Research Tips: Obituary Index
Originally shared on the JoCo History blog.
The Obituary Index, maintained by the Johnson County Genealogical Society (JCGS), consistently tops the list of most visited JoCo History website collections. Upon first glance, the index can seem overwhelming, but once you learn how to use this tool, it can serve as a valuable resource in genealogical research.
Volunteers from the JCGS comb through the obituary sections of area newspapers each month to extract basic information about the deceased. They compile the name, date of death, and newspaper information including the date published and page number of each obituary. Johnson County Library staff then upload this information to guide researchers to the print obituary. Using this index cuts out hours of browsing through many newspapers by giving researchers the exact newspaper and page number to find any given obituary.
First, navigate to jocohistory.org and click on the Obituary Index, located towards the bottom of the JoCo History home screen, so only that collection is searched.
Users can search in two different ways. To simply see what the collection has to offer, click ‘Browse’ at the bottom of the page. To search for a particular person, type the name into the search box in the top right.
For example, search Angeline Carter who passed away in Olathe in 1906. Note the multiple results for this name.
Don’t assume that each result represents a different person as there are often multiple entries per individual. The index lists one entry per obituary so check each potential record. Note on the results for Angeline Carter that the date of death is the same, indicating all three of these entries are for the same person.
Also notice that two of these entries list the same newspaper source. Check the publish date to determine if the same newspaper ran two different obituaries for this particular person. In this case, the Olathe Tribune published obituaries for Angeline Carter on January 26 and February 2, 1906.
The most important thing to remember is that the actual obituary will not show up linked to the index. Unfortunately, copyright laws and limited staff/volunteer time and resources keep us from publishing full newspaper articles. Remember that this is an index meant to direct users to the location of the obituary. Most of these newspapers are on microfilm at the Johnson County Library’s Central Resource Library in Overland Park. By using the information found in the index record, researchers can use the microfilm machines to find the actual obituary. Don’t know how to use the microfilm machines? No problem! The Johnson County Genealogical Society staffs a volunteer desk in the Genealogy section of the library 9:00 – 5:00 Monday – Saturday, and library staff are always available to assist during open hours.