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Monday, January 21, 2008

Best-kept secret: Henderson Obituary Index

For the past 4 years the library has been quietly building an online service that has become valuable not only to Henderson County residents and businesses, but also to people across the country. Our local history librarians are recording every obituary printed in The Gleaner and making that information freely available and searchable from the library’s website. This is an enormous project that will take years to complete. The library has microfilm copies of The Gleaner dating back to 1880 and the goal is to record every obituary or death notice printed in each of those issues.

The index grows daily and today it includes 25,163 obituaries from 1986 to the present. Librarians are inputting data from the years 1983, 1984, and 1985. You can search by the decedent’s name, name of spouse, maiden name, names of survivors, date of death, place of death, and more. The obituary record will give you all of this information (if present in the obituary) along with the date that the obituary appeared in The Gleaner. In addition, any newspaper articles related to the death of an individual are listed in the obituary record (e.g. if the person was murdered, died in a car accident, etc.).

The library receives emails from across the country from genealogists who have searched the obituary index and found unknown relatives. Many times these researchers want to know if the library has any other information on their family members. Frequently the library will send copies of obituaries from The Gleaner to individuals (for a small fee). Our local residents use the service when they have forgotten or misplaced the death date of a friend, acquaintance or relative, or the names of the children of a friend who passed away. Local businesses also use the service to keep up with clients and customers. A local insurance company uses the service almost daily in the course of processing insurance applications and claims.

The obituary index is one of the library’s most used online services. To access it, go to or visit our Genealogy page.

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