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From the Ancestry
Where O Where Can the Obituary Be?Despite the occasional omission or error in fact, obituaries are an excellent genealogical source. Searches for obituaries frequently focus on newspapers in the town where the person died. These nearby newspapers should only be the starting point in an attempt to locate a death notice or an obituary on a family member. There are other papers that should also be referenced.
This week we'll briefly discuss some other papers that should be referenced in an attempt to locate an obituary and then discuss two kinds of newspapers that are sometimes overlooked by genealogists.
Occasionally, someone's "hometown" paper will print an obituary or a death notice for a former resident. If the "hometown" is a small town and the "final residence" is a metropolitan area, the "hometown" paper may provide the most details about the person's life.
Antje's obituary and Focke's letter can be viewed here (www.rootdig.com/newspapers/index.html )
Clarence Brigham. History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 (Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1947)-in 1961 a small update was published—Additions and Corrections to History and Bibliography of American Newspapers.
Edward C. Lathem, Chronological Tables of American Newspapers, 1690-1820 (Worcester, Mass., 1972).
Newspapers in Microform: United States, 1948-1972, and 1973-1977, Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1973 and 1978.
Karl Arndt and May Oldon, German-American Newspapers and Periodicals, 1732-1955 (2d rev. edition, Heidelberg, Quelle and Meyer, 1965)
Afro-American Newspapers at the University of Georgia
Links to state newspaper project bibliographies
U.S. Newspaper Program Bibliography
Guides to Newspaper Collections and Specialized Bibliographies of the American Press (Western Washington University)
Identifying and Locating Newspapers (Emory University)
(Some modern information and some are databases only accessible at the university, but there are some good finding aides listed)
What Do I Do?
Locating local or regional papers typically is not too problematic, given a map and a bibliography or another finding aid. Local foreign language or ethnic newspapers (if they exist) are typically not too difficult to find, either. Religious newspapers are potentially more difficult. The problem with religious newspapers is that they might have been published a significant distance from where your ancestor died in a town where your ancestor never lived. While the Ostfriesische Nachrichten was not a religious paper, it too was published a distance from where most subscribers lived.
Determine your ancestor's likely denomination and then determine if there where any newspapers published by that denomination or groups affiliated with that denomination. Some of the finding aids listed above will help, but most are incomplete or might not provide the exact reference needed. Denominational archives may have further information or finding aids, even if they do not have the actual papers on microfilm. One can locate websites for denominational archives by visiting Cyndislist (www.cyndislist.com ) or searching at Google (www.google.com ) for "pickyourdenomination archives" (changing "pickyourdenomination" for the desired denomination).
Some ethnic and religious newspaper obituaries have been published or indexed in print form. A search of large online library card catalogs such as the Family History Library (www.familysearch.org ), the Library of Congress (www.loc.gov ), or the Allen County Public Library (www.acpl.lib.in.us ) may be in order.
There are some online databases containing information from ethnic and religious newspapers. Cyndislist (www.cyndislist.com/obits.htm ) has links to many, including
Also consider searching and posting messages to the appropriate genealogical mailing lists at RootsWeb (http://lists.rootsweb.com ). Another list member may be able to provide a reference or suggestion not listed on a website or in a published bibliography.
We've just scratched the surface. Obituaries are a wonderful source for genealogists, but don't just consider the newspaper published in the town where your ancestor lived and died. There may be a whole world of information waiting for you in newspapers you have never thought to search.
Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at: www.rootdig.com/, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.
Copyright 2003, MyFamily.com Inc.
Used by the author on his website with permission.
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