How Messed Up Was It?

In reviewing a twentieth-century family I have not worked on in some time, an obituary had me completely confused. The names of the children were consistent with other records, but the grandchildren and great-grandchildren made no sense to me–at least not using the information I had already located.

I put the obituary aside and looked at other records–including earlier obituaries of the family and what vital records could be found online. Going back to the obituary with more details allowed me to develop a hypothesis. It appeared that the obituary writer or editor referred to grandchildren as grandchildren and to step-grandchildren as great-grandchildren. It’s an easy mistake to make, particularly when the person reviewing the information is not personally familiar with the family.

The obituary actually referred to the deceased individual’s step-children as children. Given the fact that they were raised by the deceased it made perfect sense. But earlier records made the relationship clear.

Obituaries are great clues, but they should be used along with other records where possible. Over-reliance on these items (and not locating all of them for a family) may make your DNA results look more confusing than they actually are.