Newspaper obituaries are an essential part of all compiled family histories.
Yet there are many researchers who can not find any mention of their ancestors’ deaths in newspapers. Why is that? It’s because they aren’t searching in all the available newspapers where their ancestor lived.
The collections on websites like Newspapers.com and GenealogyBank.com are just a small subset of all the available Pennsylvania newspapers.
Here’s where you can access more newspapers of you ancestors, so you can locate their obituaries.
State Library of Pennsylvania
The State Library in Harrisburg at the Capitol Complex hosts links to digitized Pennsylvania newspaper collections on two different websites. The first collection is on their LibGuides and looks like this when you open it. You can search each newspaper individually.
The State Library’s second online collection of Pennsylvania newspapers is on Power Library. Here you can also search each newspaper individually too.
The State Library of Pennsylvania also has the most complete collection of Pennsylvania newspapers from all 67 counties. The newspaper collection is on microfilm, but those microfilms can be sent via interlibrary loan to your local public library.
Penn State University Libraries
The research librarians at Penn State University compiled links to historical newspapers. Each link is to a collection online and there is likely similarities in the various places. Once a newspapers is digitized, it can be licensed for viewing just about anywhere that is willing to pay the fee.Some newspapers are only available with a university library card or onsite at a Penn State campus library computer.
Pennsylvania Newspaper Archive
One of the most diverse collections of Pennsylvania newspapers also happens to be free. The Pennsylvania Newspaper Archive is hosted by Penn State University Libraries and has digitized and searchable newspapers from all 67 counties of Pennsylvania.
The most effective way to search this collection is to go to “Browse by Titles” and then sort by “County.” Now it’s easy to see which newspapers are available for specific years in the place your ancestor lived.
One of the oddest digitized newspaper collections I’ve discovered is the Necrology Collection on PowerLibrary. It's so unique it deserved it's own category. Necrology was another way to say “obituary” back when these scrapbooks were made in the late 19th century.
These necrology scrapbooks are clippings of obituaries and newspaper articles from around Pennsylvania. The majority of the people noted are Civil War veterans or politicians. However, since the collection is digitized, it is completely searchable by any name. If your direct line ancestor is not in the title, they could be listed as one of the family of the deceased or associate through work or a fraternal organization.
Chronicling America is the ultimate free collection of American historic newspapers, hosted by the Library of Congress (LOC) in Washington DC. The LOC catalog is also my go-to destination to learn which newspapers were published in specific Pennsylvania counties.
The recommended search method is to focus on a specific state and date range. This provides a limited number of results to view at one time. A good way not to get overwhelmed and confused. And don’t forget to keep a research log of what you’ve found as you search!
Over 8,000 Pennsylvania newspapers were published in the state’s history. Using only the most popular places for obituaries, like Newspapers.com and Genealogybank.com, puts a hard limit on success. Using these Pennsylvania newspaper sources will help you find the obituaries of your ancestors.