember I was doing some newspaper research in the British Newspaper Archives, from my husband’s family. I didn’t find a death notice, but there was an entire coroner’s inquest published in the newspaper! And I didn’t realize that we could find something like that. So, it’s wonderful to see the depth of the kinds of information that surround the death of a person that could be found in newspapers.
Shannon: And those aren’t as common here in the United States. But if your loved one died in a larger city, you can sometimes find (coroner inquests) in the newspapers. I was doing some research and found in from San Francisco, and they have published books of coroner’s inquests, so they’re not in newspapers, but the announcement was in the newspaper that there was an inquest. Then I was able to go to the library and thankfully they were all digitized. I found them online where I would find all sorts of information about the person, their family, the circumstances of their death. And if you’re doing family medical histories, sometimes those can be real gold mines.
The History of Obituaries
(4:03) Lisa: So, let’s take a moment and talk about the history of obituaries. Because, as you know, when we understand the history of any kind of genealogical record, then we do a lot better job of utilizing it. Please give us a little bit of a background story on obituaries. How long have they been around?
Colonial Times Shannon: You can find obituaries in even some of the earliest colonial newspapers here in the United States. Sometimes they were passing through an area and died. Or you might see information that someone had died abroad and there might be a little note in the newspaper.
Early 19th Century In the early 1800s you can see themes developing around newspaper obituaries. (And sometimes if it was a very important person to the community you’ll be more than likely to find it.) These early newspaper obituaries don’t always have a lot of family information, but you’ll find all sorts of virtuous prose written about them where they were talking about how godly and worthy they were and those types of things.
Then the obituary started to morph and actually became a part of the personal and advertisement section of the newspaper. So, one reason you may not find information in an obituary for your ancestor is because your family didn’t have the money to pay for the obituary to put be put in. And then if they weren’t a real prominent person, they wouldn’t get the prime real estate in the actual reading sections. So, yeah, if your family were on the poor side, you might not find anything about them, unfortunately.
20th Century (06:06) And then, as the 20th century came in these started to evolve from a celebration of death to a celebration of people’s accomplishments. You start finding late 1800s into the early 20th century is how the obituary as we know it today started to evolve. It went from maybe one or two lines about a person dying to three and four paragraphs about them, their families, especially if they had, you been a pensioner or veteran, or a pioneer of a town, the early 20th century saw a lot of those people who had really struck it out west for their fame and fortune start passing away in those towns. Sometimes you would even find the obituary, not only in the place where they died, but in their hometowns back further to the east. You might find obituaries, especially for those pioneering folk you could call them, back where they came from.
Lisa: That’s a great point. And that’s really kind of a nice newspaper research tip that expands beyond obituaries. It’s that idea that people often started back east, but then relocated out west, and particularly with the telegraph coming into play, they could send that article back to where they came from and get it to all those people who would be interested to know whatever happened to that person.
21st Century Now in the 21st century we’re moving more and more away from print newspapers for the obituaries. We’re going to almost completely digital newspapers for the obituaries and digital obituary sites. I’ve had several of my close family members in the last 10 years who have passed away, and the funeral homes are offering to put obituaries on their websites. And when my mother passed away, I was speaking with the funeral home director, and they had kept records. This was in Texas. And they had records going back several decades with written obituaries that, if you called the funeral home, you could see if they had one written up. It was not even necessary published in the paper, because the family couldn’t afford it. But the funeral home had it.
Lisa: How interesting!
It really drives home the point that you’ve got to know what kind of timeframe you’re looking at right to see what you can find and where you’d expect to find it.
Obituaries in Small vs. Large Cities
(08:48) I would imagine it’s true that in small towns, you might be more likely to find obituaries then perhaps let’s say in Chicago.
Shannon: Yeah, because you know, everybody knows everybody, in a small hometown. Those would be more likely to have the longer, more in depth information written about a person talking about their family, and where they came from, what they did, if they were the pillar of a community, or even just a local farmer.
And then in the cities, unless you were a prominent citizen, that’s where you’re more than likely to find a paragraph or less, maybe only even a few sentences: first and last name, age, died on this date, and maybe that’s all you get, unfortunately.
Where to Find Obituaries in Old Newspapers
(09:39) Lisa: Let’s talk about where to find these Historical Newspapers. Where do we start?
Shannon: Okay. Well, there are a lot of different newspapers online.
Chronicling America at the Library of Congress Of course, the Library of Congress Chronicling America is a great start. See if they have one of the local newspapers for the place that you’re researching for the timeframe your ancestors were there. Start there because it’s free – you got to start with the free resources first.
FamilySearch Family search also has a free obituary, historical obituary site that you can search. (Ed. Note: this link will take you to a resource page at the FamilySearch Wiki which includes many links to sources for obituaries.)
And then you can move into the paid / subscription websites such as:
(Disclosure: Thank you for using these affiliate links. We will be compensated if you make a purchase and that helps support this content which we make available for free.)
(Ed. Note: Of course there are many other websites featuring obituaries, and some are niche websites unique to their location. Google searching can help you locate these resources. Learn more about my strategies for strategic googling here.)
Obituaries at Libraries
(10:36) Sometimes you can also contact the local library for the place the person had died. I’m originally from Indiana, and I’ve had good luck calling around to the various county libraries. Unfortunately, they don’t have a lot of the newspapers digitized. But for a small fee, they were willing to send me a photocopy. And in some cases, now I can get email PDFs for a few dollars. I like to support the local library, so I’m okay with doing that. Because our local libraries need a lot of support.
Don’t give up if you can’t find it digitized, is what I’m trying to say. There’s a lot of information to be found, and there are a lot of places out there, especially for older newspapers. Be resourceful I guess you could say.
(11:29) Lisa: You talked about online indexes. So sometimes we don’t get the actual obit but we could get enough information out of the index that we could then go track it down in person.
Shannon: Yeah, that’s very true. I’ve used those several times. One of the links that is in the article is to the Dayton, Ohio index. And you can put in as much information as you know. Sometimes I find it’s easier to start with a little bit of information, and then sort through and add details to weed through the large number. But all it will give you is the person’s name and the date of publication, so not even the date of death (so you know it’s somewhere in that timeframe) and then the page, issue, column number so that you can contact the Dayton Public Library, and they can help get you the paper. And a lot of the libraries are like that.
Obituary Search Strategies
(12:29) Lisa: When you do online searches for obituaries, do you tend to just go straight in and do a search on the name? Or do you go into the card catalog and find newspaper and obituary collections first and then try to search? Do you have any special tactics that you use to try to make sure you’re successful?
Shannon: That’s actually a really great question. It depends. If I have a really unique name and I am pretty sure of the location, maybe timeframe of the death, sometimes I’ll just start looking for that person. Especially like I said, if it’s a really unique name.
Unique Names I had an ancestor named Bathsheba Kelly. I’m thinking there’s not many people named Bathsheba. So I was pretty confident maybe if I just started looking for her by name and the timeframe she died in Ohio, we’d be good to go.
Other times, yeah, I first want to narrow it down by collection because you don’t want to just go searching willy nilly, right? That’s going to waste a lot of time. Try to find like a five year, maybe a 10 year span. If you’re not quite sure, having a timeframe will help weed them down.
Common Names If it’s a common name, you need to add in a lot more. Maybe those advanced searches. It may take you going town by town, or year by year as you go wading through all the names.
Indexes If there is an index for the database I do like to use those first because that can help weed out a lot of information right off the bat.
Printing Print it out, write it down, keep it on a separate browser tab or whatever you need to do so that you can methodically keep track of your search. That can really help. Don’t give up!
Obituary Publishing Timeframes
(14:54) Lisa: I know I had an experience once where I was searching a weekly newspaper in California on microfilm, and I knew that obituaries were always on page seven, because I’ve just had been through so many issues of this particular newspaper. I looked at the obituary column in the next issue following the death of my great grandfather, and he wasn’t there. And I was like, What? I looked at the next week and he wasn’t there, and I went back a week. I wondered if maybe I got the date wrong. It turned out his obituary was on the front page! And that goes back to us saying that some people were kind of considered the pioneer of their town, even though in the family, he wasn’t Mr. Celebrity or anything, but he was revered for that. And they had him on the front page.
I’d love to have you touch on when you don’t see them where you think you’re going to see them. And what’s the timing of when we could expect to see their obituary published? And do you have any other tips on when they’re not where you think they’ll be? What are the kinds of places within the paper where you tend to find these kinds of articles?
Shannon: Yeah, that’s actually a really good question. Again, it depends. Like you said, even if you don’t think that your family member was someone famous, if you’re not finding the obituary where you expect to find it, try going through the newspaper cover to cover.
Sometimes if your ancestor died in mysterious circumstances, there might not be an obituary, but there might be an article about a court case. So that’s always a good thing to know. Because those death records, especially if it was salacious gossip, is going to turn up somewhere.
Lisa: It’s newsworthy.
Shannon: That’s right. If it’s newsworthy, it’s going to be in there.
Where Obituaries are Located in a Newspaper
(16:46) I was recently doing some research on professional genealogists. I wanted to find out when genealogists became a profession here in the United States. I figured if an obituary of a professional genealogist told me they were 80 years old and when they died, then I can kind of backtrack to when, they started became a professional. I did not find these obituaries in the late 1800s where I thought they should be. Sometimes they were in the Personal section. Sometimes they were in the miscellaneous advertisement section. But then once again, it goes back to somebody had to pay the newspaper to put this in it. So, they wouldn’t be in these larger newspapers. I was looking at like the New York Times, The Hartford newspaper, the Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. I wasn’t finding these obituary pages for them. I was finding obituaries in the Personal section, which kind of threw me for a loop a little bit.
Lisa: You kind of have to follow the money, right?
Lisa: It’s so interesting that you’re talking about the history of genealogists, because I remember, quite a few years ago, I went to the census records. I started searching on genealogist as an occupation or the industry. That’s really interesting too to see who was doing it 100 years ago.
Obituaries were not always published the very next week after a person’s death, right?
Shannon: Right. A lot of people think that they are. I guess 1) it depends on the religion and the culture that you’re looking at – what was done in that time frame. Or 2) it depends on the place. This might sound kind of odd to some of us who don’t live in really cold places, but when the ground freezes in our northern most states sometimes you wouldn’t be able to bury somebody until the next spring. And, and you may have a death notice when they died, but then a full obituary for when the service and the burial took place. So sometimes you may have several months gap in between when they died, and when information was published about them in the newspaper.
The other thing maybe, especially if they were in business, or if they traveled, or if they were in the military, they could have died abroad. So, you’re only going to hear the information see the death notice or the obituary when the ship lands.
Information Found in Obituaries
(20:00) Lisa: Before I let you go, I’d love to have you talk about the Obituary Fast Facts section in your article. What are some of the interesting facts and little bits that you want to share with us?
Shannon: Sure! Well, some of the things that you can find in an obituary can be surprising. As genealogists, we want to find all the family information we can. We want to know when they were born, who their parents were, if possible, family members, that type of thing. But other things that you can find in obituaries are :
Employment Information employment information, which can then give you clues as to where else they might have been.
Migration Information If they were a migrant, to that area, it can give you information, you know, where they originated from. If they immigrated to the Untied States, sometimes they list that they landed at the port of Philadelphia, or New York, or New Orleans, or wherever. And that can help lead information for passenger lists and future information.
Associated People But most importantly, people who are listed in the obituary have to be somebody known to the deceased person, either a friend or a family, or a close acquaintance. I want to encourage people to not forget those associate people and collateral lines, because you might be able to find information about your ancestor while researching them.
Lisa: Great point!
About Shannon Combs-Bennett
(21:30) Shannon, tell folks a little bit more about yourself and what you do.
Shannon: I’m an author, lecturer, and an educator, full time student – a perpetual student is what my father would call me. You can find me at my blog, which is Trials and Tribulations of a Self-Taught Family Historian. You can also find me on Facebook and LinkedIn and on Twitter, I’m not I’m not on Twitter as much as I used to be. I’ve spoken all across the United States. I’ve even spoken internationally in Scotland and in France for the Heraldic and Genealogical Congress. But I think that’s because I come from a background of teachers. I love educating, writing, lecturing and helping people learn more information about their pasts and about who they are and who their families were. It doesn’t hurt that my undergraduate degree was in human genetics. So sometimes I can throw a little bit of that DNA in there.