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Obituaries in Los Angeles County

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The Los Angeles city newspapers generally publish obituaries only for well-known citizens. Death notices—which are paid announcements—appear more frequently. These vary in length, but many only give 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. This is made easier if you are able to use keywords and search a digitized newspaper, such as our subscription to the Los Angeles Times Historical Database (1881-1990). We also provide access to the digitized newspaper databases Access Newspaper Archives and the Los Angeles Sentinel Historical Archive (1934-2005). You may access all three of these databases from home with your LAPL library card at http://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/research-and-homework.

If you don’t find the obituary in the above-mentioned databases, you will need to come to Central Library to access our microfilmed newspaper collection. These are vast and wonderful but, again, they are not indexed, so it will help you immensely if you know the place and date of death. This information can be obtained from a death index or death certificate.

Two state-level California Death Indexes can be found at ancestry.com (a database anyone can access from any LAPL library branch or Central Library). 

California, Death Index, 1905-1939 provides the digitized index page, plus its transcription. On the digitized page, you can often find the name of the decedent, initials of his/her spouse, age at death, a number representing county or city of death (“19” for Los Angeles county; “70” for Los Angeles city), date of death and STATE index number.

California, Death Index, 1940-1997 only provides a transcription of the index page. From this transcription, you can often find name, Social Security number, gender, birth date and place, death date and place, mother’s maiden name, and you can order a copy of the death certificate online. This index only provides the county of death, unless the death occurred in the cities of Alameda, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

Some indexing for deaths prior to 1905 can be found at the Pre-1905 CA Death Index Project (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cabf1905/).

To obtain an actual death certificate (and not just the index) for persons dying in Los Angeles County after July 1, 1905, contact the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, 12400 E. Imperial Hwy, Norwalk, CA 90650 (https://www.lavote.net/home/records/death-records/viewing-vital-records) or the California Department of Public Health in Sacramento (http://www.cdph.ca.gov/certlic/birthdeathmar/Pages/CertifiedCopiesofBirthDeathRecords.aspx).

For persons dying between 1940-1997, you can order a copy of the death certificate via ancestry.com for a fee. Just go to the ancestry.com database California, Death Index, 1940-1997 and find your person by using keywords (name). Then click “Order Original Document from VitalChek.”


Some digitized death certificates are now available online via FamilySearch.org.  From the familysearch.org home page, click:
Search >
Browse All Published Collections >
United States of America >
California >
California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800-1994 >
scroll to the bottom and click “Browse through ____ images.”
DO NOT PUT YOUR PERSON’S NAME IN THE SEARCH BLANK! 
Choose your county or city (“Los Angeles” for L.A. county; “Los Angeles, Los Angeles” for the city of L.A.).
Scroll to the bottom where the county or city index is located, find your person and his/her index number, then scroll up to the year of death and find him/her by using that index number.  THE INDEX NUMBER YOU FIND IN THE (ancestry.com) STATE-LEVEL CALIFORNIA DEATH INDEX WILL NOT WORK FOR THIS DATA SET.

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 newspapers, and backfiles of those papers can often be found at the public libraries in those communities (go to www.google.com and type [city name] public library). The database Access Newspaper Archives found at http://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/research-and-homework contains many of these smaller papers in digital format. For instance, many of the newspapers from Van Nuys are here from 1900-1977.

Here is a list of newspapers in Los Angeles over the decades: http://www.lapl.org/sites/default/files/media/pdf/central/Newspapers_by_decades.pdf

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.  To find lists of newspapers published in certain locations during certain times, try this link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/search/titles/

Further information can be found at the Southern California Obituary Resource Project (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~socalobituaries/).

THE LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY IS UNABLE TO DO OBITUARY SEARCHES FOR YOU.  However, 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. 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.

More and more websites featuring digitized newspapers are sprouting up. Here are some sites with lists of free digitized newspapers:
http://libguides.bgsu.edu/content.php?pid=478027
http://www.elephind.com/
chroniclingamerica.loc.gov
http://news.google.com/newspapers

 

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