The first two articles in this series helped you to understand how to use the information from the death certificate to learn more about your ancestor. If you missed them, begin with Part 1: How do you research using death certificates? Using the death date and place from the death certificate, you may be able to locate a newspaper obituary. Contact the county or parish library where your ancestor died to find out if they have a newspaper obituary index or which newspapers in their collection published obituaries at the time of your ancestor’s death.
Many libraries make obituary indexes available online. Sometimes it is difficult to navigate to it from the library’s home page. Look for a link to the genealogy or research section of the website. For example, the obituary index for the Richland County Public Library would be found by taking the following path: research & learning > research tools > Genealogy > South Carolina Obituary Resources > Web Site > Richland County Public Library > Online Obituary Index. After you discover the direct link to the index at the library where you need to research, bookmark it. If you cannot find a link to the index from the library home page, you can always contact them for assistance. In most cases, these newspapers have been microfilmed. It is also a good practice to check other local repositories in your area such as university libraries to determine if missing issues or different newspapers exist.
Keep in mind that some newspapers which were published during the lifetime of your ancestor may no longer exist. Several different databases such as ChroncilingAmerica, Accessible Archives, GenealogyBank, and NewsBank link you to historic newspapers online. Sometimes premium newspaper sites can be accessed from home using your local library card.
Four different obituaries were discovered for Lula Johnson Vance of Columbia from information found on her death certificate. They were located using the Online Obituary Index at the Richland County Library (The State and the Palmetto Leader). The Palmetto Leader is an African American newspaper formerly published in Columbia.
Information in an obituary
These obituaries led to the discovery of much more information about Lula and her family, and they are still being used to connect to other resources. See the attached slideshow which shows the results from searching the Online Obituary Index for Lula. One of the shorter obituaries published in The State on August 8, 1927 was uploaded to her memorial on Find A Grave. Some of the details learned include:
- Day of the week and part of the day she died
- Husband’s occupation
- Son’s occupation
- Day of week and place of funeral
The next Columbia Ethnic Community Article will show the details gleaned from Lula’s obituary in the Palmetto Leader and how they were used to research her further. Be sure to click “subscribe” above so you do not miss it.