General collection information
This Newspapers.com™ index contains newspaper obituaries published in the United States from the early 1800s until the present day. The index includes links to the digitized pages on Newspapers.com™. Clicking on the link will open the image on the Newspapers.com™ site, which may require an additional upgrade or subscription.
Using this collection
Obituaries in this collection may include the following information:
A detailed obituary can be an excellent starting point for family research. Obituaries can provide information other historical sources can't offer, including employment and education histories, volunteer activities, and military service records. Family names and relationships can be added to a family tree. Military service information can lead to enlistment and pension records. Birth and marriage dates can open a path to newspaper announcements and official birth and marriage certificates. A church funeral location may lead to additional church records.
Collection in context
The obituaries in this index are high-quality primary historical sources. They were written by journalists working for newspapers throughout the United States, or they were submitted to newspapers by funeral home directors or members of the deceased's family. The original newspapers that they were published in are available on the Newspapers.com™ website.
Throughout most of the 19th century, many obituaries in United States newspapers were simply published versions of tombstones, with names, birthdates, and death dates. Notifying the public about the deaths of local residents was done in the context of the times in which they were published.
During the American Civil War, obituaries included more biographical details about deceased soldiers in an attempt to inform as many relatives of the deceased as possible. Obituaries for soldiers often had a sentimental or religious tone. During the Industrial Revolution of the late 1900s, obituaries often noted the deceased's financial status, occupation, and the number of years they worked.
Obituaries published in local newspapers often informed the public about funeral and burial services for the deceased, and they also notified creditors who might want to file a claim against the deceased's estate.
Funeral homes and newspapers began to develop a basic template for obituaries during the 1930s. A four-part structure was commonly used, starting with a death announcement, followed by a short biography and list of survivors, and ending with funeral information.
Beyond the Dash. "The History of the Obituaries." Accessed December 29, 2022. https://beyondthedash.com/blog/obituary-writing/the-history-of-obituaries/7260.
Frazer Consultants. "The History of the Obituary." Accessed December 29, 2022. https://www.frazerconsultants.com/2017/02/the-history-of-the-obituary/#.
Newspapers.com. "Home." Accessed December 29, 2022. https://www.newspapers.com/browse/united-states/.
Roos, Dave. "How Obituaries Went From Dry Death Notices to Tributes to Truth." HowStuffWorks.com. Accessed December 29, 2022. https://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/funerals/obituary-history.htm.
Sheppard, Judith. "The Death of the Free Obit." American Journalism Review. Accessed December 29, 2022. https://ajrarchive.org/article.asp?id=642.
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