Finding obituaries can be a very tedious task, especially when you are looking for a family member who died many years ago. For exclusive Internet obituary providers, the service is never provided for free, unless it is a government website providing the information. However, what about people who do not know the person they are looking for personally, and do not know how the deceased looks like? Or even trickier, what if the searcher does not know the legal middle name of the deceased?
How to Search for Obituaries
#1 - Social Security Death Index
The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a free government service which provides access to the entire genealogical data of the deceased. All you need to do is to provide the appropriate information about the deceased, such as first and the last name, preferably the birth date or information about an immediate relative of the deceased.
If the information is adequate, you will be given access to apply for the deceased person's Social Security Card, which is also known as Form SS-5. The SS-5 contains all the information about the deceased, such as place of birth, date of birth and death, family members such as father, mother, siblings, wife, husband and children (if any). For getting hold of this form, you will need to put in an application, requesting the same from the Social Security Administration.
#2 - Check Free Online Obituary Services
There are many free online obituary services such as Newspaper Archive, Orbits Archive and Ancestor Hunt, etc. These will provide you with a vast collection of newspaper obituaries, from which you can specifically search for the deceased, by typing the person's name or birth date. Or you could find the person through his or her grave site, if you know in which town the person was buried. Websites such as Grave Finder is one of the good ones to start with.
#3 - Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness
The RAOGK is a voluntary organization spread all over the world, which helps in tracing deceased ancestors. It is a free organization, which requires that you only pay the volunteer for his or her services. You will need to read the guidelines before asking for this service, as they do not accept search work, if the area specified is within 50 miles radius of your own residence. Nonetheless, this service is excellent and highly recommended, for those who are trying to trace out their family tree or working on a genealogy project.
#4 - Public Library
If you know which town or city the deceased person hailed from, you can easily look up for obituaries through the digital public records of the newspapers. In most case, photos of the deceased are not put up with the obituary, unless the deceased is someone well-known or important in that town or city. Become a proper library card holder of your town's library and you will be able to access the free online database, which will give you access to many online newspapers. If the obituary is from your own town, you can check the scanned newspapers records of previous years. However, this task is a bit time-consuming and not very precise.
#5 - Contact the Newspaper
This is one of the most time-consuming procedures among the ones already mentioned. It requires that you contact the local newspaper which published the deceased person's obituary, and request them to let you visit. You will need to manually search among the files of that year in order to find the obituary, as they will have records of all their published work. However, if you have no clue about the year of death, you must not waste your time with this method.
Many online obituary services require that you register with them and pay for the services, which seems like a logical choice, as it cuts down on the time spent searching. Another way of finding old obituaries is to inquire with the church or religious organization which handled the burial or cremation of the deceased. Find out if, they may have a copy of the deceased person's obituary in their old records. Request them to take their time and get back to you with the findings.