Introduction: In this article, Gena Philibert-Ortega describes how GenealogyBank has improved its extensive obituaries collection. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”
Obituaries have for a long time been the newspaper article that genealogists turn to most. Before the advent of digitized newspaper websites with search engines, genealogists used actual newspapers – or their microfilmed copies – to find their ancestors’ obituaries. But the search was long and tedious.
Fast forward to today, when digitized obituaries are easier than ever to find. One of the strengths of GenealogyBank is its extensive collection of more than 255 million obituaries from 11,000 newspapers, covering over 300 years.
New, Improved Obituaries Collection
GenealogyBank used to have two obituaries collections: Historical Obits (full-page images from the historical newspapers) and Recent Obits (obituaries from 1977 to the present, not full-page images but instead transcribed obits). Now the two are combined into one, easy to use Obituaries Collection.
First, millions of historical newspaper pages have been reprocessed to identify and isolate the obituaries, and then to tag the names, dates, and locations within them. These were then added to the transcribed obits collection. This makes it easier than ever to locate your ancestor’s obituary among the millions of obituaries from newspapers past to present, all in one place, using one search page.
How to Search Obituaries
You can search the Obituaries Collection in one of two ways. You can go straight to the collection by going to the GenealogyBank website, clicking on Collections at the top toolbar and selecting Obituaries in the drop-down menu.
This will take you to the Obituaries Collection search page to search by name, date range or date, keywords, city, state, or newspaper.
You can also view obituary results by conducting a search on the GenealogyBank homepage and then selecting the Obituaries collection at the top of your results list. For example, let’s do a search on the surname Weaver.
The top of the search results page separates the Weaver records by category, to show all the results that can be found for that search in GenealogyBank:
- Historical Newspaper Archives: 2,972,636
- Obituaries: 65,011
- U.S. Federal Census: 144,406
- Social Security Death Index: 54,187
- Government Publications: 8,467
- Historical Books: 194
Just click on the box for whichever one of these categories interests you. If you want to do an obituaries search, for example, just click there.
Now you’re looking at just the 65,011 obituaries for Weaver.
Historical Newspaper Archives v. Obituaries Collection
What’s the benefit of doing a search on the Obituaries Collection in addition to or instead of a search of the Historical Newspaper Archives? The Obituaries Collection includes transcribed obits from more recent newspapers not found in the Historical Newspaper Archives.
- Historical Newspaper Archives (complete paper with all articles, including historical obituaries, with a number of very rare single-issue newspapers – many of them are the only known issues of the paper)
- Obituaries Collection (including both historical and recent obituaries, if obits are specifically what you are searching for)
It’s More than Just the Obituary
In addition to the information you’ll find in your ancestor’s obituary, pay attention to the tools GenealogyBank provides. To demonstrate, let’s click on the first result for the search for Weaver obituaries: Paul Weaver.
On the right-hand side of the screen you will notice that you have the ability to email, print, or attach the obituary to your FamilySearch Tree. In addition, you can save the obituary to My Folder, a feature of GenealogyBank that allows you to save newspaper articles and obituaries to the cloud in your GenealogyBank account.
The new Discover More feature provides hints for additional results in historical newspapers. Clicking on this Discover More link will take you to a hints results page. This feature is also available for your U.S. Census search results. Be sure to provide us with feedback on these results pages so that we can better improve the future accuracy of these results.
On the left-hand side of the screen you will see abstracted information from the obituary, including the person’s birth and death dates as well as relatives and their relationships.
Lastly, the source citation for your obituary is found at the bottom. Use this to keep track of what you found and what source had the information. Make sure to copy this and paste it into your research log, genealogy software database, or family history narrative.
For example, on the bottom of Paul Weaver’s obituary you will find this.
The Importance of Obituaries
There’s no doubt that obituaries provide important information for the family historian. They can provide some of the key data that family historians look for, such as name, vital records dates, and familial relationships. GenealogyBank allows you multiple ways to find your ancestor’s obituary. Be sure to always search the Historical Newspaper Archives to find the stories of your ancestor’s life, but also comb the Obituaries Collection for your ancestor’s obits.