Regardless of an immigrant's age at arrival in America,
the one fact that virtually all immigrants share is that they died in
their new country. That is why the various records of the deaths of
our immigrant relatives are so important for our research. We have already
discussed government vital records, and church death records (burials).
There are still at least two other key sources created
when an individual dies: cemetery inscriptions (the subject of the next
lesson) and newspaper obituaries. For nineteenth century immigrants,
obituaries are one of the most significant sources available for immigration
information, often including the town of origin.
For many of our immigrant relatives, the obituary is
the only biographical sketch ever written. The bonus for our research
is that women are just as likely to have an obituary in the late nineteenth
century (or later), as were the men. Even those who died young may be
fully profiled in an obituary, especially if the death was the result
of an accident.
The very fact that obituaries may contain information
found in no other record should propel all researchers to seek obituaries
for all of their ancestors, not just those who immigrated. Given the
difficulty of locating information about immigrant relatives, the information
in obituaries is even more important. This is truly a significant resource.