Finding a recent obituary in the age of the Internet can be done in seconds. Even before the advent of the World Wide Web, though, finding an obituary was often a matter of knowing who to call. The first basic rules of finding an obituary are the same ones that apply for finding any story that has run in a newspaper. In my work as a reporter, if I am searching for an obituary, I follow a few simple tips.

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Search the internet, just the way you would search for anything. Even if you do know the name of the newspaper the notice ran in, you might find it easier by using a search engine. Type in the name. Start with the full name if you know it. Use variations on the first name. Type the city in your search if you have an idea where to look.

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Refer to dedicated obituary sites. Legacy.com, which is contracted by many newspapers to run online obituaries, allows you to search nationwide. That is useful if you don't know exactly where the person lived. Tributes.com will sometimes publish short notices based on information from the Social Security Death Index. Use the term "online obituaries" and you'll find several sites that offer help, some for a fee.

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Go to the newspaper site itself if you know where the person was living. In fact, if you know this information you might want to go to the newspaper first. Most papers will have search functions with which you can enter the person's last name and the obituary will be among those on the list. If it's a common name, include other information that would be inside the text of the obituary, such as a spouse's or child's name.

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Call for help. If the previous steps have not worked, call either the newspaper or area mortuaries to see if someone there can help you. Often a news staffer will know better how to search and some of the larger papers have librarians on staff. Call a mortuary and you may find out that there was no obituary or will be pointed to the exact place to find it.

Items you will need

  • Internet access

  • Newspaper names

  • Newspaper phone numbers

  • Mortuary phone numbers

Tip

  • Start by searching where you would search for anything. Use variations on first-name spellings. Get as much geographical information as you can before searching. Leave online comments if they are complimentary to the deceased.

Tip

  • Don't use this opportunity to settle scores with people by posting negative comments. Online sites will delete them.