Is that obituary totally factual?

How many obituaries have you read in recent years that had some sort of error? Sometimes you see the newspaper print a correction but that is rare and usually separate from obituaries or death/funeral notices. Any time such an announcement is prepared, several chances for errors loom. The same applies to all such notices in newspapers in any time period. I love the names, places, relationships, and other details but remember that these need to be verified.

  • Is the person compiling the notice in shock at the loss of a relative or friend? 
  • Did a family member give the information orally and someone at the newspaper or funeral home wrote up the notice?
  • Was the notice written by someone at the newspaper who did not consult with the family?
  • Maybe Aunt Sally only guessed at the places of residence of her sister’s children and grandchildren. 
  • Mispelling of names could be a product of almost anyone.
  • Typos are not purposely done but do happen. It might be the original typist or that newspaper typesetter.
  • Did the person compiling the notice double check the person’s birth date or year?
  • In the rush to get the notice published, was one of the children omitted?
  • Perhaps the deceased’s brother Samuel was incorrectly listed as an Uncle. 
  • A follow up story that lists who attended the funeral and from where may have errors in the names and places of residence.

Now if I could only find one of those full page length obituaries I see in older newspapers for a member of my own family. How can we get descendants of those families interested in family history research? They have gold mines of clues waiting for them. 

© 2011 – 2014, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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