Obituaries Are Usually Wrong

I’ve published several obituaries here at stately Graham Ancestry, almost always with copious footnotes. If there’s one thing I’ve learned practicing genealogy, it’s that obituaries usually get something wrong. Whether it is the spelling of a name or the date of an event, always double-check the information given in an obituary.

For example, the marriage dates are wrong in several of the obituaries I’ve published here. It was easy enough for me to double check against the actual marriage records, which are available electronically on FamilySearch.org. I know that the marriage records are correct because they were recorded at the time of the event. Obituaries are created years, even decades, after the fact and by second-hand sources. Obituaries are a version of events based on what someone else remembered about the person that died. Records get lost and memories fade.

Obituaries are good starting points, however. They can aim you in the right direction. I’ve gotten several names and determined where people were living based on obituaries. That information guided me to new records to search, which either verified or clarified what was found in the obituary.

In short, our research can begin with an obituary, but it should never end there.

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About Byron

Soldier, student, husband and father. View all posts by Byron

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