At the meeting on October 10th, 1998, the Sydney Dead Persons Society (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. Once the indexing
of these notices was complete, we continued the SMH backwards, with the
result that in 2015, after 17 years of work, we completed the indexing of every
surviving death notice from the SMH since it commenced
publication in 1831.
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
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 sent via cloud storage 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.
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
We are also extremely grateful to Rob McDonell of Ark Angles Software
for his support in creating both the windows version of our indexing software and our search
database. Rob's technical support over a period of more than ten years has been
instrumental in making Ryerson the highly-regarded website it has become.
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,
If you find an entry in this index, and wish to locate the original notice,
please refer to the locating a notice link on
the front page.
There are also a few other sites containing either online cemetery
indexes, or indexes to deaths in Australian
newspapers, shown under
other public resources.
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 March 12th, 2018.