Historical Obituaries Search Tips

Use our historical obituaries search to find obituaries printed from 1704–1999 in the newspaper archives. Our historical obituaries collection contains both recent and old obituaries published in U.S. newspapers.

If you are searching for a deceased relative who passed after 1999, use our Recent Obituaries search instead. This online collection contains only newer obituaries printed in U.S. newspapers from 1704–1999.

Broad Obituary Search

The name listed on the obituary may not be the name that you are familiar with. Try searching for obituaries with just your ancestor’s surname and a date range.

When searching for a deceased married woman, start by using the married surname in your query. You can also try another search using her maiden name or previous married name(s) if she was married more than once.

Do not use the date of death in your search. Obituaries are often published days or even weeks after a person’s death. If the relative you are looking for died in the last few months of a year, be sure to include the following year in the date range in order to cast a wider net to find the obituary. Obituaries will often be published in the newspaper over a period of several days.

Narrow Your Obituary Search

Try narrowing your obituary search by entering the first name of another family member such as a spouse, parent or child. In the 19th Century it was common for a married woman to be referred to as "wife of John Smith" without mentioning her first name.

Find Your Ancestor’s Date of Death

Try searching the Social Security Death Index to find your ancestor’s exact date of death before searching for their obituary in the newspaper archives. Once you know your ancestor’s date of death try using a date range of a year or two after they died, in order to find their obituary and locate any memorial articles that may have run in the newspaper about their passing.

Visit the Blog

Need additional help tracing your family tree? Visit our genealogy blog for more search tips that will help you do better family history research with GenealogyBank.