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The Sad State of Obituaries

Eyeglasses near a newspaper and coffee cup

Maybe you have noticed that as newspaper charges have risen, obituaries have gotten briefer, and fewer of them are being published.  I find it very sad to think that a person may simply disappear so completely that his future family members never discover where, when or how he lived his life.  In today’s digital world, many newspapers have gone out of business, and who knows whether their past publications will survive?  Who can even guess how future privacy laws may affect public records? 

What is a person to do?  If you learn that a person has died, and there is no newspaper obituary, you might be able to find one on the website of the funeral home.  If you attend the funeral, you may receive a funeral card.  Those items are becoming more and more important as time goes by.  If you have been collecting funeral cards over the years, please consider donating them to the Oklahoma Genealogical Society.  They would like to preserve as many of them as they can find.

As for yourself, don’t be so humble that you think nobody will care about your life.  Your story will benefit someone.  Try to leave your footprints behind in a number of ways:

  • You could write your own obituary, and leave it in the hands of a trusted family member, friend or funeral professional. 
  • Write letters to your family members and leave them in your safe deposit box. 
  • Compile your family tree, write your memories, make a scrapbook or photo album, and prepare for your descendants what you wish your ancestors had prepared for you. 
  • Donate a copy of your work to your local public library or genealogical society.  Do it as a lasting act of kindness that may endure for generations. 

If you are searching for information about those who have gone before you, please take advantage of the resources that are available to you through the Internet and the Metropolitan Library System.  FindAGrave.com is a database of burials and memorials created by volunteers.  Many of the 132 million memorials contain photos, obituaries, biographies, and links to parents and children.  FindAGrave has recently been linked to Ancestry.com, which is available free-of-charge in all Metropolitan libraries.

Other databases that may be useful to you include:

Oklahoman Digital Archives (1901-present)
This database contains full-color, digital copies of The Oklahoman newspaper, including today's edition. Search the entire archives of The Oklahoman or search individual issues. You can browse the newspapers by date or search by keyword across articles, advertisements and photo captions.

Historical Newspapers 
Provides full-text access to the archives of Chicago Defender (1910-1975), St. Louis Post Dispatch (1874-1922), The Jewish Exponent (1887-1990), Los Angeles Times (1881-1990), The New York Times (1851-2010), and The Washington Post (1877-1997).

Access Newspaper Archive
Search tens of millions of U.S. and international newspapers whose coverage goes back more than 400 years. 

African American Newspapers (1827-1998)
Search hundreds of African American newspapers from across the United States published during the 19th and 20th centuries.

America's GenealogyBank
Search over 300 years of historical U.S. newspapers, books, pamphlets, local histories, military records, funeral sermons, land grants, birth and marriage records, and more


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