Today’s tip is going to be quick, since I have the feeling most people are digging out their stuffing recipes instead of searching obituaries this week.

I’m continuing to mine the Proquest Obituaries database for paid death notices in the Chicago Tribune and it’s paying off handsomely: I now have 342 death notices corralled. In fact, I’m discovering that searching this database (or other newspaper databases like Chronicling America or is kind of like eating potato chips because I can’t search or eat just one.

Lately I’ve hit a streak of large families with mostly daughters and I have no idea what their married names would be. And when the surnames are common ones, it leads to search results in the thousands and that’s just not helpful.

Some death notices or obits use the term “née,” the French feminine past participle of naître, meaning to be born. So I structured a limited search on “nee Benson” and to my surprise Proquest loves the search term and returned wonderful results.

The first search returned 144 results. From there, it was easy to search within the results window for the first names of my sibling sisters. Instead of hundreds of Esther Bensons, I had three and Ruttingh, Esther née Benson was the one I was looking for.

sassy jane genealogy proquest
 In the same set of search results, I found Esther’s sister May. So give a “nee (maiden surname)” search a try – you may get some excellent results!