Tips for Finding Deceased Ancestors in the Papers

Last year, some of the most frequently searched words on™ included obituary, obituaries, died, death, and funeral. With so many of you searching for newspaper articles about deceased ancestors, here are some pro tips to help.

Obituaries: Obituaries are an incredible source for learning about your deceased ancestors, but for the best search results, don’t use “obituary” as a search term. Most obituaries don’t include this word in the text. Instead, search by name. Be sure to try all variations of a person’s name. Historically, women’s obituaries often appeared under their husband’s names, i.e., Mrs. John Smith. Use filters to narrow the date and location for best results, but remember, your ancestor’s obituary may have been printed in papers outside of their hometown.

When were Obituaries published? While it’s possible that an obituary appeared in the newspaper as early as the day of the person’s death, most obituaries were not published for a few days or weeks. Be sure to adjust your date filters to include these results.

Obituary Index: With the help of Artificial Intelligence, we’ve identified more than 316 million obituaries in our archives! We’ve gathered these obituaries in a collection called the Obituary Index. You can search the Index from the Categories drop-down box on the search page. You can also filter the results by date and location.

There May Be More Than One: Obituaries may be printed in several papers, and each obituary might include different facts and details. They can appear in towns where your ancestors used to live or where they have family members. Don’t limit your search to one place. Once you find your ancestor’s obituary, search other papers for additional obituaries that might contain new information. The following example includes four death announcements for the same person, all published within the same week. Each provides unique information.

Think Beyond an Obituary: Was your ancestor ill? Did they suffer an accident? The local newspaper may have published something about the events that led to your ancestor’s death. Try searching the papers before the obituary was published. In this example, the first article was published nine days before the death notice.

Newspapers are a great tool for learning about the lives and deaths of your ancestors. Our collection of newspapers spans three centuries and contains over 900 million pages. What have you discovered about your ancestors in the papers? Explore™ today.

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54 thoughts on “Tips for Finding Deceased Ancestors in the Papers

  1. I filed a quick request for East Oregonian which goes under several names with different time coverage. Supposedly the Pendleton Public Library has microfilm of them.

  2. It would be nice to be able to buy a home microfilm reader at times though sadly I do not have room for one. What would it be like if one could do that where the right combination of enough money and room? Ebay has a bunch of Microfilm readers usually older models but some ‘newer older’ ones that uses USB drivers to store things?

    1. Microfilm is no longer being made or if it is, it is very, very expensive. Everything on microfilm at the Family Search Library is being digitized and wherever possible is being put online. Newspapers that were microfilmed are also being digitized and put on various sites including Microfilm is no longer financially feasible to produce. So unless you have a whole lot of old microfilms at your home or business, having a reader would be impractical. Even those that came out a couple of decades ago that would allow you to upload to a thumb drive or to a computer are no longer being used because film is just no longer available. I don’t think that you can even give away microfilm readers.

      1. That is very unfortunate. There are tons of things on microfilm that are not being digitized.

      2. Years ago my local university was upgrading its microfilm readers and junking the old ones and since I’d been researching there for years, gave me two that they were discarding. They require special light bulbs and I was lucky to get a box of them. Not sure if I can ever replace them. I have boxes of microfilm that I’ve purchased over the years and even tho those issues of newspapers are now online, in some cases an article might be took dark to read online, but still readable on microfilm.
        As far as newspapers that my not be online, state libraries may hold them on microfilm and loan them out to a researcher via the local library.
        Also, depending on the source of the microfilm, newspaper issues that are on some may not be found on another.

  3. Looking for any family of Florence Wetzel (maiden name) from Pennsylvania born in 1933. She was my birth mother and gave me up for adoption in 1949.

    1. Did you end up finding family members for her? I’d love to help. Send me a message on Facebook or Ancestry if you can. Tara Ojeda Coverett on Ancestry or Tara Coverett on Facebook. Or my email is

      1. Hi Tara,

        Florence’s obituary mentions her daughter Michele Amodio. Florence’s siblings were Charles, Helen Kaftan, Anne Buckley, and Frances Shumosic. The obituary also refers to a “brother” Philip Amodio, however, this appears to be a typo that should instead read her “son” Philip Amodio.

        I found Philip Amodio’s obituary:

        And Michael Amodio’s obituary:

        Are you related to the family?

      2. Hi Tara,

        Florence’s obituary mentions her daughter Michele Amodio. Florence’s siblings were Charles, Helen Kaftan, Anne Buckley, and Frances Shumosic.

        The obituary also refers to a “brother” Philip Amodio, however, this appears to be a typo that should instead read her “son” Philip Amodio.

        I found Philip Amodio’s obituary:

        And Michael Amodio’s obituary:

    2. I don’t know of Pennsylvanian Wetzel. I know there was a family of Wetzel clan in Clinton Missouri in the mid 1970s when I lived there. The dad was a DR of health care. Good luck

  4. It’s impossible to read census records on here. It’s incredibly blurry when expanded to see. It’s blurry even small.

    1. Best bet is to look at the US census records on FamilySearch or Ancestry rather than in newspapers, even though they may contain some records.

    2. That’s true, plus they’re spelling can be horrible. I thought I had another cousin named Elide. Turned out to be Clyde.
      Plus the name Shiplet is spelled at least 10 different ways.

  5. I was searching for a lady who drowned… I tried every variation of her name as recommended… still no results. Surely, I thought, there must be some record in the press of her tragic end! There was, but in the newspaper story that I eventually found she had been given her husbands name… she was just MRS Douglas Culley!

  6. Delete previous comment. My name is Pat Faulkner. Looking for information on George E Faulkner whose mother was Fannie Logan Warren. George lived in Kentucky and Indiana. He was married to Juanita Dunn.

  7. I am looking for information on the Quillen family place,date,of birth , death pictures

    1. That is a pretty broad request. Can you provide any additional information to narrow down the search? When I was growing up, my family was friends with a Quillen family in Huntsville, AL. They moved to another town in Alabama, and later to Florida. This would have been in the 1950s-60s. If this is who you are searching for, I know a little more information about them.

  8. My great great grandfather was Roswell Russell. His father was Roswell Russell (Sr,) and mother, Elizabeth Carrier. He was married to Emoline (according to grave monument) Davis Jaquith (no C) Russell. They had four children two sons and two daughters. Roswell Russell (Jr.)’s birth date is 1810 and he died,10 October 1892.
    Some family genealogies have him named as Paul Roswell Russell, but I have never found any document that verifies that his first name was Paul. I have searched for his obituary for several years but never found one and considering how well they were known it seemed odd. I only have his wife’s obit, Emoline D. Russell. Very recently, I found and read Roswell Russell’s Will and Last Testament. In the inventory of costs, it states that Roswell’s obituary was written and paid for from the estate. So, there was an actual obituary, so where was it published or where can I find a copy?
    Also does anyone have a legal document that verifies that Roswell Russell Sr. and Roswell Russell Jr. are father and son?
    I am a direct descendent of Roswell and Emoline’s youngest child, a son, Sullivan J. Russell. Sullivan is my great grandfather. Appreciate any assistance to find these answers. Thank you. Lil Russell

  9. I spent several years trying to find my great-grandmother, Anna Margaret Burns. I knew her place of birth and that she lived in Douglas/Juneau, Alaska in the late 1890’s/early 1900’s. After purchasing the Publisher’s Extra through, I found the Douglas Island News and her obituary was listed there. It was the ONLY place I found that actually identified her. This was a highlight of my ancestry search!

    1. Rebecca, I have been to this part of Alaska – it’s wonderful. I hope you come to know how your great-grandmother experienced life there – the stories she could tell. Enjoy!

      1. Lisa, thank you for your comments. We made a trip to Juneau five years ago and it was beautiful. My great-grandmother had 15 children, 12 of whom survived. There are wonderful articles in the Douglas Island News about several of her children, including my grandmother. It was probably a difficult life, but from the articles I read, a close-knit family life.

  10. I’m looking about a small story about two teenage boys that put a sail on a canoe in Lake Michigan during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Of course, the canoe turned over far from land and the boys were eventually picked up by a private boat from Chicago. The boys were from Wisconsin. I believe them to be in the lake between Racine and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I realize this is a needle
    in a haystack, but one of the boys was my father.

    1. Hi Barb, I have no idea if this is the story you are looking for. I used the following in the search bar: “two boys” and “lake Michigan” and “rescue” and “capsize” and “Chicago”. Then I added date filters from 1920-1939. There were 72 matches. If this is not the story, I hope it will spark some search ideas for you to find your needle in a haystack:

      1. Jenny, Thank you for some ideas on looking for my needle in a haystack.
        This particular story was a nice one even though it didn’t match. Thank you again.

  11. When I find an article, clip it, and save to one of my ancestors it becomes incredibly blurry. It is almost unreadable. What can I do to prevent this?

    1. Hi Edward, When you save a clipping to your Ancestry, it loads a low-resolution thumbnail image. To view the crisp image (your clipping), just click on the link, and you will directed back to the original clipping on (Once you make a clipping, anyone can view it, whether or not they have a subscription to

  12. I am looking for the death cause of a six year grand uncle that died Sept. 7, 1908 in Vermont, Illinois.

  13. Here’s a few more suggestions for searching using names.
    1. When a father/son share the same name, the son may show up in the paper by his middle name. Ifound this common in the 19th C papers. Ex. Thomas Edger Smith Jr. would be Edger Smith.
    2. If the person was a popular fellow, then he may go by the nickname first then the surname. Ex. Peter B. Smith would be Buck Smith in the paper.
    3. If you know that the person has a close female relative and are looking for an obit, then use her name in the search engine.
    4. Sometimes a person is refered to by initials. Ex. Peter B. Smith would be P.B. Smith
    5. Depending on how well the newspaper was microfilmed, one may find that putting the full name in the search engine won’t work, but putting in the surname alone produces results.

  14. I have a great grandfather Jim Lee Temm I only have his name how do I start to even find out anything?

    1. There was a James Lee and Jessie Temm who lived at 501 Ellsworth, Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1927. There’s also a mention of the death of Willie Clifton Temm, age 29, in Texas, whose parents were Mr and Mrs. Lee Temm of Kilgore, TX? Any of those a possibility?

  15. I am look for information on my G-G grandmother Mary Wilson. Apparently she married my G-G grandfather William Henry Harrison Gale, and as far as I can tell had only one child, my great-grandmother Vanlora Mary Frances Gale, born in San Francisco, CA on 4 July 1865. I would love to find a marriage or birth announcement which might give me some clue as to who this elusive Mary Wilson was, and with such a common name, I have been unsuccessful. Any advice is welcome.

    1. Kathy,

      Update from my earlier post:

      I found an article in The San Francisco Examiner dated October 9, 1903 titled “Finds Lost Child After Search of Many Years”

      It details how William H. Gale was a widow in 1869 and couldn’t care for his infant daughter due to his business travel. He placed his daughter in an infant’s home. When he returned from his travels the infant’s home was gone. He learned that a couple named McDonald raised the girl as their own. She grew up and married Edward Fogarty. William finally found Vanlora and they were reunited.

      Here’s a link to the article:

    2. Hi Kathy,

      Apologies if this is posted twice, my computer froze when I initial submitted this yesterday and I don’t see it as having gone through.

      I came across the below article detailing how William H. Gale was a widow in 1869. Due to his business and travel schedule, he placed his daughter into an infants’ home. When he returned from his travels, the home was closed down. He searched for his daughter and they finally reunited years after.

      I hope this helps your research.

      1. Mary,
        Thank you so much for both links. I will check them with the hope that there might be a clue there somewhere.
        Kathy Fogarty

  16. I too have searched endlessly for my aunt born Helen Stangbye 1917 who died in Southern California late 60’s or ‘70s last married name was Helen Marron divorced from James Marron. I have searched endlessly and have found nothing.

    1. Hi Joan,

      I found Helen J. Stangbye born 24 Dec 1917 in Sacramento. Her mother’s maiden name was Carlsen.

      The 1930 federal census shows her, age 12, living in the Sacramento Orphan Asylum. Her parents are listed as being born in Norway.

      There’s a 1 Nov 1930 article in the Sacramento Bee that lists a Helen Stangbye as vice president of the Girl Reserve Committee of the YWCA.

      Helen married James Joseph Marron on 13 Jun 1936:

      Helen applied for a Hairdresser and Cosmetician license on 7 May 1936. Here’s her application with her photo:

      I hope this helps!

  17. Are there any digitized/indexed archives of newspapers from Warsaw, Indiana (Kosciusko County)? Many of my relatives (including me) lived in this area over the last 100 years and more. I HAVE found snippets of social news and obituaries in newspapers including South Bend and Fort Wayne. I even found a classified ad placed in an Indianapolis newspaper in 1920 seeking a maid to work in Warsaw.

    1. Hi Robin, We don’t have any Warsaw papers right now but check back often. We add new papers every single day (150 last month alone). You don’t need a subscription to see what papers are available. Just head to where you can search by specific paper (under the Papers tab at the top of the page) or, enter Indiana in the location filter. There you can see what is available by county.

  18. Several cousins and I have been looking for the parents and/or siblings of our 2nd great grandfather, Lyndon Marshal Lanphear (Lamphear), since the ’70’s. He was born in VT May 11, 1816. Married Charlotte Garthwaite in Victory, Cayuga County, NY c1840, moved to WI c1850 and died in Easton, WI Feb. 23, 1875. We all have this information as well as children’s info and going forward. What we cannot find is anything that tells us who his parents or siblings were. We haven’t been able to find an obituary.. Any ideas?

  19. I have been looking for the obituary of Kate Bennett who was a vey wellk-know swimming instructor in New York City and Brooklyn betwewen 1870 and1905.
    I’m writing a book about women’s swimming on the US and she was very influential, at leas a dozen articles talk about her sucess as a swim teacher.
    However, then she totally dropw out of sight. Thought was a good resarches but I am stumped. If anyone has any information, it would make me a very happy camper.

    1. The 1900 US Census has her living in Brooklyn NY:
      I looked through the Brooklyn Papers but did not find an obit or death notice.
      Her death certificate is on Ancestry:
      Her sister Theresa’s death certificate:
      Teresa’s death notice:
      Her sister, Eliza Gabrielle (Bennett) Leach, who was also well known as a swimmer died Aug. 30, 1881. She was the wife of Charles F. Leach (C.F. Leach) and has an obituary:
      The mother’s death certificate:
      Her nephew, Alphonsus Leach, who she taught to swim, drowned: and his death certificate is:

      1. Thanks much Linda. Glad I found this blog.. I have since leaned that Kate died in 1908 of heart failure and s buried at Calvary Cemetary. She had said she learned to swim because her father drowned and it is ironic that her newphew drowned.
        FYI, Kate Bennett was quite famous for a 15 – 20 year period as a swim instructor who taught literally thousands of women to swim and held swim competitons for them.
        Im in the process of writing a history of women’s competitive swimming in the US and she is the star of Chapter 1 so the more I know about her, the better.

  20. I have tried all of the above trying to find my sisters obituary. I have tried every conceivable way that her name could have been listed. My parents and I were living in Florida at the time of her passing and my mother, and I came north to Binghamton, New York for the funeral after Christmas of 1972. As the last living member of the family, I have copies of everybody’s obituary but Her’s and even though has been a godsend trying to find it, I have had no luck. My aunt was very good about doing things like making the arrangements so I’m almost positive an obituary was posted somewhere. I need help with this. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Her married name was Elizabeth Bradstreet but have tried her maiden name as well Betty Harris or her first married name of Elizabeth Camp. Nothing worked.

  21. Did you contact the funeral home that cared for her funeral? In my area at least, funeral homes will submit the obits to the newspapers. Good luck.

  22. Thank you for replying. There was two Funeral Homes that belonged to the same family. The one that cared for my sister is no longer in business. The other is still in operation and I got a phone number which I will call and hopefully they have some kind of records that date back to December of 1972 from their other place of business. Thanks again for the tip.

  23. You could also try contacting the local genealogy society. Where I used to live, there was an old funeral home. They let us abstract data from their card files (EXCEPT for the cause of death) so we could computerize the information.

  24. Hi everyone,
    I’m a bit stumped and confused with a recent obituary search.
    I was unable to find an obituary despite several attempts. I wasn’t sure where the person passed away so I conducted searches using first name, last name, spouse’s name, with and without an estimated date range, but found nothing!
    I later came across the obituary from Dec 1927 in a member family tree, sourced from the Chicago Tribune. Returning to newspapers, I searched the last name and with the year 1927, but still couldn’t locate the obituary.
    I’m puzzled as to why my searches failed to produce the obituary when it clearly exists.
    I’d appreciate any thoughts as to why this happened as well as insights into more effective search strategies.
    Many thanks!

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