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Ask-the-pros – Question and Answer: Finding Obituaries

Question:

How do I find an obituary of a person who died in 1945 in the Ft. Bayard VA Hospital, Grant county, New Mexico?

Answer:

Finding an obituary can be a frustrating experience. It would be simple if all of the obituaries were collected in one place and available online, but that is far from the current situation. Putting obituaries online is a relatively recent activity and very few online collections go back further than the 1970s. However, the newspapers containing the obituaries are being digitized and becoming available online in huge collections. Unfortunately, many of the larger collections of online newspapers are available only on subscription websites.

The first step in this process is to see what newspapers were published in the area at the time of the ancestor’s death. This can be done easily on the Library of Congress, Historical Newspapers website. By clicking on the link to Historic Newspapers, you can do a free search of over 6 million digitized pages of newspapers around the country or use the US Newspaper Directory, 1690 – Present to find specific newspapers in the county where the person died. The better practice is to search all of the newspapers in existence in the county at the time of the death.

A search in the US Newspaper Directory shows that in there were 33 newspapers published in Grant County, New Mexico and three of them were being published during the 1942 time period. From the list of newspapers found for the County, you click on the name of the relevant newspapers to find detailed information about when and where each newspaper was published. The Directory also gives detailed information about exactly where copies of the newspaper can be located.

If you find a newspaper that may have had an obituary of your relative, you can either contact the repositories where copies of the newspaper are kept to see if they can search the archives and provide a copy or you can also go to the online collections and search for copies. Make sure you search to see whether or not your state or county or the state or county of your deceased ancestor, has an online digitized newspaper project.

Some of the larger online newspaper collections are available for free at FamilySearch centers around the world and a local libraries. Here are some of the larger collections of U.S. newspapers in addition to the Library of Congress:

You can also see a list of online newspaper archives on Wikipedia:List of online newspaper archives.

You may also wish to review the offerings in Family History Expos’ Online Catalog. For example, the 2103 St. George, Utah Family History Expo’s syllabus is still online for sale and has excellent articles on using newspapers.

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