Obituaries

According to the dictionary, an obituary is an article in a newspaper about the life of someone who has died recently. It is valuable for genealogists and historians because it may include a short biography stating the name, age, and whether the person died of an illness or accident. It may go on to describe the education, career, accomplishments, challenges overcome, residences, and family information. Listed are close family members who have died previously, followed by the names of survivors shown in the order of parents, spouse, children (males, usually first), and on down the line. Pallbearers, doctors, and persons who were particularly helpful, as well as any memorial wishes, may be shown. The article usually concludes with the date and place of services and burial. This is usually followed by the name of the funeral home.

The above is generally true for most parts of the United States, but the obituary may be much shorter in other countries.

What is written in the obituary generally reflects the writer and his/her relationship with the departed, because obviously, people usually don’t write their own announcements. The size of the article may reflect the financial means and beliefs of the person placing the announcement in the paper, because it is charged by the inch.

Nevertheless, an obituary can be a valuable genealogical and historical tool, because it tells the story of a life in abbreviated form.

Whether or not the person is described as he or she actually lived, the American obituary attempts to show how the departed adhered to the moral standards and values of his/her time and place, his/her human accomplishments and his/her beliefs regarding the remainder of their journey.

Among the obituaries that will follow are those of Americans, Swedes, Germans, and citizens of other countries. They were chosen for various reasons and are not meant to be comprehensive:

1. The obituaries may be a follow-up to people mentioned in my previous books;
2. My including them might be to memorialize people who were helpful to me in research or in life lessons;
3. Their stories are interesting, of genealogical or historical value, and I wish to preserve them for possible future writing.