How to Find Archived Obituaries in Alabama Step-By-Step

Updated

Are you looking for an obituary of a person who lived or died in Alabama? We’ll walk you through the process of how to find an obituary using both online and in-person resources. 

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You may find the obituary you’re seeking within minutes using the resources we’ll provide. However, it’s also possible that you may have to travel to Alabama and go through newspaper archives to find the document. 

Let’s get started by learning how to search using your computer.

How to Find Archived Obituaries in Alabama

If you’re trying to find a relatively modern obituary, you can probably find the document with a simple Google search. In the search bar, type in the person’s full name, the word “obituary,” and the town and state of the death. If the person had a common name for the area, you might need to add additional clues, such as the year of death or the names of others that might be listed in the obituary (such as survivors).

Did your search yield anything? If you’re trying to find an obituary from previous decades or centuries, you might need to go through additional steps to find the obituary. 

If your simple search didn’t uncover an obituary, here are some more strategies to try.


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Step 1. Gather facts about the deceased

We understand that you’re probably trying to find the deceased’s obituary to learn more about them, so this step may not make sense to you. However, the more facts you know about the person, the easier it will be to find their obituary.

Some of the most helpful facts can be found on the death certificate, so let’s begin our search for this critical document. 

Alabama began to use death certificates at the state level in 1908. However, individual counties may have been keeping track of deaths in previous decades. If you think the person whose obituary you are looking for died after 1908, keep reading this section to learn how to obtain a death certificate. 

Alabama’s Office of Vital Records will release a death certificate 25 years after the date of death to people other than immediate family members and legal counsel. Visit the Vital Records website to learn about the process. 

You can also access the Alabama death index from 1908 to 1959 through Ancestry. While this isn’t the same as the death certificate, you can learn the deceased’s full name, county of death, date of death, and the state certificate number (volume and page). 

Once you have the full name, birth date, death date, and place of death of the deceased, you may be more likely to find their obituary using one of the following online resources.

Step 2. Use an online obituary resource

Several sites are dedicated to obituaries. However, most of them are for those who lost loved ones in recent years. If you are looking for an older obituary, you will probably need to access newspaper archives.

Some of the sites we recommend are paid sites, but the obituary you are trying to find may be accessed for free using free trials of websites or accessing the sites at a library or genealogy center. 

Legacy

Legacy is the world’s largest provider of online memorials, and the website says that the company hosts obituaries for almost 70 percent of all U.S. deaths. Legacy partners with over 1,200 newspapers across the country.

If you can’t find the obituary you’re looking for through Legacy, the website might link you to other helpful resources to aid you in your search, including Find a Grave or Ancestry

One of our test searches could not find the obituary we were looking for, but the website was able to give us the name of the funeral home the family of the deceased used. Therefore, the obituary could be found at the funeral home site. 

Tributes

Your search for an obituary may lead you to Tributes, another website dedicated to remembering the deceased. Unfortunately, this website may not help you in finding an older obituary. But you might utilize this website to write a tribute to a loved one who passed. 

Tributes also offers resources for those who need assistance with their grief. 

Ancestry

While the previous two resources may help find an obituary from the modern era, Ancestry is the go-to source for those researching their family trees. 

Ancestry not only has search engines that may help you find the obituary from archived newspapers, but you might also find the article linked to a long-lost second cousin’s public family tree. 

Newspaper Archive

While we don’t have any experience with this website, you might consider using Newspaper Archive to find the obituary. Newspaper Archive offers a seven-day free trial, but you will pay $139.90 per year for access after that.

Genealogy Bank

Geneology Bank is another paid site that has more than 260 million obituaries. Genealogy Bank allows you to search by state, and the website gives you access to dozens of Alabama newspaper archives, some going back to 1818. 

Step 3. Search Alabama newspaper archives  

Before you pay for an online obituary or newspaper archive, make sure the information isn’t available to you for free. Here are some Alabama-specific websites that may aid you in your search.

If the obituary was published in one of Alabama’s major newspapers, you might be able to access it from the Library of Congress website. There you will find the digital archives of 16 Alabama newspapers.

Looking through digitized newspapers may be a lot of work, especially since many do not have a search option. The more information you uncover about the deceased, the easier it will be to find the obituary. If you know the month and year of death, you can search through the newspaper obituaries from that era to find the obituary you are seeking. 


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Other Methods to Find Archived Obituaries From Alabama

We hope you were able to find the obituary you were looking for online. However, not all Alabama newspapers have been digitized, so you might need to consider other avenues to find the information. 

Step 1. Talk with members of your extended family

Reach out to the oldest person in your extended family. This person may be happy to talk about their memories and may have helpful information about the deceased. Of course, they may also have a copy of the obituary stored in a shoebox or scrapbook. 

If the oldest family member isn’t able to help, reach out to someone else in the family who is interested in genealogy. Genealogical research is often a collaborative effort by several members of an extended family. But, of course, if that person lives in Alabama, they may be more likely to have access to the documents you need. 

Step 2. Visit Alabama historical societies and libraries

It seems as if many Alabama newspapers are available on microfilm, which means you need to access them in person. Learn more about the available information from the Alabama Department of Archives and History located in Montgomery. 

If you know the death and burial location, you might need to visit that county’s historical society to see what resources are available. You might find what you are looking for in bound periodicals stored in the basement of the local library. 

While this isn’t the most convenient way to complete research on your family’s history, you might feel even more connected to the individual if you hold a primary source in your hand. 


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Step 3. Hire a genealogist from Alabama

If you haven’t uncovered anything about your family member from your online and in-person research, consider hiring someone to find the obituary for you. Find a genealogist working in Alabama—hopefully, one from the area where your ancestor lived and died. 

A local genealogist might be able to access records not available to you, such as church and cemetery records. They may also know people in the community who kept their own private community archives.

Reasons You Might Not Be Able to Find the Obituary

If you have looked through all the newspapers in the local area where the person lived or died, and you haven’t been able to find an obituary, the logical assumption would be that the obituary was never written.

Remember, obituaries aren’t legal documents. Families from the past and current families aren’t required to submit obituaries to newspapers or websites after someone dies, so sometimes it doesn’t get done. 

There could be a variety of reasons for this. Modern families may not publish obituaries in the newspaper because it is a rather expensive process. Both modern families and those from previous generations may not have completed the task because no one knew how to write an obituary, or they had unanswered questions about obituary etiquette. 

Keep Your Family’s History Alive

Hopefully, if you’ve learned anything from this experience of trying to find an obituary in Alabama, you have discovered the importance of recording your family’s history for the next generations. 

So reach out to older family members and ask them questions about their parents and grandparents. Take notes or record the conversations. Ask if they have old documents or photos.

Be the family archivist for your generation—it’s easier than ever before! Keep an updated family tree online and digitally archive photographs and copies of the family obituaries. Tell your own story. Consider writing your own obituary so that it is as accurate as possible. 

And, of course, take care when writing the obituary for the close members of your family. Tell their story instead of giving a long list of facts. Go to the expense of publishing the obituary in a local newspaper or a website that allows you to submit obituaries for free. Your future generations will thank you for it.

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