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Now What: Tracking Down Obituaries for Ancestors Who Died en Route

By David A. Fryxell Premium
obituaries ancestors
<Photo Credit: David Bailey/Nashville/Getty Images>

Question: My immigrant ancestor, who arrived at New York, died en route to Iowa, where the rest of her Kuen family settled. Where should I look for an obituary?

If you’re not sure of an exact location, start with a large online database. The best free source is the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America, which has close to 14 million digitized pages from newspapers nationwide. You can search by state or specific newspapers, and limit the date range to the year your ancestor traveled through. You could also try Elephind, whose search includes Chronicling America as well as other free collections.

Among the largest online newspaper collections with an emphasis on obituaries, is subscription site GenealogyBank. You can do some searching for free to see if it’s worthwhile. A quick search on Kuen, for example, turns up 317 obituaries.

Another paid option is, owned by Ancestry, with more than 8,000 titles. And Ancestry also has a pretty good collection of newspapers.

If you know some towns your family went through, try searching online for the town name and obituaries to turn up online obituary indexes at public libraries and local newspapers. You also can contact libraries, which might have offline indexes.

Beyond obituaries, also consult church records, cemeteries and funeral homes in places where your ancestor might’ve died.

For more help with your early American ancestors, download our Early American Research Strategies Web Seminar. You’ll learn what records are available and how to find them for Colonial, Revolutionary, and pre-1850s American ancestors. Plus, uncover the secrets to advancing your early American family history research with this 1-hour webinar.

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