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Anyone who has been researching Australian records for a while will know about the Ryerson Index, and just how valuable it is. After all it is the most comprehensive index to death notices and obituaries in Australian newspapers. 


The Ryerson Index is an index of death notices appearing in current Australian newspapers, it also includes some funeral notices, probate notices and obituaries. What started as one person’s passion for collecting the death notices out the newspaper, has now grown to encompass death notices from 281 Australian newspapers, and currently has over 5 million entries online (actually 5,017,457 entries to be exact).

5 million Ryerson Index

5 million is a phenomenal effort. And while sadly Joyce Ryerson, the person who started it all, passed away in 2012, aged 95, however her legacy and Index well and truly live on. Each and every volunteer should be proud of their contribution in making this happen.

To give you a little background …  it all started in May 1999 with Joyce offering to give “some” Sydney Morning Herald death notices to the Sydney Dead Persons Society,  which she had saved so that they could index them. The “some” turned out to be an almost complete run from 1986 to 1999.

Although the Ryerson Index traditionally focussed on newspapers from New South Wales, it now covers much of Australia. A typical search will provide the last name, given name(s), type of notice (death notice, probate notice), date of death, age of person at death, newspaper, publication date and a reference to the town/city where the person last lived.

Today with the help of volunteers around the country, the Ryerson Index continues to grow, and has become a truly Australia-wide collection of death notices. Access is free. This is a great resource for anyone with Australian ancestors.

Is your local paper currently included in Ryerson Index? Check the coverage list on the website. If not, then why not take on the task of indexing the notices for the Index? Do you have access to a library or other repository which has microfilm copies of newspapers available? They are always always in need of people who can copy notices for us to index. They do prefer indexers who have access to the printed paper, as indexing from most websites can be unreliable.

To keep up to date with the latest happenings and uploads from the Ryerson Index team, you can follow them on Facebook.