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How to Find an Obituary for a Specific Person

It can be difficult to find an obituary for a specific person who has passed away, especially if they passed away a long time ago or you know very little information about them other than their name and general age. The good news is there are many free resources available online, as well as offline, that can help you find the obituary you’re seeking. In this article, you'll learn a few different ways to find an obituary, as well as what type of information is required or helpful when searching.

How do I find an obituary from years ago for free?

When it comes to find an obituary for a specific person for free, there are a few steps to take. Before you get started, it's important to gather as much information as possible about the decedent, as it'll make your search a lot easier. The following information will provide you with a great foundation when beginning your obituary search:

  • First and last name of the decedent
  • Date of death
  • City and state of death (or last residence)
  • Hometown
  • Surviving relatives
  • Name of funeral home, cemetery, and/or cremation company
  • Age at time of death

With this information in hand, you're ready to start your search. Here are suggestions on how to find an obituary for someone who has passed away:

  1. Search online. The best way to find an obituary is by conducting a search online. (There are many free resources available, including databases of obituaries or archives from newspapers and funeral homes, but you may not even need to go this far.)
  2. Use keywords. When conducting an online search, be sure to use keywords that will help you find the specific obituary you're looking for. This can include the person's name, the city and state where they lived, or the date of their death. Some examples of useful keywords include: "John Smith obituary", "John Smith San Francisco, CA obituary", "John Smith San Francisco Taylor Funeral Home obituary", "John Smith San Francisco, 89, obituary".
  3. Narrow your search parameters. If you're having difficulty finding the obituary you're looking for using keywords, try narrowing your search parameters or switching up the keywords you're using. This can include specifying the date range during which the person died, or the newspaper where the obituary was published.
  4. Conduct a search offline. If you're unable to find an obituary online, you may want to try searching offline in local newspapers or funeral home archives. If you know the hometown or last residence of the deceased, contact the local newspapers or funeral homes in their area to see if an obituary was submitted or to see if they have any archives you can search through.
  5. Ask for help. If you're still having difficulty locating an obituary, don't hesitate to ask for help from a friend or family member of the deceased, no matter how long ago the person passed. Relatives or extended family members may know exactly where the obituary was published or at least be able to provide you with useful information to aid you in your search.

A tip for searching online

If an obituary has been posted online, there’s a good chance you can find it by entering in the name of the individual into Google, or another search engine. Here are some search terms that might help you narrow down the results, just replace the placeholders with the information you have on hand:

  • [First Last] obituary
  • [First Middle Last] obituary
  • [First Last] obituary [location]
  • [First Last] obituary [location]
  • [date of birth] - [date of death]

Find an obituary

Other places to check

Try checking social media
When someone passes away, next of kin and other family members can sometimes gain access to their social media accounts. If they were able to do so, they might post an obituary or a notice to the account that the person has passed away. If the obituary isn’t posted on the account of the deceased, you may be able to find related content by looking through the comments section or the about section of the page you’re looking at. Family members may link to the obituary or mention where the obituary is posted in the comments, so be sure to keep an eye out for those. If there aren’t any comments referencing an obituary, consider posting a comment and asking for more information on where you can find the obituary.

Visit your local library
Local libraries often have copies of local media, especially of local newspapers. You can also find archived versions of local newspapers that contain older obituaries. Visit your local library and ask to browse their archives to locate an older obituary. Knowing the date of death will be immensely helpful here, since you’ll be going through archived documents.

Visit the funeral home’s website
If you know the name of the funeral home that handled or is handling the services, there may be an obituary posted on their website. Some funeral homes offer online obituary posting as a service and will list the obituary on their website. While there might not be a search tool available, you can usually browse recently published obituaries in their obituaries section.

Try to contact old friends or family members
This may seem obvious, but contacting a family member or old friend can be an easy way to find an obituary. An old friend may have seen the obituary posted in the paper at one point which can help you then identify the name of the paper, which can lead to their archives. If you happen to get in touch with a family member, they may be able to point you to a printed or online obituary as well. Don't be afraid to reach out!

How to find an old obituary for a specific person?

The above searches online will be excellent at getting you started if you have a good amount of information to go on, but they're not very useful if the obituary itself was never published online in any form. If you're looking for an older obituary (one that was submitted before the internet was popular), you'll likely need to work a little harder than others. Here are some steps to take when trying to find a very old obituary:

  • Contact the historical society in the area where the person died. They may also have old newspapers on microfilm or be able to direct you to another resource.
  • Check newspaper archives. Obituaries were historically posted in the newspaper so that members of the local community could be alerted of the death and read about the life of the deceased. While many families may lean towards posting the obituary online, older obituaries were likely to be published in a print newspaper. You can find the top publications of the area the person you’re looking for lived in by doing an online search. Most newspaper websites have an obituaries section that you can browse through online. If they do not, they may have an obituary department that you can contact with questions.
  • Check social media to find extended relatives. You may be able to find out more information about the person who passed by simply trying to get in touch with their extended relatives on social media, such as Facebook. Getting in touch and asking for information about the deceased can help you gain useful information and set you in the right direction on your search.

How to access newspaper obituary archives

Part of hunting for older obituaries includes looking through newspaper obituary archives, but if you've never accessed a newspaper archive before, it's good to know where to start. Here's how to access a newspaper's obituary archives:

  1. Determine the name of the newspaper.
  2. Search for the obituary archives on the newspaper's website.
  3. Search for an obituary using the name of the deceased and the city and state where they lived.
  4. Try searching for an obituary using keywords like the city, state, or hometown of the individual who has passed.
  5. Contact the newspaper's obituary team or support team for additional information.

How to find an online obituary for a specific person using obituary websites

Performing a nationwide obituary search is another excellent way to easily find out if an obituary has been posted online. There are a handful of platforms that will help you search through obituary archives for free, including:

  1. Ever Loved
  2. Public Libraries
  3. Ancestry
  4. Find a Grave

To find an online obituary for a specific person using these websites, simply enter in the information you have on the individual into their search tools to find relevant information and obituaries. You may need to dig a little and change your search terms to find what you’re looking for, so don’t lose hope if you don’t find the obituary on the first try. (If you're trying to find an obituary for a specific person in Canada, consider one of the following obituary archives:

  1. Ever Loved
  2. MyHeritage
  3. Ancestry
  4. Canadian Obituaries
  5. Canadian Obits

Why can't I find an obituary?

There could be several reasons why you're having difficulty finding an obituary. The person you're looking for may not have had an obituary, the newspaper that published it could have gone out of business, or it could have never been saved or digitized.

Can't find what you're looking for? Consider writing your own. An obituary doesn't have to be long or detailed, and it can be a good way to share information about your loved one with others. You may also find comfort in writing and sharing your own obituary for a deceased family member or friend and it may help others in their search for the same thing. Ever Loved obituaries are free, easy to use, and stay online as long as you'd like them to.

Publish an obituary

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Last updated March 9, 2023
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