Incomplete Obituaries

Genealogists rely on obituaries, but remember that they can be incomplete or unclear, especially when the deceased (or their parents or children) have been married more than once. We’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating as many of us utilize obituaries in an attempt to get the “tree” down to as recent a time as possible and to analyze our DNA matches.

The obituary for a recently deceased relative indicated they had four siblings. They actually had ten. The only ones listed in the obituary were three full siblings of the deceased and a half-sibling from their mother’s second marriage. That distinction wasn’t made (as it is often not in obituaries). The deceased had six other half siblings through their father.

When the obituary is for someone the researcher is familiar with, the omissions are easy to figure out and the reasons for omissions are sometimes known. When the subject of the obituary is a distant relative–or not even a relative at all–the omissions are often not known.

Personally I am always hesitant to put as “iron solid” relationships as given in one individual obituary, particularly if I’m not already somewhat familiar with the family. I don’t want to attach a child to the wrong set of parents. If it’s the first obituary I’ve found for a member of the family, I try and locate as many others as possible to see if I can discern the relationships a little better–particularly when it looks like there were multiple marriages or relationships that generated children.