US Obituary Notices – do the headline statements by Findmypast stack up?

US Obituary Notices - do the headline statements by Findmypast stack up?

On Friday 19 November, Findmypast‘s “Fridays” headline statement was “Over 22 million more US records released“. Under the sub-heading “United States Obituaries Notices” Findmypast expanded “We’ve added over 22 million records to this collection alone, meaning there are now over 56 million notices in total. These provide the necessary details to track down an ancestor’s death and a full obituary, if one was released.”

As you click into the record set, Findmypast go on to say “From this index of obituary notices, you can discover your ancestor’s name, birth and death years, and obituary text. This collection has been obtained from the and websites. Additional information such as images and details about the records can be found on the source’s website.”

For a very substantial number of entries the obituary text appears to follow a common format:

[First name] was born on [month] [dd], [yyyy] and passed away in [month] [yyyy].

[First name ] was a resident of [place], [state].

On viewing the source record on the same format is used. In the small print beneath such record:

The information in this obituary is based on data from the US Government’s Social Security Death Index. No further information is available.

Hang on a minute! So is the obituary simply manufactured from the Social Security Death Index? And in the majority of cases well after the event itself?1 So is it really an obituary? Or a death notice? Or neither? Everplans has these helpful definitions:

  • An obituary is an article written by the newspaper’s staff offering a detailed biography of the person who died and his or her life achievements. Most major newspapers will not allow family members to write and publish obituaries in the paper. 
  • A death notice is a paid announcement in a newspaper that gives the name of the person who died, details of the funeral or memorial service, where donations can be made in the deceased’s name, and some amount of biographical information. You can write and submit a death notice to local or national newspapers and have them publish the notice for a fee.

Hang on another minute! The Social Security Death Index is a record set already available on Findmypast. So is one set of information, in effect, being duplicated in part and presented as a second set? The answer to that would appear to be ‘yes‘!

On looking at the Social Security Death Index on Findmypast, the same information is presented minus the resident of [place] [state]. So how come have that information but Findmypast do not?

A quick look at the Social Security Death Index over on Ancestry shows they too have the resident of [place] [state] information. So have Findmypast made a mistake in missing off that information? Or did they not stump up enough money to purchase the full information?

Name Yes Yes
Social Security Number Yes Yes
Birth Date [month][day][year] Yes Yes
Issue Year / State Yes Yes
Last Residence Yes No
Death Date [month][year] Yes Yes

Come on Findmypast, one full Social Security Death Index record set please and omit identical information simply manufactured from the same record set under an alternative guise!

  1. The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is the commercial name for the Death Master File (DMF) created by the United States Social Security Administration. The DMF was first created in 1980 and contains every person with a Social Security number who has been reported dead to the Social Security Administration from 1962 onwards or who had died prior to 1962 but still had active Social Security accounts in 1962. []