Obituaries in the Missouri Valley Room
An obituary index for the Kansas City area is not maintained, but if the date of death is known, you may request a search in local newspapers for the obituary from Document Delivery (816.701.3463) or online with the Copy Request Form.
If you do not have a date of death, try searching the Missouri State Archives’ Birth & Death Database or Social Security Death Index. You also might find the Searching for Obituaries guide below helpful.
The Midwest Genealogy Center of the Mid-Continent Public Library (816.252.7228) maintains an alphabetical obituary index to The Kansas City Star and Times from 1979 to the present, as well as an obituary and marriage index to the Independence Examiner covering the years 1919-1940, 1994-1996, and incompletely from 1901-1910.
Back issues, dating from 1991, of The Kansas City Star may be searched using the Library's subscription database to The Star. If you are not in the Library, you will need your Library card and PIN numbers to access this database. Obituaries may also be searched at The Kansas City Star's web site. With either of these options, be sure to limit your search to obituaries.
The Johnson County Library maintains an Obituary Index (citations only) of obituaries that appeared in local papers from 19th century to present.
- Narrow the timeframe as much as possible (document delivery service requires either a specific date of death or date of burial).
- The more recent the date, the easier and the more standard the search.
- Starting in the late 1980s The Kansas City Star started locating the obituaries on the page before the opinion section. They also started including a boxed alphabetical listing of all the names in that day’s obituaries.
- Starting in the 1960s, maybe the late 1950s, The Star and The Times would give the general contents of the issue, with page numbers in a box, usually on the front page. The obituaries were listed under “Deaths.” The Sunday listings usually put the Deaths page number in a centered position above all the other contents. The Saturday issues of both papers often left off the contents box.
- From the 1920s into the 1950s, “Kansas City Area Deaths” would appear in the main body, from page two on back to the pages with the classified ads. These would be in more or less alphabetical order, with prominent people appearing first, followed by the regular obituaries. These would be followed by funeral information, which oftentimes contained the same type of information found in an obituary.
- The classified ad section is an important place to check. For some stretches this was the only listing unless the person was quite prominent. From the 1920s into the 1950s, these were divided into Death Notices and Funeral Announcements. They are almost always among the first things listed in the classified section. It is still possible to find a death notice in the classifieds for someone not listed in the regular obituaries.
- The obituary is almost always within a week of the death for people who lived and died in greater Kansas City. Some cases, in which the burial has been delayed for legal or family reasons, has also delayed the appearance of the obituary.
- Until the 1950s it was not standard practice at the Star or the Times to print the obituaries of African Americans. Prior to the 1950s, the researcher is more apt to find them in Kansas City's The Call. Check The Call obituaries carefully—during some time periods they are divided first as to which funeral home was used and then listed alphabetically within the funeral home division.
- As a general rule, the farther back in time, the less chances there are to finding an obituary. Early in the century, pre-World War I and in the nineteenth century, actual obituaries are few and far between, usually of more prominent people. Notices are often not grouped together but used individually as fillers for the column space. There are also times when a simple list of who was reported dead that day or that week appears, sometimes giving the home address and cause of death, sometimes not.