Obituary: Introduction

Obituary records or necrology records can be a good way to get started in your research and if you are fortunate you may find many additional details on direct family members, cousins, marriages, as well as schooling and locations.

The local newspaper or library is the best starting place and depending on the time period you may have to use different approaches.

To find a local library, try our visual-access-library page.

For example, in Cleveland prior to 1991 you have to use one source and approach and after 1991 you have to use another.  Keep this in mind as you gather your details.  Always ask what date range is covered and what is not.

For your very first search I would recommend starting with someone you are highly likely to find.  Search for a relative for whom you already have information as to where and when they died.  By using this approach, you can quickly find a match.  If possible, also try to search for someone close to your current location, that way if you run into snags you can visit with someone who may be able to help. With practice, you will become more skilled at finding matches and can expand your searches.  Our visual access to Libraries section can help you find a library.

Our local library offers several different methods to find an obituary.

  • Necrology File Index which is text based index which you can search and is for older obituaries. (free to anyone)
  • Historic Plain Dealer digital newspapers which have been scanned and can be searched. (free with library card access)
  • Microfilm of old newspapers. (while you are at the library)

Obituary via CPL Necrology Index – To get started, we are going to use the real world example of John D. Rockefeller’s daughter, Alta, who lived in Cleveland and we will look up her obituary.  In this example. all the sources are freely available so you can follow along.