Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Good Morning! Who Died?

I may be unique, but I doubt it.  Every morning I arise, mumble “goo morgan” to my wife and then stumble off to glance at the front page of the newspaper.  My real goal is to read the obituary page however.  Did any of my extended cousins or their spouses die? 

Logie Charles Obituary2 17 Jul 1903 lg Unfortunately, too many of them seem to be doing it now.  Also unfortunately, I’ve read the obituaries of too many younger folks and acquaintances in the last few months.  Frequently, the names on the obituary page are familiar but I can’t remember exactly how I know their name.  I dutifully read dozens of obituaries every month of people that I don’t know.  Sometimes though, the listing is about a cousin that I’ve only met through my genealogy database.

Genealogy.  That of course is the real reason I read so many obituaries every month.  I would read them to hear about friends and extended family anyway but not with such refined searches except for the possibility of finding genealogy ‘gold’ hidden in the listings.

Obituaries are invaluable resources to genealogists.  The facts in them are often wrong or “off” a little because of the stress on the family at the time but the names and places are generally accurate. 

Some obituaries are only sparsely populated while others are rich with details about the person and their life.

Obituaries from the turn of the century are often lengthy stories about the deceased individual. 

The obituary for one of my great grandmothers is almost a half page long, complete with her photo and comments by friends and religious leaders.  When I found it, I didn’t even try to obey the ‘Silence’ signs in the library.   “Hah!”  “Look at that!”  My exclamations gained the attention of everyone on that floor. I could only manage a grin and a finger point at the page before finally telling them that “I found my great grandmother”.  Shaking their heads at the eccentric behavior of one of those ‘genealogists’, the other patrons went back to their studies and research. 

The smile on my face stayed in place all day.  I greeted everyone a little more cheerfully during the visit and had extreme patience with the young desk attendant who tried to restock the paper in the copy machine.

Frequently, I find obituaries or death articles in digital newspapers online.  Sometimes, I can’t imagine why they are in a newspaper from a distant town, but am grateful because the local newspaper of the time was destroyed by uncaring corporations who purchased the name and subscriber list of the local publication, but had no interest in the years of published content.

Absent the indexing and hosting of online digital images of newspapers, I wouldn’t have found the majority of the obituaries now safely stored in my sources folder.

Are you enjoying similar success with similar finds in your own research?  If you haven’t, don your Sherlock cap and enter into the fray.  Today is a good day to put a smile on your face too.  

When you have thoroughly mined the Internet and need to physically visit a library, take the stairs and not the elevator.  Unfortunately, they probably won’t be quite like those in this video though.




Greta Koehl said...

Yes, this has been a real "obituary year" for me in genealogy, too; I had a local researcher copy about 200 obituaries for me, so that has kept me busy. I guess genealogists are the only people made happy by obituaries.