Finding Obituaries Online
May 5, 2023
Since obits are such a great source of information about ancestors, genealogists are eager to find them. Most obits were originally published in local newspapers. Fortunately, many online of these newspapers are now digitized and available online. Some are available behind a paywall. Others can be found on free sites. When you are looking for your ancestors’ obituaries, consider both free and paid newspapers. The type that you will need to use depends on the time and place that an obit was published.
Older obituaries tend to be easier to find on free sites. Many states have historic newspaper digitization projects. These projects often digitize older, out of copyright newspapers, although some do have more recent issues. The projects can be found by googling a state name plus “historic newspaper projects.” Some states have more extensive projects than others, and the format of these webpages varies greatly. Some sites, such as Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming, are excellent resources. Others not so much. You won’t know unless you check.
For a one-stop free site for digitized newspapers, try the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America webpage (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/ ). Most states will have newspapers on the site although coverage varies.
There are dozens of other free sites containing newspapers. Local libraries, state archives, genealogy society webpages, and university special collections and libraries are all possibilities. To get an overview of some of the places where newspapers can be found, check out the topic “newspapers” on the Family Search Wiki (https://www.familysearch.org/en/wiki/Newspapers ). This helpful site will give you hints on all facets of newspaper research, not just obits.
If you cannot find the newspapers you are looking for on a free site, there are several good pay-for-view sites. The three with the most comprehensive list of papers are Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/ ), Genealogy Bank (https://www.genealogybank.com ), and Newspaper Archive (https://www.newspaperarchive.com ). All three offer paid subscriptions that vary in cost depending on the length of subscription. If you want to try out one of these subscriptions, free trial periods are also available.
Nothing is more frustrating than to subscribe to a newspaper website and then learn that it doesn’t contain the newspapers you need. Before subscribing to any of the paid websites, be sure to check exactly what newspapers the website contains. If you find a newspaper of interest, be sure to check the dates covered. Some sites contain limited runs of certain newspapers.
Digitized newspapers have become a useful genealogical tool. It’s gratifying to locate an obituary with just a few clicks of a mouse. However, not all newspapers are digitized. Next week I’ll discuss some strategies to access obits from those newspapers.