Obituaries and Death Notices
An obituary record is printed in the newspaper as an announcement regarding someone's life and death. Such a record typically includes details about many aspects of the person's life, including the important moments in his or her history, his or her surviving relatives, and the date of his or her birth, and the cause and date of his or her death.
During the latter part of the nineteenth century, obituaries became much more stylized and began to include poems, songs, dedications and biographies, thereby shedding more light onto the type of life the individual lived. Beginning in the early twentieth century, due to technological sophistication, photographs became a customary accompaniment to the obituary record in a printed newspaper. Now, in the twenty-first century, newspapers are digitized, and you can gain access to obituaries via the Internet.
Simply put, a death record may provide an official documentation of a person's death, but it is often the death notice and obituary that provides the emotional attachment to our ancestors for which are usually searching. Imagine reading an obituary about a loved one and finding out they enjoyed playing the banjo, that they were an active part in the church or that they marched for women's rights! These fascinating details can then open up new avenues regarding your search efforts and allow you to truly connect with your ancestors in ways you never thought possible.
Obituaries and the Genealogist
For genealogists, obituaries are a rich resource to help uncover information about relatives. Because of the important details included in obituary records, genealogists can discover sometimes formerly unknown facts about the predecessors, such as how they looked, their talents, who they were married to, where they grew up, and how they will be remembered.
In many cases, individuals of renowned fame have written their own obituaries prior to their death to capture the essence of who they were. These types of obituaries are marked by their literary style and their precise examination of the life that has passed. Very often, doctors were encouraged to do this, as were literary personalities and artists.
Online Obituary Resources
Obituary records are easily found online through a number of comprehensive websites. Obituary websites allow you to search by the newspaper in which the obituary ran, or by the name and date of death of the person. Often times, it is best to first locate the death record and the place of death of the individual so you can narrow down your options regarding the newspapers in which the obituary likely appeared.
Other websites allow you to search through their cemeteries and obituaries search engine and find information about your ancestors. Often you can find not only the obituary, but also the location of the cemetery where your relative is buried. And, of course, this may open up even more avenues, thereby allowing you to locate the individual's cemetery record and even the location and image of their headstone! Simply put, the Internet is a valuable resource when searching for obituaries and death records.
Obituaries and Unlocked Mysteries
Obituary records can unlock hidden mysteries about your relatives from ages gone by. The further back you go, the more intriguing the mysteries can be. Sometimes, when looking at obituary notices from earlier times, you can begin to get hints of what the culture was like and what social structures underpinned and influenced the lives of your relatives.
The style in which the obituary was written can also be an indication of the time period. Obituaries may indicate the surviving relatives of the deceased, which can then allow you to branch out from your current genealogy efforts to reveal a lineage you may have not considered.
Using obituary records in your research can be a fascinating and rewarding aspect of your genealogical journey and should always be a consideration, particularly if you are interested in forming closer emotional bonds with ancestors of long ago.
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