5 Tips for Finding Women’s Obituaries

Obituaries can be rich in genealogical details. However, finding them for our female ancestors can be tricky, especially if you're searching in digitized newspapers. Here are 5 tips to help you find women's obituaries.

1. Search for Her Husband's Name

Married women were often referred to as Mrs. Husband Name rather than with her own first name. (This is especially true while the husband was still living.) Searching for an obituary for Mary Miller won't work if the obituary names her as Mrs. Thomas Miller. Try searching for her husband's name, including trying variations (like Jack for John or J. W. for John W.)

Obituary listing a woman with her husband's name

Dresden Enterprise and Sharon Tribune (Dresden, Tennessee), May 07, 1920, Chronicling America.

2. Combine Her Married Name and Her Maiden Name

If you know her maiden name, try leaving off the first name entirely. Do a search with just her married name and her maiden name. This will help you find obituaries that list her parents or her surviving brothers. (Obviously, this works better for Miller Seiglinger than it would for Miller Johnson.)

Kinsley (Kansas) Graphic, October 02, 1896, Chronicling America.

3. Search for a Surviving Child or Sibling

Do a search either for the full name of one of her surviving children or sibling or search for her last name and the married surname of one of her daughters or sisters. Look at all of the names in part of the obituary for Mrs. Jennie Brooks Kenney.

Bourbon News. (Paris, Kentucky), January 17, 1922. Chronicling America.

4. Consider Nicknames

Females, especially girls and young women, are sometimes listed with a nickname or diminutive form of their first name. If you're not finding Catherine, try searching for Kate or Katie.

McCook (Nebraska), Tribune, June 03, 1892. Chronicling America.

5. Try the Name of the Cemetery

There are so many combinations of how her first name could be listed. Try searching for her last name plus the name of the cemetery. If you know Nancy Hopkins was buried in Bethel Cemetery, try searching for Hopkins Bethel.

BONUS TIPS:

  • Don't overlook the newspapers in places where she used to live. It isn't unusual for newspapers to print obituaries for people who used to live in the community, especially if they still have a group of family and friends in the area.
  • Skip the search; read the paper. If you have access to the newspaper where she lived, read it. Yes, searching can be faster. However, OCR (optical character recognition) technology is not 100% accurate. If the print is fuzzy, there's a wrinkle in the paper, or they used an oddball font, it might not be "read" correctly by the computer. The obituary could be in the paper, but it was lost in translation.

What tips do you have for finding obituaries for the females in your family tree?

Women's obituaries can be hard to find. Here are 5 tips for finding more of them. #genealogy #familyhistory #ancestry

19 thoughts on “5 Tips for Finding Women’s Obituaries

  1. Local Funeral homes may “publish” obituaries when, because of the cost, the family does not pay for an obituary to be inserted into a newspaper.

  2. All great tips that definitely work. I also found (for anyone in the household) that using the street name (especially because it was unusual and our family name is not) was another great way to search. I started searching that way after I noticed a lot of the articles I was finding would say Mrs. Arthur Matthews of Nafus Street.

  3. Great tips, cousin Amy. I’d only add the following:

    1) Don’t get too hung up on places.
    –a cousin from central PA died in central NY while escorting a daughter to college. The death site seemed really unlikely, but it was so important to *read* the NY newspaper account.
    –a spouse of a central-PA cousin died in Florida, where the newspaper death notice named her but not surrounding circumstances. Her estate record in PA confirmed this was the same person who died in FL, but I still don’t know why she was there.
    –a cousin died in an automobile accident far from home.
    –a central-PA cousin died in a Massachusetts house fire; she was working in MA at the time.

    2) Searching for all known family members may yield results. One of my cousins was called only the mother of Charles so-and-so in a death notice, which does not name her at all.

    • Thanks so much for the interesting suggestions. I’m looking forward to trying them. Another tip, when you do find the obit of a 1st wife, don’t settle. I was looking for my 3rd great grandmother’s obit and it was minimal. It didn’t even mention her first name. But when I kept looking for his obit, I’d hit the jackpot. His obit gave not only the name of his first wife but their marriage, his 2nd wife name and marriage and the kids with each wife. and when and where he was born. It also told when he migrated to our area. As I recall, the library was nearly empty in their genealogy section and I let out a rather loud,
      “yes”.

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  7. During certain periods of time, addresses were always published for the deceased. If you know the address, search on that. Otherwise–use all of the above. 🙂 Names of children, siblings, etc., etc. And I found the obit for a 4th great-grandmother in a NYC paper when she died in Indiana in 1821.

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