Obituaries and Family Files for Hard-to-Find Ancestors

Kermit B. Karns wrote me a letter about his current genealogy projects–including the collection of obituaries he and a group of friends have done.  Kermit was the founder and long-time President of the American Family Records Association (AFRA) in Kansas City MO. 

 “The Librarian loves them.  When folks come looking for genealogy, she refers them to the obituary collection.  Sometimes they find several of their relatives at one swoop!  They are copied from the old papers on 25% rag bond, 24 # paper for permanence:  7,000 obits in 20 three-inch binders. 

This concept of copying obituaries works quite well for counties with a smallish population.  I got the idea from the museum at Circle, Montana.  Years ago, when I stopped in, they had all of their obituaries in ring binders on about 30 feet of shelving.  They begin when the newspaper started in 1908.  I learned that a few of the other counties in Montana do this in one way or another.”

Actually, many public libraries in small communities have similar obit collections.  And that is another reason that I like to personally visit these libraries–to check their obituary files and to review all of their family files.  I start with A and review the surnames for each file all the way through to Z.  Since they are not often indexed, I can then spot particular surnames that I am currently researching, in the files of surnames I cannot always anticipate.

This research strategy has contributed to my overall success rate in tracing hard-to-find ancestors.  And I am one of the very few professional genealogists that does this kind of field work.  Since I research a lot of names at the same time, I can watch for those where information is still lacking.

And I highly recommend this strategy for hard-to-find-ancestors.

And many thanks to genealogists like Kermit B. Karns, who spend their hours providing access to badly needed sources  for all of us.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  The family group sheet collection that Kermit spear-headed for AFRA has been donated to the Missouri Historical Society, Columbia MO.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply