Questions and Answers about Obituaries and Death Notices

What information can I find in a death notice or an obituary?

It is impossible to say for certain what information you will find in every case.  However, a typical death notice or obituary usually includes the following information: date of death, cemetery, and where the memorial service was or is to be held.  Sometimes other information on the deceased could be given such as the place of birth, names of close relatives, occupation, home address, cause of death, club or association memberships, and military service.  Often what are referred to in newspapers as obituaries are simply death notices.  An obituary is more like a news article, and will provide more details on a person’s life than a death notice normally does.  Both death notices and obituaries can provide valuable information, but keep in mind that you could spend a lot of time searching for one, only to conclude that it may not exist.  My own experience leads me to believe that I had many more ancestors who did not have death notices than those who did.

How do I find an obituary or death notice?

First ask relatives if they have the obituary or death notice you are interested in. This can save you a lot of time.  If no one has it, you will need to find out the date and place of death of the person you are looking for.  Once you have that information, you might try searching in our online newspaper and genealogy databases.  A listing of our databases can be found by clicking on our database tab on our homepage at http://www.connetquotlibrary.org.   Another suggestion for doing online searching is the Fulton Postcards newspapers website at http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html.  This free website contains a database of many New York State newspapers.  If you are looking for a death notice on someone who resided in New York City, the New York Herald in particular is a good newspaper to check. An index to the New York Herald death notices is available on some versions of Ancestry.com. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be included in the Ancestry.com Library Edition.  However, a book index (Index to Marriages and Deaths in the New York Herald compiled by James Maher) is available at the Patchogue Medford Public Library.  For the extensive former German-speaking community in New York City in the 19th and early 20th century, the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung contains many interesting death notices, though rarely, if ever, did they mention places of birth, and a printed index to the early period (1836-1870) has been published (Index to Marriage and Death Notices in the New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung, 1836-1870, compiled by Frank Biebel). This book is also available at the Patchogue Medford Public Library.  If you would like to know what newspapers are available through interlibrary loan, I suggest that you search the New York State Library catalog at http://www.nysl.nysed.gov.  The state library will often loan their newspapers on microfilm to public libraries, like ours.  These are just a few suggestions on how to locate an obituary or death notice.

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