Friday, April 11, 2008


I would be reluctant to confess the following to non-genealogists but, let’s face it, you and I are people for whom a stroll through a cemetery is a real hoot-- like how mundanes (non-genealogists) feel on a visit to the ballpark, casino, or boat show.

So here it is: I enjoy reading obits and death notices extracted from 19th and early 20th century newspapers. Now, don’t get me wrong-- I know these stories are about real people who died in some cases horrible, excruciating deaths, and I realize that someday somebody will read my obit, but still-- I love reading them (and suspect you do, too).

And, while I read them because I find them to be a source of entertainment and sometimes amusement, they can in fact be a wonderful tool for finding out what it must have been like for relatives living in that community. Noting occupations, club memberships, locations of surviving relatives, and causes of death can tell you both about how they lived and how they died.

So don’t apologize when somebody notices you smiling as you read those obits and death notices-- we’re family historians, after all, and reading obits and death notices is how we “crack the books.”

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