Obituaries hold a lot of information that is important to genealogists. Finding the obituary of an ancestor can give clues about his life and connection to other relatives. Obituaries are typically written by the loved one of a person who has passed away. That being said, there may be some advantages to writing your own obituary.
Emily Debrayda Phillips had pancreatic cancer. In her final days, she chose to write her own obituary. She showed it to her husband and two grown children. The obituary ended up getting a lot of attention after it had been posted in the family’s local paper.
Obituaries hold valuable information for genealogists. It is a good place to find a deceased ancestor’s birth date and death date. This is helpful for genealogists who have been unable to find a birth certificate or death certificate for a particular ancestor. It gives a clue as to what year to search for.
There could be information about cause of death. In recent years, it has become clear that genealogists need to put together medical family trees. People who are aware that certain diseases or conditions “run in the family” can speak to doctors about it and potentially find ways to lower their risk of developing those health issues.
Obituaries also include the names of surviving family members and how each one related to the person who had died. The obituary of an ancestor could reveal the names of siblings that a genealogist did not know existed. Often, a relative listed in someone else’s obituary will have her maiden name included along with her married name.
The advantages of writing your own obituary are many. Perhaps the biggest advantage is that the personality of the individual will come through if he or she wrote the obituary. It becomes something like a cross between an informative announcement and a personal journal.
Writing your own obituary gives a person the opportunity to make sure that their surviving family members are listed and that their relationships to each other are accurate. The birth date will definitely be correct. It becomes possible to express gratitude to surviving family members, to give details about one’s occupation, and to include the hobbies or other interests that you had a passion for.
Many people do not wish to think about their own mortality. Those that have a terminal illness must learn to cope with that concept. People in that situation could choose to write their own obituary. Doing so would relieve their family members of one of the many things that must be done after a loved one has passed away.
Image by Elliott Brown on Flickr.
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