An obituary is a written notice of a person’s death, which states the important details of the deceased such as their full name, family history, age, birthplace, date of birth, and more. At a time of grieving, obituaries allow family members to celebrate the deceased’s life, memorialize what made them so special, and inform the community of their death. While in the past death notices appeared in print, today they appear mostly online.
People search for an obituary for many reasons, including for finding funeral information, locating details about a person, and genealogy research. With obituaries moving online, finding one for a specific person is rather easy.
In this post, we will show you how to find an obituary in Canada, both online and offline. So, let’s get started.
How to start your obituary search
When doing an obituary search, you have a better chance of success if you know the following details:
- The date of death – If you know the precise death date, thanks to a family record or death certificate, this will help your search. But if you do not, that is okay too. Chances are you can make a reasonable estimate about when the person might have passed away and that will suffice. For instance, if you are searching for an obituary for an ancestor whois listed with his wife in the 1901 Canadian census, but his wife appears as a widow in the 1911 census, you can safely assume that he must have died between1901 and 1911.
- Place of death – Knowing the deceased’s exact death place can simplify your search, but if you do not have the precise information, use the person’s last known place of residence instead. You can look up government or church records to find your ancestor’s last known residence.
- The surname of the deceased at the time of death –In the past, women usually took their husband’s last name after marriage. If you are searching for a female ancestor and know her last name at the time of death, you can use this information for your obituary search. For instance, say you are searching for an ancestor whose maiden name was Baker and who married someone with the surname Brown. Her obituary is likely to appear under the name of Brown, not Baker.
- Family members – If you are not sure whether you have the correct obituary, look for information about common relatives. That will tell you if you have found what you were looking for.
How to find an obituary for people in Canada
There are many resources for searching obituaries online, from newspaper websites to online databases of obituaries and even social media. If you have the right information about the deceased and are ready to invest a little time, you can easily find any obituary.
Almost all newspapers publish obituaries on their sites.But keep in mind that they usually do not keep death notices online forever. Generally speaking, newspapers remove them after six months or so. If you are looking for an obituary of someone who has recently died, start with checking relevant newspapers’ websites. For instance, if you know the precise date and place of death, first identify the newspapers that are most likely to publish a written death notice. In most cases, these would be local newspapers. Next, visit their websites and search for the obituary using the deceased’s name.
However, if you are searching for an older death, consider other options.
An online database of obituaries from over 1,500 newspapers and 3,500 funeral homes, legacy.com is perhaps the most popular online obituary. To run a search, all you need is the deceased’s last and first name, but you can filter the search results by selecting the appropriate country, province, city, and time of death.
Like legacy.com, this website allows you to run a search using only the deceased’s full name. If you have additional details, like date of passing and date of birth, add them to your search query to narrow down the results.
With a network spanning more than 135 local newspapers across Canada, InMemoriam is another online obituary database worth giving a try. To perform a quick search, all you require is the first and last name of the deceased. But if you have other details, you can narrow down the search results.
InMemboriam boasts one of the most comprehensive advanced search features, which lets you add details like funeral home, gender, year of birth, year of death, country of birth, province of birth, and more to your search query. If you have these details, you can get the exact match the first time instead of having to check each result separately to find the right one.
You can use this resource for family tree research as well as for finding death notices and memoriam. The website is fairly easy to use; simply enter the deceased’s full name in the Search field and hit the Search Now button.
If you know the deceased’s last and first name, consider giving subdury.com a try. However, unlike most other online obituaries, it does not have an advanced search tool to help you narrow down the results by entering further details.
- Web Search
You can also run a simple online search to find an obituary for someone. Simply type the person’s full name followed by the word ‘obituary’. If the search does not throw up any relevant match, consider adding more details if you have them. For example, if the person in question died from an auto accident in Montreal, you can add those details in your search query as well. Like this: “Richard Baker” death “auto accident” “Montreal”.
- Social Media
Often, people memorialize the social media profiles of their loved ones. In case you know the deceased’s social media account, checkout their profile page. You might be able to find their obituary or death notice there.
- Genealogy orHistorical Site
Social media platforms can prove handy when searching for a recent death, but if you are looking for an obituary form someone who died a few decades back, try a genealogy website.
Because these websites have searchable databases, locating information about a deceased is not hard, particularly if you happen to know more about them than just their name. You can simplify your search by using as much information as possible in your search query, like the deceased’s legal name, birth date, place of birth, death date, place of death, etc. If you only have their name, you will probably have to go through several pages of records.
Most genealogical websites require a subscription, but they generally also have a free trial period, usually two weeks. Since there is no option to save search results in the trial period, do not forget to take out a printout if you find what you are looking for. Ancestory.com is the most popular online genealogy resource, but you can also consider others, likeMyHeritage.com.
- Visit the local church’s website
If you know deceased’s church, visiting its website can be worth your while. Often, church and local places of worship post a blurb on ora full obituary for their deceased members.
- Where to find obituaries offline
If you cannot find any information online, there are a few offline options worth giving a go.
- Public Library
Do you know deceased’s place and time of death? If so, visit that area’s local library and go through back issues of newspapers.
- A local archive facility
Most cities (if not all) have an archive facility, where you may find historical information and public records that can help confirm whether the person you are looking for has passed away or not. That said, be prepared to go through print documents and newspapers since not all of these documents might be available in the digitized form.
- Local courthouse
The probate court that serves the deceased’s city is likely to have a record of their will. However, this method is not only time-consuming, but you will have to pay a small fee to access the relevant record. So, it is best to use it as a last-resort option.
How to find an obituary for specific people?
There is a free database at the Library and Archives of Canada where you may look for vital statistics like births, deaths, and marriages. If the Canadian you're looking for passed away outside of Canada, you should still be able to discover his or her obituary in the archives because he or she was a Canadian citizen.
If you are wondering how to find an obituary in Canada, you are in luck. There are several options, both online and offline, available to you. Given its simplicity and convenience, you may want to give online resources, like online databases of obituaries, social media, genealogy websites, etc., a try.
If you are unable to find an obituary for someone online, consider any of the listed offline options.