The Los Angeles city newspapers generally publish obituaries only for celebrities. Death notices, which are paid announcements, appear more frequently. These vary in length, but many give only the name of the decedent and the name of a mortuary. There is no general index to obituaries and death notices; they can only be found by searching the full text of the newspaper. Due to the size of Los Angeles area, the city where the death occurred and where the decedent resided should be known before undertaking a search. This information can be obtained from the death certificate. For persons dying in Los Angeles County, after July 1, 1905, death certificates are available from the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, 12400 E. Imperial Hwy, Norwalk, CA 90650 and from the Office of the State Registrar of Vital Statistics, Department of Health Services, 410 N Street, Sacramento, CA 95814-4381. Some indexing for deaths prior to 1905 can be found at the Pre-1905 CA Death Index Project. The California Death Index 1940-1997 provides only the county of death and not the city.
Obituaries, as opposed to death notices, are found more frequently in the suburban community newspapers. There are 88 cities in Los Angeles County. Many of these communities have their own newspaper and backfiles of those papers are normally held by the public libraries in those communities. Further information can be found at the Southern California Obituary Resource Project. Library addresses can also be found in the American Library Directory. Obituaries for Los Angeles residents who were born and raised in other parts of the United States, particularly in small and medium sized communities, are often found in their hometown newspapers.
Listings of newspapers currently being published can be found in the Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media, formerly known as the Ayer Directory of Publications. A partial listing of libraries holding backfiles of newspapers can be found in Newspapers in Microform and in United States Newspaper Program National Union List. One or more of these directories can be found in most libraries.
Patrons who wish to try to the Los Angeles city newspapers for obituaries or death notices are urged to do their own searching. THE LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY IS UNABLE TO DO OBITUARY SEARCHES. The library can provide a Directory of Genealogists who are willing to do research for a fee. Microfilm holdings of the Los Angeles Times are found in many libraries nationwide and in other countries as well. (Most of these libraries are NOT found in the bibliographies listed above.) Holdings at these libraries vary in their degree of completeness. Many libraries with holdings of the Times are willing to send their microfilm out on interlibrary loan. The proper procedure is to ask your local public library to initiate an interlibrary loan request.
Some newspapers have been digitized and can now be searched online. The Los Angeles Times is available from 1881-1986 as one of the ProQuest Historical Newspapers, which is available at the Central Library and all of the branches of the Los Angeles Public Library and at numerous other libraries nationwide. Both obituaries and death notices are included. Some other Los Angeles County newspapers have been digitized and are available as part of the Access Newspaper Archive which is also available at the Central Library and all of the branches of the Los Angeles Public Library and at numerous other libraries nationwide. Included here is the Van Nuys News under several variant titles from 1911-1977.
Some newspapers are available full text and can be searched online too. The Los Angeles Times is available from 1985-present as one of the ProQuest Newspapers. The Daily News of Los Angeles is available from 1995-present. Obituaries are included, but paid death notices are not included for both newspapers. This database is available at the Central Library and all of the branches of the Los Angeles Public Library and at numerous other libraries nationwide. Patrons having a library card for the Los Angeles Public Library may search this database at home.