Ever heard of obituaries, death notices, or death certificates? Alright, that's an easy one, but do you know what they're all used for? The first two are announcements that are published in local or national newspapers, and the last one is the official document issued upon a person's death by the relevant authorities. Since death certificates are as a rule only accessible to a very limited group of people, obituaries and death notices are, in a way, easier to access. Let's take a look at their usefulness.
Though they are openly available, however, obituaries, especially if they are older, may not be very easy to find. The reasons for this are simple enough but could become an insurmountable obstacle for the genealogy enthusiast if they rely on the internet alone. First of all, the obituary you are looking for may have been published in a newspaper that is no longer in circulation. Second, even if it is still issued, the newspaper in question may not be keeping digital archives. So, be ready to go offline at some point in your obituary search, even though the internet has now made all research so much easier. There are still times when a physical library is the best choice, as all libraries keep records of local newspapers, even after they stop circulating.
There are some preliminary steps to take before starting a search in order to avoid the feeling of time wasted with no results. First of all, try to make sure there is an obituary for the person whose history you are interested in. There is hardly a newspaper without at least a death notice section but they still cannot and do not report every single death occurring in the area where they circulate. So, without making sure there is a death announcement to find, the search will be risky as regards its outcome.
The easiest way to establish if there is an obituary is to check with a number of online obituary databases. The more you check with, the better, as although some of these databases are pretty extensive, they are not exhaustive. The minimum information you need is the full name of the person, but the search will be more accurate if you know the place of residence. There are also many newspapers that, although they don't maintain their own digital obituary archives, usually have search tools for death announcements that are powered by other genealogy sites.
This first stage of your search may yield the name of a newspaper and the date on which the obituary was published. In the best case scenario, it will yield a photocopy of the obituary, but most probably it will just give you the name, date, and maybe the full text of the obituary, depending on the website. In such a case, your search could end here. If the databases fail to yield an obituary, it's time to use another source -- libraries.
Idaho public libraries and the Idaho Historical Society have a lot of resources that can be used in an obituary search. What's even better is that some of these are available online. A fact worth noting is that the Idaho State Archives have the largest newspaper collection on microfilm, and it makes them available to other libraries in the state as well. You can see the list of newspaper titles in an online collection. The Archives, however, do not provide back issues of the Idaho Statesman to other libraries. That does not mean it is unavailable -- the University of Idaho Library also keeps an extensive newspaper collection on microfilm and lends its Idaho Statesman issues to other libraries. If you are looking for a local newspaper from one of the counties Valley, Adams, Washington, and Latah, the McCall Public Library is the place to go.
Being custodians of information is just one function of libraries. Some also offer research services, including obituary searches. In Idaho, these include the Boise Public Library and the State Archives at the Idaho Historical Society. There is an online form to fill in, but you will need to know the exact date of death in order for the library staff to be able to perform the search. An important resource at the State Archives is a collection of cemetery records, which could be invaluable when determining the date of death.
It is also good to know the periods for which this library or another repository keeps a collection of obituaries or newspapers containing obituaries. The Idaho State Archives, for instance, has a number of obituary indexes, spanning from 1865 to 1919. These are only available on site. The Boise Public Library, for its part, keeps a comprehensive index of obituaries and death notices from the Idaho Statesman from 1958 to the present day. It is available online and is updated continuously, on a weekly basis.
Another source of obituary collections is the Oboler Library at the Idaho State University. It holds an index of birth, death, and marriage notices that were carried by the Pocatello Tribune in the period between 1893 and 1912.
Apart from libraries, county and state authorities can also supply the necessary information if it concerns an older obituary or a death certificate. For the period 1907 to 1911, you should be able to find a death record at the office of the county recorder. Alternatively, you can seek such records at the State Archives, where they are available for the period 1907 to 1937. For deaths that occurred between 1911 and 1956, you can also use the Idaho State Death Index. Finally, you can contact the Center for Vital Statistics and Health Policy, which could issue you with a copy of any historical death certificate.
Obituary searches could take time but with the ample resources available in Idaho, there is a good chance that such as search will be completed successfully. Patience and perhaps a small amount of money for any fees that libraries may charge for their services are all you need.