How to find items in newspapers

Finding newspaper articles, images and more using databases and indexes

Personal notices

Personal notices in newspapers cover events such as births, deaths, funerals, marriages, engagements, anniversaries, birthdays and Valentine messages. Other types of notices may include congratulatory messages, expressions of thanks, or appeals for missing people. The most common notices are deaths and births which are commonly found in The Age and the Herald Sun in Melbourne.

Finding a notice with a known date

If you know when a notice appeared or when an event happened, such as a death, then you can search relevant newspapers around the time of the event. If the full newspaper is online you can do this without visiting State Library of Victoria's Newspapers and Family History Room Rooms. If the relevant newspapers are only in print or microfilm format then you will need to visit the Library to view the newspaper. If the newspaper is only in print form, contact the Library inquiry service before visiting the Library as most print copy newspapers need to be ordered 1-2 days before visiting the Library.

Finding a notice - date unknown

If you don't know when a personal notice might have appeared in a newspaper you can search an online newspaper if one is available. Not all online newspapers contain the entire content of the printed editions of newspapers. See the listing of online newspapers for a list of newspapers you can search for personal notices.

If there is no online newspaper available to search then an index can be used if one is available. Some newspapers have been indexed by volunteer family history groups or interested individuals. Some indexes list all the personal notices by name and date in various newspapers. See Newspapers Indexes Genealogy for a list of indexes in the Library. Most of these are printed or microfiche indexes. Some indexes to personal notices are online.

The Ryerson Index is an index to death notices appearing in a range of Australian newspapers. Index coverage varies from title to title. The Melbourne Herald-Sun is indexed from September 2001 onwards.

Death notices in newspapers

Death notices have appeared in Australian newspapers ever since Australia’s first newspaper the Sydney Gazette in 1803. In the early to mid 19th century there were not large numbers of notices. Few people could afford to pay for them.  During the second half of the 19th century the number of notices gradually increased. By the 1940s and 1950s there were very large numbers of death and funeral notices in major city newspapers.

Which newspapers published the most death and funeral notices?

For Melbourne the best papers to search are:

  • 1840s
    • Port Philip Gazette, Port Phillip Herald, Melbourne Argus
  • 1850s-1870s  
    • Age and Argus
  • 1870s-1940s   
    • Age, and the Argus to a lesser extent
  • 1935-1990      
    • Sun News-Pictorial

From the late 1930s the Sun started to publish large numbers of notices. By the 1950s it published many more than the Age.

  • 1991 to current

The Herald-Sun, the successor to the Sun and Herald newspapers continues to have the majority of death notices. You may also want to check The Age for tributes. Many notices are now published online - by the Herald-Sun at Tributes, and by The Age at Tributes.

Funeral notice

Mary Mackillop

Funeral notice for Mary Mackillop, founder of the Sisters of St Joseph and Australia's first saint.

Sydney Morning Herald, 10 August 1909, p. 12