Not too long ago my Aunt Helen sent me the obituary of my great-great-grandfather, Stephen Snow. I was amazed at the wealth of information it contained.
In part, the obituary told the story of his coming to Missouri from North Carolina as a young boy, and mentioned the family he traveled with. It went on to chronicle his life as a farmer and beekeeper. It was clear after reading the obituary that he was a friend to all, as everyone in the community referred to him as “Uncle Steve.”
Not only did that obituary give me clues for further research, it also offered insight into the personality of a man who was born when Andy Jackson was in the White House.
What can you find in an obituary? Lots of goodies: Place of birth, names of parents and siblings, names of children and their spouses, cause of death, place of death, place of burial, profession, religious affiliation, name of church. And, if you’re lucky, a brief glimpse into personality.
As an aside, although death is certainly not a funny subject, I ran across a group of obituaries for people who died of “misadventures.” These included a juggler who dropped the grenade he was juggling; a man who tried to cut a 7,500-volt power line with his garden clippers; a man who was crushed to death by a stalactite he was trying to steal from a cavern; and lastly, a man who smeared a “bulletproof” lotion on his body, then asked a friend to try to shoot him.
Although your best bet for locating obituaries is in newspaper archives, there are several online obituary sources. They are:
• Obituary Central
• Obituary Look-Ups
• Obituary Links Page
• Obituary Topics
• Newspaper Obituaries