Friday, September 27, 2019

New Collection on - Obituary Index, 1800s to Current

Ancestry released a new record collection this week that is a game changer for my research - the Obituary Index, 1800s-Current collection (  

There are over 750 million indexed entries in this collection according to the Card Catalog.

The collection description is:

This database consists of facts extracted from obituaries found on™ dating from the early 1800’s to current.
    Details present may include:
  • Name of the deceased
  • Gender of the deceased
  • Birth date and place and/or age at death
  • Marriage date and place
  • Death and/or burial date
  • Residence and/or death place
  • Obituary date and place
  • Names of parents, spouse, children, and/or siblings
  • Original publication details
This database is presented index only, with a link to the digitized page on™. Clicking on the link will open the image on the™ site, which may require an additional upgrade or subscription.
These facts were pulled from a record by a computer and may not be accurate.

The user must have a subscription in order to see the actual obituary.

From the search page for the collection, I searched for "seaver" exact last name entries:

I clicked on the orange Search button and saw that there were 2,983 entries for the exact surname of "Seaver":

As you can see on the screen above, there are columns for the obituary subject, a birth date, a publication date, a publication location, and (some?) relatives mentioned in the obituary.

I clicked on the first entry on the list, and saw the record summary page:

This is as far as an Ancestry subscriber can go without a subscription, but it is "pretty good" in many cases.

Clicking on the "View" link in the image placeholder (on the left of the record summary above), shows the newspaper page from, along with a summary box with indexed information:

There are buttons on the summary box for "Save to Ancestry" and "Clip" (using the clipping features).

If I add a year to the collection search, I will receive matches that include a birth or publication date for that year.

If I add a year only to the "Obituary Place" field on the search form, then I can see all obituaries for only that year - see below:

Some potential problems are:

*  The collection only indexes obituaries and death notices published by newspapers included on  For instance, there are no San Diego obituaries in this collection.

*  The obituaries are read by a computer, and some of the indexed information is inaccurate.  For instance "Grandma Seaver" in a death notice was indexed as "Rantima Seaver" even though the words were very clear!

*  The index only covers obituaries and death notices, but not news articles that are not relating death information.

How does this collection change my genealogy search process?  Quite simply, it "short circuits" my search for obituary and death notice information.  It points to an article for a death, and provides the published information.  I can find the information in the obituary or death notice, clip the article or the whole page on and save it to my computer, and enter the information and attach the image to a person in my RootsMagic family tree and to or my Ancestry Member Tree.

For my Seaver surname study (and any other surname study), this collection will be a tremendous time saver.  I don't have every Seaver/Sever/Seever/Sevier/etc. persons who ever lived in my database, but this will help find many more.  Finding obituaries and death notices in a surname search without an index like this is like hunting for needles in a haystack - it takes a lot of time.

Now I need to find the best way to "mine" this collection for people (it is database number 61843 for those who care).  At some point, this collection should create Hints for persons in my Ancestry Member Tree (I already have some for persons in my AMT that I changed yesterday).  I could "mine" the records that way.  For a surname study, I could go through the list one publication year at a time.

I think I love this record collection!  Thank you, and


Disclosure:  I have had a fully paid subscription since 2000 and a paid subscription since 2017. has provided material considerations for travel expenses to meetings, and has hosted events and meals that I have attended in Salt Lake City, in past years.

Copyright (c) 2019, Randall J. Seaver

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Taneya said...

Great to know about! I love digitized newspapers but I love indexes even more. 😁

Barb said...

Thanks for highlighting this new index. I totally missed it. Any idea how to use your "Search Ancestry Hints by Collection" trick with this new add? There's no dbase # noted in the url of the collection/index. Maybe because it's an index?

Randy Seaver said...

Hi Barb,

I craftily planted the database ID number in one of the last paragraphs in the blog post - it is 61843

However, you have to give Ancestry time to find all of the Hints for your tree people. They don't do Hints for your entire tree at one time. They find hints for profiles you add or change, and a random number of your tree people every day. After two days, I have only 6 Hints for this database. I anticipate that eventually I will have 2,000 or more.

Diane Gould Hall said...

Yippee! I had noticed this new collection showing up as hints on a couple of my ancestors today. I thought "mmmm...I haven’t seen this before." Like you Randy, I’m thrilled with this collection. Can’t wait to examine all the leads. I’m such a newspaper hound already that this just makes me smile.