Volume 30, Issue 1, January/February 2008
Welcome to a new year and new opportunities to find your ancestors.
Did you know that ACGS and the History Center in Anoka have an extensive collection of obituaries from 1869 to now? Most of them are searchable by decade or are filed alphabetically. We are in the process of making one master index for all of the records. Check on our web site for updates. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~relativememory on the Vital Records page.
Volunteers are always appreciated to clip obituaries from newspapers, index and file them. Contact the History Center if you are interested.
See the article on page 3 to learn how you can use the information in obituaries to find out more about your ancestors.
We are planning some exciting classes and field trips in the coming year. If you have genealogy questions or topics that you would like to learn more about, please contact me or any board member and let us know.
Join us on February 4 for a discussion about common mistakes in your genealogy research.
Using Obituaries in Your Research
Obituaries can be a wealth of information in your genealogy research. An obituary is a mini biography of the deceased. What information can you get from an obituary?
Below are some of the things that may be included in your ancestor’s obituary. Because an obit is usually written by someone after the death of an individual most of the information is not an original source. It is a secondary source. It can be a great place to find leads to original sources, if the information is correct. Keep in mind that the informant is usually in a state of grief and doesn’t always have the information written down and may be giving it from memory. You should always check all leads to get the most comprehensive information. Even different newspapers will sometimes have different information in the obituaries for the same person. Occasionally there will be funeral notice in one paper and the full obituary in a later paper, so be sure to check newspapers for a week or two after the death date. Also read the ‘society’ section to see who was visiting in the area around the time of death and the funeral.
When you cut an obituary from the newspaper, be sure to record the source: name and location of paper, date, and page number and column. The obituary may only contain partial dates so the newspaper information is crucial to having the complete information. Plus, you always want to document your sources so you or someone else can find the source again.
Below is a table of information that may be in an obituary and where you might go to look for the original or other sources. Compare all of the sources for verification and differences in information.
Pay careful attention to all of the clues including the names of children and attendees. You may find married names of daughters or sisters. If they were born before 1930 you can check the census records for family members. You may find children or grandchildren who are still living by paying attention to where they lived at the time of the obituary.
From learning the information in an obituary you will be able to look for more sources such as probate records, Wills, estate sales and land transfers.
When you pass away will your next of kin know the correct information to write your obituary?
(by Cathi Weber, Jan 2008)