How to write an obituary

Although is an obituary research focused site, we often get requests for advice on writing obituaries for loved ones.  Obituaries are not only mini-biographies that form a memorial tribute to someone's life, but they also contain important information for the general public, such as the time and place of the funeral service.

We have listed general tips and a checklist for writing an obituary to help you with this difficult process.

General Tips for writing an obituary:

  1. Check with the newspaper to see if there are any length or word count restrictions.
  2. Give the deceased's full name and date and place of death.
  3. Recount the main events in the person's life, beginning the birth date and birthplace.
  4. Include a list of all schools attended, degrees received, employment, and hobbies/interests.
  5. Acknowledge any survivors, including parents, spouse, and children.
  6. Announce the place and time of funeral, burial, wake, and memorial service.
  7. Conclude with a statement regarding where memorial contributions can be sent, if applicable.
  8. Time the publication of the obituary so that it runs a few days before the memorial service.
  9. Insure that key dates are accurate and that names are spelling are correct before submitting the obituary for publication.

A checklist for writing an obituary is below:

  • First name, middle initial, last name
  • Age
  • City, State, Zip code
  • Cause of Death
  • Place of death (you may specify hospital or nursing home, or may simply say name of city)
  • Date of Death
  • Eulogy comments (can be used throughout the obituaries, may include loving comments such as "beloved husband of" or "dedicated volunteer", or whatever description deemed appropriate)
  • Employment (list job title or function, name of company and number of years of employment. May list more than one occupation if applicable)
  • Community Service
  • Hobbies (list clubs, memberships, volunteer work, other noteworthy accomplishments, etc)
  • Military Service (dates and branch of service and years served)
  • Marriage (list spouse's name, date of marriage. May also say the maiden name and state of origin. If spouse deceased, say s/he was preceded in death by)
  • Other survivors (list in order by the name and city: parents, children, grandchildren, step-children, brothers and sisters, cousins)
  • Religious Affiliation
  • Place and time of service (name of funeral home, viewing hours, time of funeral)
  • Pallbearers and honorary pallbearers
  • Contributions and other memorials.