Writing a Genealogically-Relevant Obituary

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By Amanda Forson, WorldVitalRecords.com

Obituaries are hit-or-miss when dealing with relative’s records, but eventually relatives will all need one as modern papers have columns devoted specifically to them, even in small towns.

Usually included within an obituary in a semi-prioritized order:

  1. Name: The full name is preferred for both women and men. For women, the maiden name should be put in parenthesis. If the person was known by a nickname, including this information in quotes is often acceptable.
  2. Death date, place, and (as wanted) how died.
  3. Birth Date and Place: If possible, include the full month and town, county, and state, especially if the deceased was born in another state or country. Especially if the deceased was born in another country, find out the town, parish, count, district, province, or any other geographically-relevant information.
  4. Parents (with maiden name in parenthesis) are always appreciated. If the person was adopted and the descendents do not mind, include adoptive parents. When there are step-parents, include the names of both biological and step-parents.
  5. Focus on life highlights that were important to the individual. Usually political affiliations are only included if the person was prominent in the party. Service or religious affiliations are included as the person may or may not be holding the funeral services at a religiously-affiliated building. Occupations, military service, fraternal or sororal organizations, clubs, or other life-items of note would be fine here also.
  6. Include all children, living and deceased including first names and to whom they are married when daughters are listed. Finding daughters is one of the hardest things to do in genealogical research and including husbands’ names in parenthesis makes for a very genealogically-useful obituary.
  7. Include all grandchildren when possible, though depending upon the space and amount. Their spouses do not have to be mentioned unless it is the desire of the family. Usually for women, simply having the different last name should indicate. Divorced partners (specifically the former relative who is no longer related) only need inclusion at the request of the family.
  8. Great grandchildren are usually only numbered if included, due to space.

Note: If being less specific, non-inclusion of grandchildren is acceptable when including locations of relatives. Generally speaking, putting in family information is preferable when possible. Space and cost limitations will reign in the size of the obituary. When dealing with a paper that has plenty of space, including a picture is a nice touch and helpful. The less information that is available or possible for entry, the more the vital information for that particular person is critical.

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