You can search among the now 34,153,314 index and obituaries for a record of your ancestor. Records are added to this collection as they come available. The database can be found here: United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, 1980-2014. To see results from this database you will need to Find a Family History Center near you.
Your Ancestor’s Age
Obituaries can lead to so much more discovery. You learn the name of your ancestor at the point of death. Your ancestor’s age is given, but that age is not always correct. If your ancestor was enslaved, they may not have had any idea what their correct age would have been. At the time of death, your ancestor may have forgotten their correct age.
Your Ancestor’s Birth
If you learn the birth date from the obituary, finding them at their birth with family is possible. Then if you learn of the place were they where born, you can go to the Research Wiki and look up that very place and find many resources where they may be documented.
Your Ancestor’s Death
Sometimes the death certificate is not the first record that you find. When you find the obituary, you can then look for the death certificate. You can also look for the cemetery and the funeral home. Take the time to look in the local newspaper for your ancestor. Do not just search for their obituary, but search for other articles that will tell you what church they attended, schools they went to, clubs they joined. You should follow articles that reveal court records. Historic newspapers can tell you a lot about your ancestor’s life.
Other People Mentioned
When you finally exhaust the search for your ancestor, his or her obituary will mention the names of other people you can also research. Many obituaries will state which of those people have passed on. The search for parents, spouses, or other relatives can be triggered from the obituary.
I have had great success with using obituaries later to find parents and spouses. Some ancestors even were married more than once, and the obituary helped to uncover that. From obituaries, I have found marriage records and wills and probate records. Most importantly, obituaries have led me backward and forward in identifying people in my line. In most obituaries, you are given the parents and the children of your ancestor, and you can use both to go in either direction.
It is important to understand that there could be another copy of the obituary outside of this database. Check your ancestor’s library or university library because they might have databases or microfilmed copies of newspapers from the area.
Sharpen the Saw
I looked up Mrs. Mattie Vance Boyd in this database. I found her in the database. She died on 17 November 2005 in Columbia, South Carolina. She was two of four siblings that had passed away by 2005. Today, Frank Luther Vance and his wife, Wilhelmina Burton Vance, are both passed along with each of their children. Lutherine Vance Smith was the last child living. Also mentioned in the obituary are husband, children, granddaughters, brother- in -law, and son-in-law. Can you see how finding them on the census is much easier if you have the obituary? How about oral history interviews for living relatives? Tell us what you think on the Facebook Group.