Author Topic: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby  (Read 12425 times)

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Lynn2000

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #15 on: December 05, 2013, 03:03:59 PM »
I have a curiosity about this, so slightly highjacking.

If you were doing family geneology and learned say that you had recorded a birth date as Jan, 7 1896 because that was what was on the tombstone but later ran across a document that indicates a date of Jan 7, 1898, what would the impact be to your research? I'm asking because my as this is specific to a grandparent issue. The tombstone says one year but there is a census form someone else ran across that seems to show a handwritten 1908. There was lots of back and form within the family about which was right and maybe the tombstone was wrong or maybe it really says 08 but others think the handwritten 8 is really a 6. My opinion is who cares? One family geneolgist said that if the same woman was listed with different birth dates is could be confusing to future researches. I said I figured a future researcher would probably be able to  couldn't figure out there wasn't 2 Bertha Eugene O'Mally born in the same small county within two years of to the same parents.

Well, if we just throw up our hands and say "who cares?" about details in genealogy, we might as well just go get a new hobby. Which is fine, because some people really don't "get" genealogy or why others find it interesting; some people like "family history" but prefer personality-based narratives rather than dated documents. So if that's the way someone views it, then no, there's no need to care about a detail like that. And I don't necessarily believe that those who compose obituaries have a "duty to the future" to make things detailed and accurate--as I said, they're often written in a rush as one more thing to check off the list during funeral preparations, and I know for a fact that some in my family have (accidentally) incorrect details in them.

Genealogy research can be pretty difficult sometimes. I had a long answer about the vagaries of different records, but I'll spare you guys. ;) Basically, I have a top 5 surname, which has always been a top 5 surname in the US, and ancestors who stayed in the same small geographic area surrounded by relatives (whom they married) and who were shockingly unoriginal in the names they gave their children. Plus official records like censuses, birth certificates, etc. are not 100% available or 100% accurate, mostly for very mundane reasons (not anyone trying to conceal anything).

In certain times and places people simply didn't find it important to remember the exact day/year something happened. Then you get an official insisting you put a date down, so you give it a try, and then by the time someone dies the official records are littered with four different birth years for them. Which is why I don't find tombstones to be particularly accurate sources for birth dates--death dates, yes, because that event just happened. But the more time between when the record was made, and when the event in question happened, the more suspect it is, IME. Honestly I'd consider +/-2 years to be about par for the course and it wouldn't trouble me too much. More than that and I would start wondering if I'd gotten the wrong person. Also consider that much of the time I'm working on people who have passed out of living memory for everyone I know--all I know about them is what I find in records. So it would be easy to accidentally graft onto the family tree an entire incorrect branch if I didn't pay close attention to the details.

Who cares? Well, probably only other genealogies. I tell my mom, "No one cares if you dropped a stitch, Mom! It's a beautiful scarf, just keep going and don't unravel it to fix that one little thing." And she's like, "Well, *I* care." It's a hobby and people who like it, like to do it right, that's all. :)
~Lynn2000

Hmmmmm

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #16 on: December 05, 2013, 03:57:40 PM »
I have a curiosity about this, so slightly highjacking.

If you were doing family geneology and learned say that you had recorded a birth date as Jan, 7 1896 because that was what was on the tombstone but later ran across a document that indicates a date of Jan 7, 1898, what would the impact be to your research? I'm asking because my as this is specific to a grandparent issue. The tombstone says one year but there is a census form someone else ran across that seems to show a handwritten 1908. There was lots of back and form within the family about which was right and maybe the tombstone was wrong or maybe it really says 08 but others think the handwritten 8 is really a 6. My opinion is who cares? One family geneolgist said that if the same woman was listed with different birth dates is could be confusing to future researches. I said I figured a future researcher would probably be able to  couldn't figure out there wasn't 2 Bertha Eugene O'Mally born in the same small county within two years of to the same parents.

Well, if we just throw up our hands and say "who cares?" about details in genealogy, we might as well just go get a new hobby. Which is fine, because some people really don't "get" genealogy or why others find it interesting; some people like "family history" but prefer personality-based narratives rather than dated documents. So if that's the way someone views it, then no, there's no need to care about a detail like that. And I don't necessarily believe that those who compose obituaries have a "duty to the future" to make things detailed and accurate--as I said, they're often written in a rush as one more thing to check off the list during funeral preparations, and I know for a fact that some in my family have (accidentally) incorrect details in them.

Genealogy research can be pretty difficult sometimes. I had a long answer about the vagaries of different records, but I'll spare you guys. ;) Basically, I have a top 5 surname, which has always been a top 5 surname in the US, and ancestors who stayed in the same small geographic area surrounded by relatives (whom they married) and who were shockingly unoriginal in the names they gave their children. Plus official records like censuses, birth certificates, etc. are not 100% available or 100% accurate, mostly for very mundane reasons (not anyone trying to conceal anything). In certain times and places people simply didn't find it important to remember the exact day/year something happened. Then you get an official insisting you put a date down, so you give it a try, and then by the time someone dies the official records are littered with four different birth years for them. Which is why I don't find tombstones to be particularly accurate sources for birth dates--death dates, yes, because that event just happened. But the more time between when the record was made, and when the event in question happened, the more suspect it is, IME. Honestly I'd consider +/-2 years to be about par for the course and it wouldn't trouble me too much. More than that and I would start wondering if I'd gotten the wrong person. Also consider that much of the time I'm working on people who have passed out of living memory for everyone I know--all I know about them is what I find in records. So it would be easy to accidentally graft onto the family tree an entire incorrect branch if I didn't pay close attention to the details.

Who cares? Well, probably only other genealogies. I tell my mom, "No one cares if you dropped a stitch, Mom! It's a beautiful scarf, just keep going and don't unravel it to fix that one little thing." And she's like, "Well, *I* care." It's a hobby and people who like it, like to do it right, that's all. :)

Thanks for the response. I think the top 5 surname may color my opinion because neither my mom's maiden name, her mother's maiden name, or my father's sir name were very common in the US and they pretty unique in the areas where they were from. And they were very original in their naming of offspring. The only top 50 surname we have in our family was my fraternal grandmother's maiden name. 

Honestly, my opinion is that any and all records, especially those that were handwritten, can have errors. My mom was born in 1932. She lost her "official" birth certificate once and needed a new one immediately. I went to the county courthouse and they brought out the actual handwritten birth certificate the doctor had submitted. It had both her first and middle names mispelled and you couldn't tell if the day of the month was a 2 or a 7 based on his handwritting. We told the county clerk about the errors and she took a pen and "corrected" all three by writing over them. She then made a copy, stamped it and handed it over. We teased mom for years about mispelling her name her entire life.

Lynn2000

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #17 on: December 05, 2013, 04:51:11 PM »
Oh yeah. I really enjoy combing through the records and looking for details and putting all the clues together, and you have to be careful when you are dealing with primarily Smith/Johnson/Jones/Miller/Brown/etc.. I don't know how it is for other people... maybe it's easier. :) But then the little inaccuracies probably drive you even crazier. Spelling I've completely given up on... even into the 1950s people were pretty lax about how their names were spelled (a lot of people anyway... I had a great aunt who was Not Happy if you called her Katie instead of Katy).

But back to the obituary--to me, an obituary for someone who has just died is not the place to reveal a "bomb" or even something they would prefer to keep quiet about, even if you and "everyone else" wouldn't even care anymore. It doesn't seem respectful, to knowingly go against their wishes. I mean, we're not talking a tax document here. As I said, I probably wouldn't put in information I specifically knew was false, but most things you can work around. I had a great aunt who really disliked her half-sister and preferred to pretend she didn't exist--if you'd asked her, maybe she would've preferred the half-sister not even be mentioned in her obituary! But I wouldn't write, "She was an only child" or "She has no living siblings." I'd find a work-around, and then only if I strongly felt she would care.
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Julsie

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #18 on: December 05, 2013, 05:05:03 PM »
I had a great aunt who really disliked her half-sister and preferred to pretend she didn't exist... But I wouldn't write, "She was an only child"

Now it's my turn to apologize for veering off topic.  I was an only child for 20 years until my dad and step-mother had a baby.  I'm now in my mid-40s and my half sister is in her mid 20s.

We did not grow up in the same households and since I was an adult when she was born I do say that I was an only child.  It always feels funny to me to say that I have a sister since our rel@tionship is not at all sisterly.  More like aunt/niece?  Maybe distant cousins?

For geneology purposes I have a half-sister.  But when chatting with folks I'll say that I was an only child.

VorFemme

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #19 on: December 05, 2013, 09:23:13 PM »
I do family history work and obituaries can be an important source of information, though I know not to trust all the information given just because they're often put together in a rush in the middle of emotional chaos, and sometimes people get things wrong just on accident. I can see how stating a specific date, which does not correspond closely to the official legal date, might be misleading in the sense of creating confusion in genealogical research, so I might avoid it for that reason. I didn't get the impression that her concern was future genealogists, though. I think I would just not state a specific date and go with "married 50 years" or whatever.

I have a curiosity about this, so slightly highjacking.

If you were doing family geneology and learned say that you had recorded a birth date as Jan, 7 1896 because that was what was on the tombstone but later ran across a document that indicates a date of Jan 7, 1898, what would the impact be to your research? I'm asking because my as this is specific to a grandparent issue. The tombstone says one year but there is a census form someone else ran across that seems to show a handwritten 1908. There was lots of back and form within the family about which was right and maybe the tombstone was wrong or maybe it really says 08 but others think the handwritten 8 is really a 6. My opinion is who cares? One family geneolgist said that if the same woman was listed with different birth dates is could be confusing to future researches. I said I figured a future researcher would probably be able to  couldn't figure out there wasn't 2 Bertha Eugene O'Mally born in the same small county within two years of to the same parents.

Actually, I have heard of parents "recycling" a name if the fist child died before the younger sibling was born...especially if there was a tradition of naming a daughter after a grandmother or aunt of the same name (depending on the religion - the grandmother or aunt might or might not still be living herself). 

I also have really bad handwriting, if I am in a hurry.  Census takers might have written the numeral wrong or misunderstood someone's accent at the time.  So...no way to ask them which is correct NOW, though.

+++++++

Mom has been doing research on their family trees.  On Dad's side of the family, six names from a small area in what used to be Austria keep showing up, almost like clockwork.  The A, G, L, and M names especially - an M groom seems to be the son of an A, G, L, or other bride and will marry a woman with a different last name than his mother's. 

I get the impression that there may have been a limited number of surnames in the local population and some care was being taken to keep anyone from marrying too close of a relative, but unless you traveled for one reason or another (merchant, military, education, etc.) - you just weren't likely to find a bride unless she was from one of the other five "families"!

It wasn't just the royal families who tended to marry someone who was some kind of relation to them - if you rarely went further from home that you could walk in a day, you didn't tend to see many people that you weren't related to! Kind of limited your choices...second cousin, second half-cousin, first cousin's first cousin who is also your third cousin, etc.  Writing did make it a lot easier to keep "breeding" records for more than just the livestock!  That was one important reason to have a literate priest who could keep death, birth, and marriage records for the area! 
« Last Edit: December 05, 2013, 09:34:54 PM by VorFemme »
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blarg314

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #20 on: December 05, 2013, 09:33:16 PM »

I'd list the date that the parents stated, or none at all. As a PP said, an obituary is not the place to be outing someone. And the LW said that she's never discussed this with her parents, but 'knows' the truth. So I think it's worth considering that the LW information might not be accurate.

My guess is that the parents fudged the marriage date back to cover a child conceived or born out of wedlock.


Mergatroyd

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #21 on: December 05, 2013, 09:42:24 PM »
Re the OP's question, if they're both dead, nobody is going to much care when they were married. The people who they would have wanted to know would already know (having been around at that time) and are probably pretty close to death if not dead already. I'm pretty sure daughter is the only one who would be shocked.
Pretty sad state  when "did you read Mrs. Smith's obit? Her wedding date doesn't match his! My goodness, it must have been a shotgun wedding!" Is big news.
I'd just leave it out.

As for the genealogists, if you ever want a harder challenge, take a stab at my family tree. Lol.

kareng57

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #22 on: December 05, 2013, 11:22:27 PM »
I have to agree with some PPs in that I've only very rarely seen wedding dates in obituaries.  So I really can't see the problem in simply omitting it.

That said, I think it's just one of the difficulties in genealogy research.  People quite frequently also altered birth dates (to disguise a child conceived before the wedding) after all.

Elfmama

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #23 on: December 06, 2013, 01:56:25 AM »
Census takers might have written the numeral wrong or misunderstood someone's accent at the time.  So...no way to ask them which is correct NOW, though.
Not only dates!  The 1930 census for DH's family has his father listed as a GIRL.  Yes, we're certain it's the right family. An extremely rare surname, GFIL's given name and occupation, the place, the number of siblings, their names and ages, all are correct. The surname combined with the extremely rare given name of DH's grandmother pretty well cements it.  FIL's age is correct, but as well as listing him as a girl, for some reason the census taker recorded a female name that, while beginning with the same letter, has no other similarities to FIL's name.  Think "Dorothy" instead of "David."  :o
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ClaireC79

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #24 on: December 06, 2013, 03:07:46 AM »
I have one in which my great grandfather's age is out by 15 years - worked out in the end he was 16 months and the enumerator has written 16 years - so he's there with parents who were 13 when he was born and a 5 year old younger brother - come the next census he's now the 11 year old younger brother with a 15 year old brother and parents of a 'normal' age

Margo

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #25 on: December 06, 2013, 05:24:59 AM »
I agree that in the Dear Abby case, there is no earthly reason to 'out' the parents - if the LW does not feel comfortbale giving the 'official' date now she knows it is not correct, she can leave out the date (or have something like "married for over 40 years".


On the genealogy side of things: My mum is interested in family history and has done a lot of research both into her own, and my dad's side of the family. She became interested when she was still at school, and produced a family tree for a school project. My grandmother suggested that she omit a couple of details before (a) presenting  it at school and (b) displaying it at a family party.

My mum was a good researcher, and had checked original marriage certificates, but being in her had not realised the relevance of the 6 months gap between her grandparent's wedding, and the birth of their eldest child . . . (said child was born in about 1914, so this would have been a big deal. I know that at the time my mum drew up the family tree (late 1950s) there were still members of the extended family who didn't know. (And I think that at the time, the dates of both the wedding and the birth were fudged for one set of grandparents, who would not have approved!)

The correct details are on all her current family trees, though!

problemattic

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #26 on: December 06, 2013, 12:54:31 PM »
Like others, I am baffled that the question was even posed.  I am meticulous when it comes to my genealogical records, but when my granddad died and I wrote his obit, I used the "adjusted" date of birth that he'd fudged so he could enter the military since it was the only birthday he'd celebrated since the 40's.  I also omitted any reference to how long he and Grandmother were together, as I'd recently found they had never actually married!  Why open up that can of worms?  It doesn't bother me, but I knew them well enough to know they would have been mortified had anyone announced their secret.  I think if something is for publication, when in doubt, leave it out.  Any genealogist worth their salt is going to look at primary sources to verify the information, and they will come to the correct conclusions on their own.

As for dates "carved in stone" we have to keep in mind that sometimes headstones are not set at the time of burial.  I have many relatives who died decades before a marker was added, and the dates thereon are wrong.  Because this was a common practice in my family, I don't consider headstones reliable sources of information for that reason, and always try to confirm the dates with other records.  After all, I have a g-g-grandmother whose headstone clearly states she died before her daughter was born...that would have been my g-grandmother.  If that marker is correct, I don't exist.  Well, that would explain a lot... :-\

baglady

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #27 on: December 09, 2013, 10:50:17 PM »
I've never seen a wedding date in an obituary -- year, maybe, but not month and day. And I've never seen the ages or birth dates of the deceased's offspring in an obit. It's unlikely that any casual reader of an obit is going to whip out a calculator and start doing the math to uncover a case of premarital Scrabble. And the non-casual reader (i.e., family member) has already done the math and doesn't care.

I'd leave the date out of the obit and mention year only, or duration: "He married Margaret Jones in 1960." "He is survived by Margaret Jones, his wife of more than 50 years."

The mother of a former acquaintance of mine wrote her own obituary when she was diagnosed with a terminal illness. This woman had lied about her age for years and put a false birth date in her obit. Her daughter had some explaining to do with people who knew her and knew how old *she* was -- according to Mom's obit, Mom gave birth to her at about 11 or 12.
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kherbert05

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #28 on: December 10, 2013, 12:47:32 AM »
I do family history work and obituaries can be an important source of information, though I know not to trust all the information given just because they're often put together in a rush in the middle of emotional chaos, and sometimes people get things wrong just on accident. I can see how stating a specific date, which does not correspond closely to the official legal date, might be misleading in the sense of creating confusion in genealogical research, so I might avoid it for that reason. I didn't get the impression that her concern was future genealogists, though. I think I would just not state a specific date and go with "married 50 years" or whatever.

I have a curiosity about this, so slightly highjacking.

If you were doing family geneology and learned say that you had recorded a birth date as Jan, 7 1896 because that was what was on the tombstone but later ran across a document that indicates a date of Jan 7, 1898, what would the impact be to your research? I'm asking because my as this is specific to a grandparent issue. The tombstone says one year but there is a census form someone else ran across that seems to show a handwritten 1908. There was lots of back and form within the family about which was right and maybe the tombstone was wrong or maybe it really says 08 but others think the handwritten 8 is really a 6. My opinion is who cares? One family geneolgist said that if the same woman was listed with different birth dates is could be confusing to future researches. I said I figured a future researcher would probably be able to  couldn't figure out there wasn't 2 Bertha Eugene O'Mally born in the same small county within two years of to the same parents.
I know on the 1940 census form someone switched my Dad's birth year and his sister's birth year but their ages at the time are listed correctly. So it says Dad as 4 but born in 1931 and that my Aunt was 9 born in 1936.


LW 3 needs to leave well enough alone.


LW2 needs a clue by 4 upside the head  - she should have called the cops as soon as her daughter told her about the child being abused.
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jalutaja

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Re: Obit-Maintaining a fib Dear Abby
« Reply #29 on: December 10, 2013, 03:01:05 AM »

Actually, I have heard of parents "recycling" a name if the fist child died before the younger sibling was born...especially if there was a tradition of naming a daughter after a grandmother or aunt of the same name (depending on the religion - the grandmother or aunt might or might not still be living herself). 


I just read a very moving Russian book about seeking for children who had gotten lost during the WW II.

A woman found her 25 year old daughter, who had been lost for more than 20 years.

Now the woman had TWO daughters by same name - one 25 years old and another 19 years old!