This guide was last updated in 2009

Davina McCall was lucky enough to find some remarkable information about her ancestors from obituaries in local newspapers. Perhaps you can too, says Jenny Thomas.

Not only did obituaries contain a fanfare of information about Davina's Bedborough ancestors, charting James Thomas Bedborough’s numerous achievements, but they also revealed the demise of later generations. Obituaries, in Davina’s case entwined with inquest reports, told tales of triumph and tragedy.

Obituaries are a major genealogical resource. They often provide great detail about both the life and death of the individual concerned, including achievements, career, family, reputation and the manner of death. They can also help to illustrate character, perhaps by talking about interests, clubs, societies and personality quirks that add such colour to a family tree.

Our forebears don’t need to have lived dramatic lives or suffered grizzly deaths for something about them to appear in the local newspaper. Obituaries and inquest reports will be there for the dramatic cases, but so will simple obituaries for people who lived and died more quietly.

Not everyone had an obituary, but they can tell us so much that it is well worth having a look. Happily, obituaries are becoming increasingly easily accessible, and here are some pointers as to how to set about your search.

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