Genealogy & Local History in Buffalo, NY


 Death Notices and Obituaries in Buffalo & Erie County, NY

  • A good obituary can be a genealogical gold mine, but finding one isn't always simple or straightforward. You will have the best results if you know the month, day, year, and place that the person died.
  • Links have been added wherever possible to assist the out-of-town researcher, but local newspapers published before the invention of computerized typesetting, with some random exceptions,  are not online. They are on microfilm.
  • No law requires that a person's death be announced in the newspaper.  It is entirely voluntary.  It can be expensive to take out a death notice.  In the 19th century, it was common for the deaths of women, children, and the poor to go unannounced.
 Table of Contents

 Major Obituary Sources

Date of Death



Death Notices or Obituaries
Aren't these the same thing?

Full Text or Citation
What's the difference?

Cost & Notes
1795-1952 New York Deaths & Burials Website 
Neither.  Gives first name, last name, place and date of death, and sometimes names of parents or children Neither Free. Includes about 7,500 names from Erie County.


Erie County, New York Obituaries as Found in the Files of the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society

"Search in this text" option tells you if a name appears within.  Owned by several  libraries.


Citation only

Free for in-person users,  available through interlibrary loan.
Obituary Index
Large card file at BHM, not online
Mostly obituaries for prominent citizens, some death notices.  About 99,000 names.
Citation only
Admission is free for Museum members and $7 for all others
New York Times
The NYT carried obituaries for prominent Buffalonians.  
Full text
Mix of free & fee-based articles
1872-present Index of Selected Newspaper Obituaries Website Gives last name, first name, and date of death Neither Free,  About 80,000 names.
Erie County Medical Examiner Records
In book form only at BHM, not online
Gives last name, first name, date of death Deaths handled by the ME
Admission is free for Museum members and $7 for all others
A Necrology Excerpted and Organized From  Buffalo City Directories PDF.  Also in book form at BECPL & BHM
Gives last name, first name, age, and date of death for those over age 16 who died in Buffalo
Free as a very slow-loading PDF
Chronicling America: Newspapers at the Library of Congress
Both, but only a few downstate papers are presently online for NY state
Full text

Late 19th c. to 1982, most are 1930- 1982

Local History File

Large card file at BECPL, not online except for some sample cards

Mostly obituaries for prominent citizens, few death notices

Citation only, then you use the library's microfilm or scrapbooks to get the full text

Free for on-site  users

Late 19th & early 20th centuries
Possibly both
Full text
Free.  Often marred by uncorrected OCR and illegible scans.

1962 to present

Social Security Death Index


Dates of death for over 90 million Americans from all 50 states

Does not give maiden names, middle names, burial place, or next of kin


1977 to present Genealogy Bank Website Possibly both. Includes the Buffalo News (1989 to present), Niagara Gazette, and Tonawanda papers. Citation only Membership required to get full text

1989 to present

Buffalo News commercial website


Obituaries only

Full text of local news articles, including obituaries but not death notices

Small charge  to retrieve full text

1989 to present

Buffalo News subscription database

Proprietary database at BECPL and UB, requires library card for log-in

Obituaries only

Full text of local news articles, including obituaries but not death notices

Free for in-person lookups and downloads.  

Sept. 11, 1997 to present

Buffalo News commercial website


Death notices only

Full Text

Free for three months, then fee-based

Last four weeks

Buffalo News commercial website


Obituaries only

Full text

Free for 4 weeks, then fee-based thereafter

Buffalo & Erie County Public Library
Books & journals
Usually just name & date of death
List of little-known necrologies
Free for in-person library users
Varies Google Books Website
Varies Varies Free. Your ancestor's passing may have been noted in one of the books or journals digitized by Google.
Google News Archive
Possibly only obituaries
Full Text
Small charge to retrieve full text

 Minor Obituary Sources

Please be aware that most of these sites offer only a handful to a few hundred names.  These links have been moved to Delicious.

 Frequently Asked Questions About Obituaries

Aren't obituaries and death notices the same thing? No, there is a distinction. A death notice contains factual information about the deceased: name, date of death, surviving kin, and place of burial. It is a classified ad paid for by the family. An obituary contains narrative, biographical data about the deceased, who was someone of some kind of prominence. It is a news article written by a staff writer. Today, a typical issue of the Buffalo News contains about six obituaries and 50 death notices. Obituaries go into their online news archive; death notices go into a separate commercial database and are not found by searching past news articles.
What do full text and citation mean?

Full text means that every word in the original obituary or death notice has been copied. Citation means that you are given only the name of the newspaper, the date, and the page number where the obituary or death notice will be found.

I don't know the exact day (month, day, year) but I think the person died after 1962. If the person died after 1962, he or she might be found in the U.S. Social Security Death Index.
I don't know the exact date but I think the person died before 1962. In this case, try getting a copy of the death certificate, which will give the exact date of death.  See: Vital Records.
Who has every newspaper published in Erie County? BECPL and BHM have the most comprehensive collections of Buffalo newspapers. However, most papers from the towns and villages of Erie County are found only in the appropriate town library.  A list of town libraries can be seen at Libraries of Buffalo & Erie County.
What's the oldest newspaper in Buffalo? The first newspaper in Buffalo, the Buffalo Gazette, began publishing in 1811. It is owned by BHM.
What old Buffalo newspapers are online?
Here are the ones we know about.
How hard it is to find obituaries and death notices in the paper? By the 1930s, newspapers usually have a table on contents on the first page telling you where the death notices and obituaries will be found. In pre-1930 newspapers, death notices and obituaries are usually found on the first or second page or the last or second-last page.
What about older newspapers? Newspapers from before 1900 often have microscopic print and are hard to read. Sometimes the death notice might say only John Smith died Tuesday at his home and who the pallbearers, not next of kin, were. Nineteenth century death notices are rarely as informative as modern ones.
What if I can't come to Buffalo to look up my own obituaries?
  1. Try to get a copy of the death certificate.  It will reveal the exact date of death.
  2. Ask the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library to look.      
  3. Hire a researcher. 
  4. Use interlibrary loan.  The New York State Library lends out every film listed here. Contact your local librarian to place all interlibrary loan requests.
 Finding Buffalo Newspapers

Back in the 1960s, libraries across America microfilmed all their newspapers and discarded the hard-copy originals. This was because newspapers consumed staggering amounts of space and got too brittle to withstand ordinary handling. In spite of its flaws, newspapers are archived on microfilm to this day.  Here are lists of which libraries have which newspapers on film.

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