6 Tips for Searching Obituaries on Newspapers.com

Newspapers.com News, Finds and Tips

Newspapers.com is a valuable resource for locating your ancestors’ obituaries and death notices. Our indexed digital newspapers make the process much easier than sorting through hard copies or microfilm. Perhaps the most convenient way to find obituaries on our site is by using the “search” feature. While Newspapers.com’s “search” is straightforward and easy to use, you can make your searches even more effective by using a few of the following tricks and tips:

  1. Learn how to use Newspapers.com’s “search” feature. This tip may sound obvious, but it’s essential. Searching for obituaries will be a lot easier if you’re already familiar with how to do a general search of the papers on our site. For instance, did you know that you can narrow your results by date, state, and/or paper? If you haven’t watched our helpful “Searching Newspapers.com” video yet, do it!

  2. Add key terms to your search. Say you’re searching for the obituary of John Bair. If you search just for [“John Bair”], you’ll get many results that don’t have anything to do with a possible obituary. But if you instead search for [“John Bair” obituary], it will narrow down your results to much more likely candidates. Such key terms include “obituary”, “death”, “died”, “dead,” and “funeral.”

  3. Search using alternative names, nicknames, abbreviations, initials, and common misspellings. If a search of an ancestor’s legal name doesn’t bring up the obituary you want, try different variations of their name. Many older newspapers identified men by their first and middle initials along with their last names, while others sometimes used abbreviations (e.g., “Wm.” for William). If you’re searching in obituaries for a female ancestor, you’ll want to try also looking for her under her husband’s name (or husband’s initials)—for example, “Mrs. George E. Moring”, “Mrs. George (Grace) Moring,” or “Mrs. G. E. Moring.” And don’t forget to try a search using a woman’s maiden name.

  4. Know when to narrow your search and when to widen it. The more information you know about your ancestor, the easier it will be to narrow your results to find their obituary more quickly. For example, if you know your ancestor lived between 1870 and 1928 and spent their whole life in Kansas, you can narrow your search to those parameters of time and place to get rid of many superfluous results. However, don’t automatically discount results from a wider search just because they’re not from the city or state where your ancestor died. Obituaries may have been published in the place where they spent the majority of their life instead of the one where they died. Or obituaries may be in newspapers from the city where the deceased’s relatives lived.

  5. Save your search. If you didn’t find the obituary you want, save your search by selecting the “Save/Notify” button in the top-right corner of your search results (watch this video for more details on how to do this). By doing so, Newspapers.com will automatically notify you when any newspapers are added that fit your search criteria.

  6. Don’t be afraid to browse instead of search. Newspapers.com uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to find names and terms in the newspapers. However, while OCR can locate many instances of the words you’re searching for, it isn’t 100 percent accurate, especially for newspapers that are in poor condition. So if a search doesn’t turn up an obituary you’re looking for, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not on Newspapers.com. It just may mean that you’ll have to look for the obituary the old-fashioned way, going through likely newspapers page by page until you find what you’re looking for.

Ready to begin searching for those obituaries? Get started on our Search page.

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65 thoughts on “6 Tips for Searching Obituaries on Newspapers.com

  1. We have not found this service worthwhile as the newspapers we need to access are not included. Those that are don’t seem to respond in the manner described so I doubt if we renew.

    1. Sorry we don’t have the right papers yet. Keep checking, we add 2-3 million more pages each month.

      1. I too find that the newspapers are not helpful in researching my ancestry. The papers are not located in the cities in which my ancestors resided. Most of them lived in Southwestern Pennsylvania and the local paper is now out of print and can only be obtained at the Brownsville, PA library. It was the Brownsville Telegraph and is only on microfiche at the library. I’m hanging onto the subscription but it isn’t much help to me.

  2. I’m glad I subscribed. I found several great articles about family the first few days. Not having much luck lately, but I still enjoy reading the old papers

  3. I have used your system on and off for years. I have saved info and got feed back for areas my ancestress have never been or lived. Ie. Dominic guidotti lived in Illinois and no. Calif. I continue to get info from San Diego. He died in so. San Francisco in 1956.

    I searched for my other grandpa gustav Schumacker who died in 1964 in San Francisco cAlifornia 1964 which I found, however in both cases I wanted more information not just obits. Ie. Gus Schumacker immigrated from Switzerland by ship in steerage at Ellis island. I wanted to find records of where he went from the time he landed in Ellis island in 1901 until he met my granny in California (San Francisco or San Bruno calif) please don’t tell ancestry.com been there also.
    Thank you,

    1. We’re glad to hear you’ve found some things on Newspapers.com. We’ll keep adding more newspapers and hope you’ll find a good source for the immigration records you are looking for.

  4. It has been a long time since I have used this site. I have not found it to be very “user” friendly and it has yielded little to no results for me. I’ll try again before deciding to not renew.

  5. Thanks for the tips. I have found a lot of info on family in the San Brrnardino, CA area and I am eagerly awaiting for more papers to be added from South Dakota and Oklahoma.

  6. I have tried repeatedly to change the time frame of the search, and it always returns to default dates. Does anyone have advice about how to set specific time parameters? Thanks…

    1. Remember to push the “Update” button to set your selected date range. Otherwise it will revert to the original timespan.

  7. I subscribed to the site this year, I’ve downloaded hundreds of front pages from historically significant dates that I plan on having my students use for research purposes. That being said, newspapers.com needs to give us the ability to download entire newspaper editions with one click, instead of doing it page by page. If they don’t add this feature I will not renew my membership. I’ve already turned off auto renewal.

  8. I, too, have not found the site very useful. Very limited resources for my area. Will probably not renew.

  9. I have been extremely happy with this service, but I must admit that it is because my hometown newspaper, and its predecessor newspapers prior to their merger, are available on this service. However, I can fully appreciate how frustrating it would be if none of the newspapers I needed to search were available. Rather than letting your subscription lapse, has anyone thought about contacting the management and letting them know which papers you would like to see included?

  10. Unfortunately when I went to renew my Ancesrty.com membership I found this site attached to the bill. Since I did not see where I could exclude this site I had to pay for it. So far it hasn’t been all that helpful, I just feel that I have gotten taken by Ancestry.com once again. The fact that you have to PAY to see some documents is an insult. But as they say,” they have you by the kahunnas,” so you either give up what you have worked on for years or PAY.

    1. We’re sorry if you purchased something you didn’t intend to. Ancestry has several subscription options and only one of them includes Newspapers.com. You should be able to talk to the folks at Ancestry to find the subscription that is right for you.

    2. Wendellyn All you do is call ancessty at 1-800-262-3787 and tell them that dont want it and they will take it off that’s what i did. re: Herschel

  11. I was lucky; the papers I needed are on the site. However, much of what I needed was illegible, impossible to read, even worse after print out. So what’s the point, if the pages and info is illegible? I had a trial membership, then couldn’t find the site to cancel, was a day late, and $79.95 was charged to my card. Sent email via their “contact us” link (so you never know their email address) no response yet. Not even the auto-reply that is becoming industry standard.

    1. Debbie, we don’t want to to pay for something you don’t want. The cancel for the free trial is at the top of the account page and you can always contact us at support@newspapers.com or by phone using the number on the contact page.

  12. This is site is not useful. I have watched the video and followed the instructions. I was lured into this by receiving a copy of an obituary from an unknown person. Then I tried searching for 6 days and found nothing. Now I am stuck as I was automatically charged for the annual fee. Buyers Beware!!

    1. Sorry you didn’t find anything useful on the site. We add millions more pages each month, so hopefully we’ll get to the papers you need soon. You can always cancel your trail in the account area of the site or by emailing or calling us. If your charge was recent, send us an email (support@newspapers.com) and we should be able to help you out.

  13. Please provide more Iowa newspapers. Iowa City and Cedar Rapids would be very helpful.

      1. Could you add the issues of the Ohio Gazette that were published in 1842? It was published in Lancaster, Ohio and is now called the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette. Also the issues of the Painesville Telegraph (Painesville, Lake County, Ohio) that were published in the 1830s? Thanks!

  14. I do a lot of research and this site helps me out sometimes. It’s really hit and miss on most of the people I’m searching for, but when I get those hits, it keeps me coming back.

  15. I am grateful for this website I am thankful for the tips that you gave I have found so many articles regarding my family on your website I understand that you’re always updating and adding more newspapers as you go and I’m grateful for that keep up the great work

  16. I am following up on Chuck Watson’s suggestion: “Rather than letting your subscription lapse, has anyone thought about contacting the management and letting them know which papers you would like to see included?”

    I join others in hoping that more newspapers will be added.
    My request is for more from Alabama – i. e.- Birmingham, Montgomery, Eufaula, the Muscle Shoals area, Gadsden.

  17. Luckily I found several newspapers relating the the cities/towns that relate to my parents and grandparents going back to early 1900’s to 50’s. I found tons of information and a lot very useful information. So don’t give up! It takes time to search if you have a newspaper that is relevant to you. It was worth every dollar. One of the areas was Chicago. That’s a huge amount of information and it zero’d in on my ancestors.
    Here’s another tip: I found my father’s name as part of a wedding party. I checked ancestry.com to see if the bride or groom family had a tree: to see if there might be a wedding photo posted 🙂

  18. I have found this site basically useless for finding specific info. I tried it a couple years ago but they didn’t have the newspapers I needed. I’ve got a subscription again as part of a package deal. It definitely has lots more papers but I can’t find my mom’s obit even though they have that paper. I searched in one area for an ancestor named Thomas and every mention of that very common name showed up. It didn’t matter if his last name were included. No mention of him at all nor his wife. I haven’t tried it this time but last time the Pittsburgh area newspaper did not mention the Pittsburgh Steelers for an entire decade. Apparently.
    I don’t think they have many issues of each paper. I also found it difficult to impossible to read many of the images. Don’t waste your money!

  19. I have been using Newspapers.com for about a month (since it was part of the Ancestry pkg.) Haven’t really dug into it yet, but I have found a few interesting things & some disappointments as well.

    A similar site I found is: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/ (The Library of Congress) and it’s a free site. They might not be as big , but I found a story where a man took a shot at 1 of my family for unknown reasons. Luckily, he missed!

    Am scouring the papers for any info just before the incident & any outcome. There’s 2 relatives w/ the same name (uncle & nephew to ea. other) that lived in the same general area. Somehow, I have a feeling that the 1 that was a constable is probably the intended target.

    Hope this helps some people that aren’t sure of keeping Newspapers.com. The other site might have different newspapers available & it mightl bring added info on your families.

    Good luck!!

  20. Users would be much less frustrated with this site if the search default for the name fields was a proximity search. That is, that the search results would only include hits that had the first name/initials within 2-3 words of the surname. This would be especially useful for common names. Please listen to us, site managers!

    1. That’s a good suggestion. In fact, we like that idea so much we did it (a little while back). By default the search will return matches where your terms are within one word of each other first and from there down the closer the words are to each other the sooner they should appear in the results list. If you aren’t seeing matches where the names are near each other, it should mean that we don’t have a better match. If you are seeing cases where this isn’t working, please let us know.

  21. Court ordered widow to post to newspaper death notice AND contents of estate. Guess it was to see if there would be any contesting done. How would I word this in the search?

    1. i find the site incredibly helpful for most of what i need but the town papers for my primary interests are in file. I have relatives concentrated for generations in several key areas of Texas. However, for my Oklahoma relatives it has been much less helpful especially gor pre-statehood days.

    2. Phylis, I’d probably start by searching for the name(s) of the people involved. If you get too many matches, you can narrow the results to the year(s) or the location where this happened.

  22. I have tried to look for someone using initials, e.g., Smith for last name and A.A. for first name, but it always ends search as aa smith. How does one give initials in place of first name? This is especially frustrating since some of the people I’m looking for, the initials are their first name (W.F., for instance).

    1. You should be able to do this by putting spaces between the initials (e.g. W F Smith). The search disregards punctuation, so don’t need to put the . after the letters.

  23. I LOVE this site! The great clipping feature of it. Being able to send a clipping straight to a relative’s page on Ancestry.com. The newspaper notifying me when new family mentions come up or are in a newly added newspaper. Sure – my searches for my BEAN family come up with legume references along with surnames, but I have found some real GEMS in here – and you keep adding new newspapers all the time.
    Well worth the subscription to me!

  24. I haven’t had much luck finding any obits. Oklahoma and Texas have very few, if any that are available on Newspapers.com. Do you just get your obits from what is saved by Ancestry subscribers or do actually have people that do this for you? I probably won’t renew my subscription.

    1. We are actively digitizing and adding new newspaper pages to our site all the time. We do have some newspapers that are also on Ancestry.com but we have millions in addition to those. Sorry you’ve had trouble finding something useful.

  25. One of the family names in my search is “George”. Even though I enter George in the “Last Name” field, it continues to give me all George’s with first names. Very frustrating. Other than that, I have been able to find several articles on the other lines in my family tree.

    1. I also am researching George, it has became so frustrating that I just stopped looking for them unless I had a specific date and area.

      1. With common name like George, it’s useful to combine that name with other names (first or last) for an individual. You might also try putting the names in quotes.

    2. Kathy, we don’t have First or Last Name fields on the site. We use a keyword search. Is it possible you are confusing Newspapers.com with another site?

  26. In the very short time that I have used this site I have found that The Brooklyn Eagle newspapers in 1899 covered many other areas included a good part of Long Island,Queens and other close by areas.In fact I spent a very nice afternoon educating myself about many issues that were totally unknown to me.I am a Genealogist actually looking for an obituary and enjoyed what that particular newspaper had to offer and no I didn’t find the obit.but there is always another day.

  27. I love newspapers.com! I’m sorry that some others have mentioned that they haven’t found anything and I wonder if they understand how to search properly because I have found TONS of info! A great site in my genealogy arsenal…thanks for the great work and I look forward to many, many more discoveries.

  28. I’ve found worthwhile info on newspapers.com from time to time … but what I’d really like to see is a single website listing/index of all the historic newspapers that are online and info or a link to the specific website(s) where each is available. I have a number of newspapers I’d like to browse through — for example, those in/around Selma & Monroeville, Ala., in 1850-1870; and Hartford, Conn., from 1780-1830 — but I don’t know where I can find them online (short of traveling to local libraries), and it’s a big pain to try to search each of the newspaper-archive websites and hope to be lucky in any have them. It would be great if all the historic-newspaper websites collaborated to produce a single index, with links to the papers. With something like that, folks like me are more likely to want to subscribe to specific sites that have those newspapers in which we’re interested.

  29. I love Newspapers.com too! I have found some amazing articles pertaining to my family, not just obituaries. Some of the time I find it to be slow going, but it is great that I can look through other papers without having to go to numerous libraries. I know that Newspapers.com doesn’t have papers from every city, but it seems as though they are adding many new all the time. I remember back when I had to travel to the federal center in Denver to get copies of census pages. I would be thrilled to return home with 3-4 finds. Over time, mainly with the help of ancestry.com I believe, census searching has become a breeze and it is easy to find 3-4 census pages pertaining to your family in a matter of minutes. I expect over time we will see the same ease of use and availability of many more newspapers.

  30. I was totally blown away when I found the missing link to a missing relative. Seems he was up to no good and skipped town after embezzling from his place of work in Florida! Except for access to the newspapers and an article about his arrest in Kansas City I would never have finally discovered his whereabouts and followed the trail to his final resting place in California. The obit in the California newspaper sealed the proof as it listed his children and verified his family connection back to us in North Carolina! Thanks for making available access to so many papers! Keep up the good work!

  31. After years of searching, I was able to find the cemetery where my g-g grandmother and probably her husband are buried. By reading the notations of who visited who and their relationships, I was also able to discover that it was her sister living next to her back in the 1870 census and have discovered many other relatives. Of course, this has also included searching other sites such as LDS for marriage licenses and Ancestry for PA death certificates. I have been VERY pleased with these results.
    I only wish there were more of the Allentown and Hazleton PA papers available – I’ll keep waiting. It sure beats sitting at a microfilm machine in a library and having to do page by page searches of difficult to read text.

  32. Love newspapers.com! I have found so many articles about my relatives and other people’s familys that I am researching. I have the monthly renewal [just in case I found that it wasn’t useful, but there are plenty of papers in the archives already. I just do open searches. Name of ancestor in the county or state where I knew she or he resided. I’ve found some doozies about certain people too!

  33. I have been a member of Newspaper.com and have not used it once. I don’t understand how to get the information. My membership is up the 19th of September 2014 and I don’t know if I will renew it. I want something where if I list the name, year and the date I should get the info that I need.

  34. This is the first year which is almost up I have tried to find information including obituaries and have not been able to find anything. My year membership will be up this month and I am totally disgusted with newspapers.com. I have tried the newspapers.com tutorials and nothing works. I feel I have wasted my money. I am a member of ancestry.com world and thought it would be easy to access information from newspaper.com because of this. I will not renew my membership for newspaper.com.

  35. Hello, I’m having an issue locating newspapers.com articles that I’ve attached straight to my Ancestry.com family tree. I tried 3 different ones and I’ve not seen them appear on that individuals page. I love both of these databases and find them very useful, but am frustrated that I cannot locate these “attached” articles. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks! 🙂

  36. Denise, We are glad to hear you are finding useful things on the site. When you attach something from Newspapers.com to your Ancestry tree it should show up in the tree on the person’s profile in the right hand column in the “Source Information” box. I just tested it and it showed up for me there. Can you find yours in that spot? We’d love it if it could show up in the media gallery, but that will take a future project on the Ancestry side of things, so for now it’s Source Information. Hope that helps.

  37. Is there any hope that DETROIT, MICHIGAN newspapers will be included soon? Also, the MACOMB COUNTY, MICHIGAN newspaper? It is so frustrating to know that the information is stored away in the Detroit Public Library’s microfilm collection, but you need to go there in person AND you need to know the exact date of the newspaper to be able to search!! There is no index available. It would be wonderful if Newspapers.com could make the Detroit News, Detroit Times, and the Detroit Free Press available. Also, the Macomb Daily Newspaper. I just renewed my subscription in hopes of seeing Detroit show up soon. Thank you!

  38. Seeing so many frustrated people here, I have to throw in my two cents.

    I think the service is amazing!! I haven’t found everything I was looking for, (still working at it), but have also discovered a bunch of things I didn’t even KNOW existed. The key here, I think, is to be open to finding what there is, enjoying the hunt, playing with the features til you get comfortable with them.

    Ancestry.com and newspapers.com are remarkable services. I honestly don’t understand anyone deciding that, because they aren’t handed information on a silver platter, it’s somehow the fault of the service. These are tools, and you can make of them what you are willing to work for (assuming your ancestors left behind records!) Very well satisfied here.

  39. At first I didn’t think this subscription was worth having. Now with additional papers added and more diligent/creative searching, I have found quite a bit of great information. I look forward to more newspapers being added to the collection.

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