Obituary Search Example for Ancestor Research
Adding to the Family Story
Towards the end of the ship manifests search example, I described how I used ship manifests to determine that John and Emma—a brother and sister of my great-grandmother Marie Alm—had joined her near Christine, North Dakota. Next, I wanted to learn more about their life and where they died. The ship manifests search example ended with an 1895 Minnesota Territorial Census record showing brother and sister living in the same household with another person named August Johnson. I searched the 1900 U.S. Federal Census for Emma with the various last names she used (Skogland, Nelson, Satterstad), but had no luck. So, I tried searching for any Emma (no last name) in the Wolverton, Minnesota area. This is where she was living in 1895. I found the record shown below.
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Trying to Verify a Person Using the 1900 Census
But, this Emma has a last name of Johnson (not the other last names of Skogland, Nelson, Satterstad noted above). Did she marry the August Johnson who was in the household in the 1895 census? Is Charles Johnson in 1900 the same person as August Johnson in 1895? I could not tell from just the 1895 and 1900 census records. So I needed to search further. This record does show that Emma Johnson immigrated to the United States in 1894 and that is consistent with Emma's ship manifest.
Moving on to the 1910 Census
I then searched the 1910 U.S. Federal Census for Wolverton, Minnesota and found the following record. This is likely to be the same Emma. The immigration date is the same. Her husband's name is listed as Carl A., not Charles or August. I thought maybe the "A" is for August?
Checking the 1920 Census
I continued my search with the 1920 U.S. Federal Census for Wolverton, Minnesota. Now, her husband's name is listed as August. So, I was pretty sure this is the same couple. Again, Emma's immigration date is 1894.
Finally, the 1930 Census Validates the Relationship
I think the 1930 U.S. Federal Census validated the relationship. Her husband is listed as C. August this time. By now, I'm quite confident I have the same couple.
The 1940 Census May Have Indicated Emma Died Before 1940
I could not find Emma in the 1940 U.S. Federal Census for Wolverton. I did find a Charles August Johnson listed as a widower. So, presumably, Emma died between 1930 and 1940. I searched the Minnesota Historical Society online PeopleFinder and found this reference.
Emma's Death Record
I then ordered her death certificate from the Minnesota Historical Society.
Still Needed to Validate the Family Relationship
After all this research, I could not be sure this Emma is the same Emma who was the sister of my great-grandmother Marie Alm. Since I live about twenty minutes from the Minnesota Historical Society, I drove to their History Library. The History Library holds all the newspapers going back to Minnesota's territorial days. Using the death date on Emma's death certificate, I found her obituary in the local Wilkin County, Minnesota newspaper. Note that Mrs. Marie Alm (my great-grandmother) is listed as Emma's sister. The obituary confirmed the two sisters continued to live near each other after they came to the United States.
What About John, the Brother of Marie and Emma?
Emma's brother John also came to Christine, North Dakota. I could not find any census records for him after 1895. I found a John Skoglund who died February 2, 1900 in Wilkin County where Wolverton is located. I also found a grave in Wilkin County for a John Skoglund at the Find A Grave website. So, that was probably Emma's and Marie's brother. I could not find an obituary. In 1900, the local paper was not printing obituaries.
A Note of Caution Concerning the Accuracy of Obituaries
Sometimes obituaries can have misleading information. For example, the name of the sister in Sweden was Inga Thudin and not Ingot Todeen as shown in the obituary. I found the correct name using Swedish records.
Additional Resources Related to Obituaries
Not Sure, Try Our Free Online Genealogy Search Advisor
If you are not sure that searching for an obituary is the next best option for your research, consider using the advice feature of this site. This will help you pick your next best steps in your research. Go to the Free Online Genealogy Search Advisor.
Obituaries Search Guide Context
- Home » Genealogy Search Guides » Using Obituaries for Researching Your Ancestry » Obituary Search Example for Ancestor Research
Other Genealogy Search Guides
- Using Birth Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Marriage Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Death Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Ship Manifests for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Census Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Naturalization Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Historical Societies for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Church Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Family Trees for Researching Your Ancestry
- Record Keeping for Researching Your Ancestry