Obituaries are a key part of my genealogical research; but, finding obituaries in early newspapers can be quite a task.
Key Point: The modern day index on page 1 of local newspaper is a rather new concept.
Older newspapers did not have these indexes and there wasn’t a designated section or area where obituaries were posted and could be found.
Case in point in this short notice which I presume to be my great great grandmother – Sarah Jane Graves Purvis – obituary. The only William Pervis/Purvis in Anson County during this time were my relatives.
This particular obituary/death notice was found under the subheading – McFarland News. McFarland is a small town located in Anson County, NC on the NC/SC State Line. Highway 52 runs North and South just east of the one street through McFarland.
One thing is quite obvious with this newspaper clipping. If the death notice/obituary was not already highlighted finding it would be very problematic. The actual notice was quite hard to detect without scanning/reading the entire column. There was nothing to indicate that a death notice was located within this local news column.
It seems the farther you go back in time; a death notice, if available, becomes even smaller. Most newspaper accounts ware primarily death notice unless the individual was very prominent within the community.
Again, this particular death notice was mixed in with the local social news of the day.
Tips on finding obits/death notices in early newspapers:
- Be patient, Go slow, scan every paragraph.
- Local advertisements can be ignored as far as death information
- Check with your local library and see if an Index has been created.
Older obituaries are not readily available; you have to search for them. here are a few tips:
Finding Older Newspapers
For current local newspapers look here - http://www.ipl.org/div/news/
Finding older newspaper is a little more difficult. Two places you can start your search.
1. At the Local State Library/Archives
2. At Major University Libraries within the State.
In South Carolina, obituaries from the Columbia based “The State” have been indexed and can be purchased through the Richland County Library.
To access their index go here: http://bit.ly/Xxoxsp
Other major sources for research are
- North Carolina Online Historical Newspapers
- South Carolina Online Historical Newspapers
- United States Online Historical Newspapers
- Historic American Newspapers - Chronicling America
- Google News Archive Search
 The Messenger & Intelligencer, January 4, 1893, McFarland News
 Charleston News & Courier; Charleston, SC, November 13, 1901, Page: 6