Monday, May 9, 2016

I Need An Obituary... What Do I Do?

What?! You're looking for your Great-Grandma's obituary?

  • You're disappointed that you haven't been able to find the actual obituary online?
  • You've posted to your favorite Facebook group for help, to no avail?
  • Do you 'give up' now?
  • NO!

In the prehistoric old days, long before early genealogists could even imagine the "internet" there was still a way to locate Great-Grandma's obituary-- or other items found in a newspaper for example!

And these prehistoric research methods still work today!
Yes... I know... it is a slow process. But it can be done

There are countless genealogical & historical societies across the United States, just awaiting your research request. For a nominal fee, these seasoned researchers will happily assist you in finding Great-Grandma's obituary!

And thanks to the 'internet', researchers can now find these societies with ease! [In prehistoric days, we relied on books filled with these addresses!]

In my never ending effort to be helpful, I have included some of the best compilations of Historical/Genealogical Societies right here:

Of course not every society is listed within these links-- if you cannot find one-- Google searching is always encouraged! Especially with smaller, more rural societies that are often operated solely by a volunteer force. 

Feel free to list any other "society compilations" in the comments section, to share with others that you might know about & use!

Genealogy has become much easier in the last decade-- and with that, the feelings of "instant gratification" that come from finding records immediately... instead of awaiting the postman to bring the coveted answers 2 months later!

So it is important to remember that there are many resources out there, in fact far more, than on Ancestry or FamilySearch-- and this applies to not only Great-Grandma's obituary-- but also many other records that are found in archive repositories & courthouses!

We all want it "Right Now"... But don't forget your genealogical options outside of your computer!


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  2. Excellent post, Nicholas. Most of my breakthroughs have come from things not found online - a letter in a DAR file, a couple of lines in a court order book, etc. What is online is really just a small fraction of what can be found, if we are willing to do the work.

    1. Thanks, David! I think part of the problem is that so many folks jump into genealogy starting with when in reality there is so much more to learn before even beginning to use that tool. And of course, many today prefer to take the easier routes-- and avoid self-education altogether. The best we can do is try and gently educate each other... not easy. :)

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  4. Sorry for the multiple comments. My phone went a bit crazy. 🙁

  5. Great reminder. We've been so conditioned by the ease of the internet, it's easy to forget. I've also found that many libraries have obituaries and some have online indexes.

  6. I first started doing genealogy back in the late 80's and early 90's. I remember writing out letter after letter after letter to historical societies, bureaus of vital records, etc to request information. Then I'd log all those letters too, to keep track of whom I'd written to, who'd replied, etc. It was quite the process. I stopped doing genealogy when life got hectic and just got back into it after my mom passed away in 2012. I was thrilled to see how much information was now online, and I took over my mom's Ancestry account at that time (although she didn't create a tree on Ancestry; she did have our family info on RootsWeb). Ancestry and sites like it make it so much easier to find certain documents. But as you noted, not everything is online, and far from it really. I was so glad to have done genealogy in the past, and to have that experience and all of my old research on hand as my background and starting point to begin doing genealogy online. And my mother's RootsWeb info helps me fill in gaps when I need to. But I still have to contact agencies sometimes for help. Just a few weeks ago I contacted a historical society in Oklahoma to get help with locating some obits for two of my ggGrandparents, along with some info on the fate of their home they'd built. I should be getting that information in the mail this week. And that's information that was not online and that I wouldn't otherwise have been able to get without help. The Internet is wonderful and amazing and is so helpful, but it definitely can't provide us with everything we need in our hunt through our ancestral past. :)

  7. This is a helpful reminder.

    Another good reason to write (hard copy letter in the mail) to genealogical and historical societies is because it puts your research on their radar now and potentially for years. I mailed an inquiry to a Pennsylvania historical society and they mailed me photocopies of letters from someone researching the same ancestor back in the 1980s. The society may not have the answer now, but give it a year or two (hopefully not several decades) and someone else may come along to help advance your research.

  8. What about when many of these have failed? My grandfather was killed in the Bronx, NY in the 60's. I have the exact date written down at home I'm just not near my info at the moment. I have tried for years to find information concerning his death but get no where. I am from the mountains of NC and so was he. The info I have surrounding his death is very shady. My mother was a child when he died and has always wondered what happened. She was told he was shot and found in a dumpster but the info I have which came from the man that worked for the funeral home who took care of his remains has a different story. He was sent to retrieve the body in NY and was told that my grandfather was thrown from a balcony and killed. I can't even locate a death certificate. I've contacted the Bronx P.D. and vital statistics but NY is confusing especially since he supposedly died in one of the Burroughs. There records are handled differently than NY state records. Any tips would be greatly appreciated. He was a veteran. I thought since the federal government always leaves a paper trail and they paid for his headstone they may have info but that too was a dead end.