If you are new to genealogy research, it won’t take you long to figure out that obituaries are one of the best sources of information for filling out the branches on your family tree. Obituaries not only provide information about the life of a deceased ancestor, but they can also provide the names of their parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews, as well as grandchildren. If your ancestor emigrated from another country, that information is sometimes included as well.
At the library, we can help you locate obituaries that appeared in local Kansas City papers, and you may not even have to come in to find what you are looking for. KCKPL newspaper databases are easy to search from home using your library card. If the ancestors you are looking for lived in the Kansas City area, the best databases to start with are the Kansas City Star and Times Archive or African American Newspapers. Simply enter your ancestor’s name and any mention of them in that paper will be listed in the search results. It’s easy to view and clip your article or download and save the entire newspaper page to your computer. African American Newspapers include papers from all over the country. You can also search America’s Newspapers if you are looking for people who lived outside of Kansas City.
If your ancestor came from elsewhere in Kansas, the Kansas Historical Society Digital Newspapers database could help. KHS has spent years scanning millions of pages of newspapers from all over the state and they are accessible online by logging in with your Kansas driver’s license number and birth date. It’s easy to search by city, by date, or by keyword. Note: only papers published prior to 1923 are available due to copyright restrictions.
If you need to search a newspaper on microfilm, such as the Kansas City, Kansan, you can visit the library and use our microfilm reader to browse and scan the newspaper and then print your article or save it to a flash drive. If you don’t know the date an obituary might have appeared, you can try to determine that in a couple of ways. First, ask the staff at the front desk to search the obituary database and see if they find your ancestor and their date of death. Secondly, you can look through the library’s cemetery indexes to see if you can find where your ancestor might be buried. These indexes usually list a date of death or date of interment. Search the corresponding date in the newspaper for the obituary. It’s helpful to look up to two weeks after the date of death as some obituaries or death notices ran later.
As always, if you need assistance with your genealogy research, please contact the Kansas Collection Librarian.