Beef Obituary? Nothing is more frustrating than having all the needed information to find an obituary, the death date and place, newspaper film in hand – and no obituary is found. Nothing. Natta. On occasion in my newspaper research I come across this fact – simply there was no obituary printed.
Some reasons why you can’t find an obituary.
1. The place of death was not their normal place of residence. Common scenario – family member gets sick and goes to the “large city” for better medical care. I have found many people who went to Salem or Portland for medical care, and passed away there, the Oregon Death Index will list their death in Marion or Multnomah Counties – when in fact they lived in another county. Check the newspaper of their residence. Oregon Death Certificates will list their usual address.
2. Many small towns had weekly newspapers. If someone died near the date of publication, by the time the next newspaper comes out – it is old news. Scour the city briefs, local news columns for the death. Often there will be a brief mention of the death – and perhaps some new clues.
3. Sometimes when death was by suicide or a crime, the family will – for whatever reason – choose to not have an obituary published, or even a death notice. The family will distance themselves from the person – right or wrong. I have seen this on many occasions. Check for a news article about the death.
4. Death took place at an institution – such as the “Oregon State Insane Asylum” or State Penitentiary – if there is any mention of the death at all – it will be a death notice in the facility’s city. In Oregon, most often that would be in Salem. Unclaimed bodies were cremated or buried on the grounds. Double check the home town newspaper.
5. Deceased listed under a different surname. Sometimes this will be the case with women. Focusing on a particular name you might not see “the forest through the trees”! If she had several different married names, keep your eye out for all of them.
6. Look for the small town newspaper. Recently I was researching for a client and the place of death was given as “Clackamas County” from Oregon Death Index. Lots of possibilities for newspapers. I first checked the Portland Oregonian and found only a small classified death notice, no obituary. But the notice said, “of Molalla”, I went to the Molalla Pioneer newspaper – a small community paper and found a long detailed obituary. Always look for the small town newspapers for the best obituaries.
7. Aged family member goes to live with child out of the area, like the first example, the place of death differed from the “normal residence”. I once searched for a person who died in Eugene and who had lived in this area for many years. The death notice was brief and lacked details. The old residence, though she had not lived there for about 20 years was long and full of details. The difference – she still had family members living there and the family was a long time established name in the area.
8. Perhaps you just missed the obituary while you were researching. If everything just seems right – date, place, newspaper and you can’t find the obituary. Drop it for while and come back to it. Sometimes with a fresh look you will see you just had overlooked it.
9. You are working with flawed information. Double check your work – did you write the dates down correctly? What was your source for your information – was it reliable? Are you looking at the correct film. I have searched and searched for an obituary only to see that I pulled the wrong film out of the box! It can happen to anyone! I normally will check about 10 – 14 days for notice – but I have found them published even later than that.
Yes, it is very frustrating when you have all the right tools – and still can’t find an obituary, but hopefully these 9 ideas will help you find the meat next time you research.