Mark Fearer asks:
"My question is, when our non-famous immigrant ancestors who lived in
Manhattan died, were they likely to have an obituary in any local
publications, between 1890-1940? The Forward? It seems unlikely they
would appear in the NY Times. Where - if anywhere - might there be an
While it's unlikely they had an obituary if they were not prominent or
wealthy, there were many paid death notices in the Times and you can
get quite lucky by searching the digitized New York Times archives.
If you are a home -delivery subscriber to the Times anywhere in the
country, you can get a log on and password to search the archives for
NYC libraries (and many others) will have the ProQuest databases
including the NY Times and many other papers. ProQuest is a paid
subscription service only available at universities and libraries and
individuals cannot pay for a subscription.
Note, however that anything considered "news" was covered so murders,
suicides, strange deaths (window cleaners falling, ptomaine poisoning,
domestic violence) were covered by reporters. So were the untimely
deaths of children on the lower east side at the turn of the century
in items like "Deaths of the Week" where the name, age and address was
provided by the paper. These were not notices paid for by the family,
just a regularly run column listing unfortunate deaths, so until you
go looking you can't be sure what you might find. The best rule is to
not assume just because someone wasn't famous you won't find a mention
of their death in a newspaper.
The Fulton Postcard site with other New York papers is also an
excellent resource, as is the Brooklyn Eagle.
ProQuest also offers a collection of historical American Jewish
newspapers. These often carried obituaries of more prominent Jews
throughout the U.S. including New York:
The American Hebrew & Jewish Messenger (1857-1922) - a weekly Jewish
newspaper published in New York City. In 1903 it merged with the
The Jewish Advocate (1905-1990) - a primary source of news and
information as well as a forum for discussion and debate.
The American Israelite (1854-2000) - the longest-running
English-language Jewish newspaper still published in the United
States. The newspaper's two goals were to spread the principles of
Reform Judaism, and to keep American Jews in touch with Jewish affairs
and their religious identity.
Jewish Exponent (1887-1990) - which carried news of developments in
Israel, efforts to rescue Jews the world over >from repressive regimes,
and the ever-expanding role of Jews in American public life.
If you live in New York you can research this collection at the Center
for Jewish History, 3rd floor Ackmann & Ziff Genealogical Institute.
Santa Monica, CA