Sunday, October 30, 2016

Obituary Report

Obituaries can be a wonderful source for information on a deceased family member. One huge downside is that detailed obits are becoming extremely expensive to have published in a local newspaper. Many people will opt for a "death notice" instead.

The death notice includes very basic information: name, date of death, address, etc. The notice will generally run 2-3 lines in the obituary section.

The standard obituary can be from a paragraph to a full column in the newspaper. A small town paper is more likely to have the longer, more detailed notice.

What you might find in the obituary notice:
1] headline
2] name of deceased
3] age
4] residence
5] occupation / where employed
6] survivors [perhaps where they lived]
7] funeral details
8] place of birth
9] organizations belonged to
10] time of residence in city
11] other information [hobbies, inventions, military service, etc.]
12] names of parents
13] cause of death
14] a lot of flowery language about the character of the deceased

As mentioned, the small town papers will probably offer more details and #14 above. After reading the obituaries of a few family members, I expected them to be on the list for sainthood!

As in the case of death certificates, the obituary can be dependent upon the person providing the details. My paternal great-great-grandfather's obit was in error concerning the number of siblings and how many survived him. A couple of notices have listed the wrong age. Whether they were typos or misinformation, I don't know.

The obit of gggf John T. Simmons of Sharpsville, Tipton, IN helped debunk a family story. John's son, John W., was supposed to have been a veteran Rough Rider residing in Cuba with his family at the time of his father's death in 1909. J.W. was listed as a resident of P.I. in the obit. The eventually led me to relatives and the accurate story. He had served in the US Army during the Philippine War and was living in the Philippine Islands with his family.

Locating ancestors' obituary notices can be time consuming, but worth it. You do need as much information as possible. Having the full date of death [month/day/year] allows you to start with the next day's paper. Search the next week's worth of obituaries. Generally, the notice will appear within a couple of days. With a weekly newspaper, you need to search the first issue after the death. The notice should appear within a week or two after the death. You may find an obituary page with notices in regular sized type. The notice may appear under a smaller type "Deaths" column.

There is a chance that the family opted not to put an obit in the paper. The more prominent your ancestor, the better the chances that he/she has a detailed obit. That may also apply to an ancestor who was admired within a smaller community.

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