Obituary Lookup Volunteers - Making a Request

Making An Obituary Lookup Request


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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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:

  3. 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 state or country and see if someone has signed up for the area you are interested in.

  4. 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 Volunteer Coordinator for assistance.
    • 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.

  5. 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 line.
    • 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.

  6. 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 their efforts.

  7. 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:

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.

WE NEED VOLUNTEERS - Please consider volunteering
for your area, even on a limited basis, because every lookup
helps someone. 
Becoming a Volunteer has more information.

To volunteer to do lookups in your area,
for questions about the mailing list,
for help with obit requests,
to report a broken link,
or for other comments or questions,
contact us.

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Last update 22 Sep 2010