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to contemporary death notices and obituaries in Australian newspapers



The Ryerson Index is compiled and maintained by members of Ryerson Index Incorporated (INC9890325), a non-profit organisation incorporated under the laws of the state of New South Wales, Australia.


At the meeting on October 10th, 1998, the Sydney DPS decided to create an on-going index of death notices, obituary notices and genealogical queries published in the two Sydney daily newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph. The indexes would start as soon as possible after the meeting, using DPS volunteers to collate the data.

The project's parameters were set widely enough to allow us, at some time in the future, to both include other newspapers, and to expand our existing indexes backwards from our original starting point. Any such expansion was of course dependant on having volunteers willing to do the work.

The first indexes to get under way were those of the Daily Telegraph. Sybil and Peter Jones commenced indexing both the deaths and obituaries from Monday October 12th, 1998.

Due to the remarkable foresight of Joyce Ryerson, we were given an almost-complete collection of death notices from the Sydney Morning Herald for the years 1986-1998. Indexing of these notices is now complete, and we have extended the period covered back to the beginning of 1969.

Other newspapers, particularly from NSW country locations, are always welcome.

Our Indexing Methodology

Most newspapers published in NSW are available in two forms - the printed version (which circulates in a particular distribution area), and the online version (which is available to all via the web, and remains online for seven days).

Initially we started indexing the two Sydney papers from printed copies, because a microfilm version of the printed copy would be the research aid available to most researchers. We still index as many papers as possible using printed copies, but as this is dependant on having someone within the circulation area of a particular paper available and willing to take on the indexing process, there are many newspapers unavailable to us to index in this manner.

We also had more indexers than available papers within the Sydney area, and even some interstate and overseas volunteers.

Consequently, a decision was made that we would index some newspapers directly from their website. This would enable us to both make use of all the available volunteers, and expand our coverage of areas included in the index considerably (although, being a Sydney-based organisation, our emphasis was, and remains, on NSW newspapers.)

Unfortunately, we have found that the quality of the information on newspaper web sites varies considerably. Some web sites include all death and funeral notices from every issue, and have the data available early on the morning of publication, with almost 100% regularity. Other web sites show no death or funeral notices for a day or two, and then catch up (although still deleting notices seven days after the nominal publication date). Still other web sites go for days on end without publishing any death or funeral notices on the web site, despite there being notices published in the printed version of the newspaper. And, in what appears to be a complete waste of time and money in having a website, some newspapers do not update either the news content or the classified notices on their website for days at a time, even though printed versions of the newspaper continue to be published.

In the end, we took the view that having an incomplete index for a particular newspaper was better than having no index at all, as long as researchers realised the index was incomplete. So we decided to keep indexing from the web, and to indicate on the detail screen relating to each newspaper whether it was being indexed from the printed version or from the web.

In early 2003, we looked in detail at the number and type of notices published in country papers. It was recognised that many deaths were not marked by either a death or funeral notice (probably because of the infrequent publication schedule - often weekly - of the country papers). We subsequently decided to index both obituaries and legal (ie probate) notices from country papers where the local indexer thought this would be of benefit.

The Mechanics of Indexing

Information for the indexes is accumulated in a database on a daily basis, using software especially written for the purpose.

Each daily file is emailed to a central co-ordinator, who adds the data to the main database.

Periodically, the website is updated to reflect additional entries, and also to correct any mistakes identified. The Search Site will normally be updated weekly. 

Searching the Index

The Ryerson Index can be searched in two way: by name, or by location.

Considerable flexibility has been provided in the name search to meet most requirements. The Search Tips screen contains detailed instructions on how to get the best out of your search.

A Name Search can also be filtered using the location and earliest/latest year fields.

A Location Search will return all records containing the specified location. It can also be filtered by using the earliest/latest year fields, and the name fields.

Locations are as stated in the notice. Generally, place names refer to NSW, but it is possible that interstate or overseas locations are referred to without the actual state or country being shown.

The Supplementary Indexes

Initially we also included the "Sydney Morning Herald" RSVP entries (a making-contact service) as a full transcription, not just an index entry, and these were included under the Supplementary Index button. However, because information contained in these notices (such as addresses and phone numbers) very quickly became out-of-date, we took the decision to cease compiling these records as part of the Ryerson Index. Historical entries can still be found here, and subsequent entries can be found in the Rootsweb archives of the DPS-SYDNEY mailing list.

"Thank You"

This whole index would not be possible without many people giving freely of their time to carry out the indexing. In addition, we are also extremely grateful to our benefactors for their continuing support.

We also express our appreciation to those who have hosted our site over the years - initially John and Max at Southern Cross Genealogy, then Rootsweb.

We are also extremely grateful to Ark Angles Software for their support in creating our search database.

Historical details relating to the individual newspapers, including first publication dates and the dates when publication frequency has changed, have been generously provided by Rod Kirkpatrick, formerly of the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Queensland. Rod also edits the newsletter issued by the Australian Newspaper History Group.

If anyone is interested in either indexing other newspapers, or in expanding our existing indexes back from their current position, please contact the co-ordinator.

If you find an entry in this index, and wish to locate the original notice, then this list of libraries and list of societies are two places to locate the appropriate newspaper.

There are also a few other sites containing either online cemetery indexes, or indexes to deaths in Australian newspapers. Those we know about can be found here.

This page is owned by Ryerson Index Inc, a non-profit organisation incorporated under the laws of New South Wales, Australia. The last update was April 18th, 2010.