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Lesson 3: Dying to be Found, Part 1: Immigrant Obituaries

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.

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