The most important thing to remember is this: Lookup volunteers cannot do your research for you. What they can do is perform the service of locating an obituary for you given the necessary information.
Making a Lookup Request
Before submitting a lookup request, please read the steps below:
- First, take a few moments to
search the Web
to see if the obituary you're seeking has been posted on a message board
or published on a web site.
- Next, determine the location and exact date of death and verify your information. If you don't have this information it is unlikely that you will be able to get an obituary. There are a few exceptions to this rule; please refer to the
Date of Death
section for an explanation. There are many places you can search for the exact date of death; here are a few of them:
- Then, once you have the death date, if necessary
look up the county (for USA requests)
and then check the Obituary Lookup Volunteers index to find the web page for the
see if someone has signed up for the area you are interested in.
- If you find a volunteer, click on the Email link in his/her listing and send your request. Please follow these guidelines:
- If possible, use the Email link to send the message to the
volunteer. If the subject line in the resulting e-mail window isn't automatically filled in, please put the following information in the subject line: Obit Request/State-County: Example: Obit Request/MA-Suffolk.
(For non-US requests, use Obit Request/Country.) Without that subject
line, it's possible the volunteer will delete your message without reading it.
- Be sure to include at least the following information in the body of the e-mail message: the name of the individual, the date of death and the location.
- Don't send the request to the mailing list, as our listed volunteers
don't necessarily subscribe to the mailing list. Send the request directly to the volunteer.
- Although most volunteers are able to acknowledge requests quickly, sometimes it's necessary for requesters to be patient. Please wait two weeks for a response; if you don't receive one by then, send your request again in case there's been an e-mail problem. If you don't receive a reply within two weeks to your second message, then contact the
- Please remember that volunteers are taking precious time
from their own schedules and research to help you. Although
many volunteers can do lookups right away, some may need more time to
schedule the trip to the library. The volunteer you've contacted
will inform you as to how long the lookup is likely to take.
- If you don't find a volunteer on the web page you can send a request to the OBIT-LOOKUPS-L Mailing List. Here are the rules for sending a query to the list:
- You must be subscribed to the list to send a query or request.
For more information on how to subscribe, see Obit-Lookups-L Mailing List.
- The subject line of the e-mail message must begin with the state and
county, for example MA-Suffolk or MA-Suffolk-Boston.
Otherwise most people on the list will delete your message without reading
it. [OBITL] will automatically be inserted at the beginning of the subject
- If someone decides to help you, he/she will e-mail you
directly. If you don't get any response it means that no one is available
to help you at this time. Since new listed volunteers are added every
week, check the web page periodically for a new volunteer in your area.
If no one has volunteered for your area, resubmit your request to the mailing list in a month.
- Finally, the most important thing to do is to properly thank any
volunteer who helps you with information or an obituary lookup. These
wonderful people have set aside time to help others and should be recognized for
- If there isn't a volunteer for an area, as a convenience we
sometimes provide links to newspaper archives, libraries, or genealogical/historical societies. In many cases, these resources charge nominal fees. Libraries may instead request donations, which help defray the cost of providing services to non-residents.
Additional Information about Requests
Example of a good request:
Could someone please look for an obituary for the following person:
John Anderson, died 10/12/1890 in Chicago, IL
wife was Margaret Allen Anderson
Example of an unreasonable request:
SUBJECT: John ANDERSON
I need an obituary for the following person; I don't know when he died.
John ANDERSON, died sometime after 1900 in New York City.
If you can't find the exact date of death:
If you have exhausted all your resources without finding an exact death date, check the volunteer's listing. If it does not say "exact date required," then you can check with the volunteer to see if he/she is able to do the lookup anyway.
Some libraries have an obituary index, a death index or a cemetery index, but
this is the case only some of the time. If an index exists it will
probably be listed on our web page for that location. If you happen to
find one that we don't have listed, please
let us know
about it. You can always ask the volunteer if there is an index.
If you have the month and year but not the exact date, please remember if there is no index, starting with just the month and year can mean a lookup in over thirty issues of a daily newspaper. In that case, a busy volunteer may be unable to help you.
Please do your part and volunteer some time:
For all of the volunteers who have already signed up to help, thank you very much for your generosity. For those who have not yet signed up, please consider devoting just a few hours a month to this project. Even one or two lookups a month are a great help to someone.