When I got to the point in my search where I was just one generation away from finding my mom’s birth mother, we had a stand still. Records on Ancestry and FamilySearch and other records sites were limited. After the 1940 census, it was difficult for me to find any other records with the exception of obituaries.
Information Commonly Found in Obituaries
Obituaries have so much information, it would be silly to not look for them. First thing you will usually find the deceased full name and possibly their maiden name along with their date of birth and date of death. If you are lucky, they will include in very plain text, their parent’s names.
You’ll probably read a little summary about the deceased person – where they went to church, club memberships, interests and so on. But what you really want to see in an obituary is a list of survivors and family preceding them in death.
To summarize these are the common elements of a well written obituary
- Full Name (including maiden name)
- Dates of birth and death with locations
- Parents Names
- Spouse with date of marriage
- Summary of life
- job history
- Family that preceded deceased in death
- include relationship to deceased
- Surviving members of family
- include relationship to deceased
- children’s names
- Burial location
Here is an example of a well written obituary
Minnie Lee Page Wynn – SAVANNAH – Minnie Lee Page Wynn, with her children by her side, went home to be with her Heavenly Father on November 29, 2013. Born in Washington County, Georgia to John Franklin and Georgia Hinson Page on February 1, 1921.Mrs. Wynn loved to sew, making and selling many quilts, dolls, clowns and rabbits. She was a Charter member of Silk Hope Baptist Church. She was employed at Star Laundry for many years and retired from S & H Green Stamp Redemption Store. She always enjoyed having peanuts in her home to give to her grandchildren when they came to visit and she became affectionately known to them as Peanut Granny.Mrs. Wynn is preceded in death by her loving husband of 60 years Joseph Chester Wynn, her son; Wendell Lydell Wynn (Midge), granddaughters: Alicia Renee Wynn Driggers and her husband Jody Driggers, Charlene Marie Joyner , Pamela Renee Joyner, a Great Grandaughter, Faith Terese Bell and a loving daughter-in-law Patsy Crosby Wynn.Survivors include her children, Joseph Faye (Norman) Rambo of Savannah; Rodney Chester (Marie) Wynn of Fleming, GA; Lloye Ashley (Mary) Wynn of Pooler; Charlotte Wynn (Frank) Joyner of Midway, GA; and daughter-in-law Midge Wynn; Sister, Wynell Ward and sister-in-law, Ann Page both of Savannah. Grandchildren, Kenneth Ray (Susan) Rambo, of Cumming, GA; Raymond Anthony (Bet) Wynn of Uganda, South Africa; Russell Allen (Elaine) Rambo of Savannah; James Stephen (Susan) Wynn of Fleming, GA; Rachel Darlene (Steve) Edwards of Springfield, GA; James Melvin (Kyndall) Joyner of Midway, GA; Joseph Martin (Tina) Wynn of Savannah; Christy Delaine (Donnie) Mathis of Rincon, GA; Douglas Clinton (Kim) Wynn of Fleming, GA; Samone Terese Joyner (Matt) Norsworthy of Midway, GA; Daniel Ryan (Carol) Wynn of Metter, GA; Dennis Bryan (Sandi) Wynn of Milton, GA; Timothy Kirk (Lynn) Miller of Pooler, GA; April Michell Hendrix (Betsy) of Pooler, GA; Thirty-two Great Grandchildren, Twenty-two Great great Grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.Grandsons will serve as Pallbearers; Grandchildren will serve as Honorary Pallbearers. Mrs. Wynn’s family appreciates all the loving care given to her and her family by the staff of the Bryan County Health & Rehabilitation during her stay there. The family will receive friends from 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Monday, December 2, 2013 at Silk Hope Baptist Church with the funeral service beginning at 2:30 p.m. with Pastor Jonathan Phillips officiating. Burial will follow at Greenwich Cemetery. – Legacy.com
This obituary is a family historian’s dream. You’ve got all the basics plus some. Of course not every obituary will read like this. Minnie is my “peanut granny” or great granny on my dad’s side…
Not all of Minnie’s children would have been found on the 1940 census but now that this obituary has her children listed, this fills in gaps where you can’t find the information otherwise. What I’m getting at here is, ALWAYS look for obituaries when adding a new person to your speculative tree.
When searching for my mom’s family, I came across a line where the children were split up in the 1920’s and some were sent to an orphanage and later adopted. I was only able to find the eldest of the children in the 1930 and 1940 census. Thankfully, her family included family in her obituary and it included her siblings with their adopted names. This was a blessing in itself because even when I spoke with her grandchildren, they didn’t know anything about her siblings. Kudos to whoever wrote that obituary.
Where to find obituaries
Generally, obituaries are published in the local newspaper where the deceased lived. Sometimes they will be published on the funeral home’s website. When looking for obituaries check the following.
- Local Newspaper Archives (where the deceased lived)
- Both are great newspaper resources.
- Newspaper Archives (where the deceased family members lived)
- Funeral Home website
- Family Trees
- When a family member of mine passes away, I’ll transcribe it into my family tree on Ancestry.
- Local Genealogy Pages
- I was able to find an obituary on a genealogy trails site that I couldn’t find anywhere else.
Any other places that you look for obituaries? Let me know!