Sunday, June 14, 2009

Love Those Obituaries

Genealogists love obituaries, or obits are they like to call them.  This has been a week of locating interesting obituaries.  

Earlier in the week I was reading my hometown newspaper online and discovered that a friend of my late father's had passed away.  This is one of those online newspapers that requires a subscription to read the entire obituary.  However, I knew that the local radio station's web page also posted obituaries, in full.  Clicking to that I started to read the obituary.  Not far into it music began to play.  I was startled and thought perhaps my iTunes had strangely began playing on its own.  Instead I recognized it to be from the jazz era and music that my father also enjoyed.  He and the friend had served in World War II ... my father in the Pacific Theatre and the friend in the European Theatre.  They both survived and lived long lives.  My father also played trumpet in professional jazz bands.  The tune was "Memories of You" being performed by Benny Goodman.  The obituary and the music brought back memories.  Then I realized that genealogy is about memories ... our own memories and those of our ancestors and even friends.  

While in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City I discovered a book that indexed newspaper obituaries and death notices of the Rushville Times, Rushville, Schuyler Co., Illinois.  These were from the early 1900s.  I was somewhat startled to see the name of an old uncle, W.W. Tharp who died in 1904, I thought in Oregon.  He was buried in Latah Co., Idaho next to his wife, Lucy.  The index entry made mention of Eldon, Iowa which is in Wapello County.  As soon as I got home from Utah, I wrote to the Schuyler County Historical Jail Museum and Genealogical Center in Rushville, Illinois.  According to their web page, they have the Rushville Times and will do research.  Within a few days I received a photocopy of W.W. Tharp's obituary.  He had been living in California, Oregon and Idaho since the 1850s.  Shortly before his death on 18 December 1904 he visited relatives in Schuyler Co., Illinois.  After traveling to Eldon, Iowa to visit his younger brother, George W. Tharp, he became ill and died. Good lesson ... never assume where your relatives and ancestors may have died.  

Browsing through obituaries on NewsBank Inc., America's Obituaries and Death Notices for the surname Zehring in Indiana, I spotted one for a lady who passed away on 31 May 2009. Because the surname is unusual, I thought perhaps I could figure out her connection to the family by reading her full obituary and then trying to retrieve records.  Using census and Indiana marriage records, I began the task of determining the father of her husband and then progressing backwards.  The husband's father was born in 1882, but eventually I discovered his parents.  In the process, I located many marriages and census enumerations for other Zehring relatives.  One obituary can lead to many discoveries ... it just takes time to find them! 

Incidentally, if you are interested in NewsBank Inc. and other subscription databases, you can use all of them with an out of district library card from the Mid-Continent Public Library in Independence, Missouri.  You don't need to go there, just research the databases at home on your computer.  The out of district card is $20 annually and a good buy.  Of course, if you want to go to the library, that's okay, too!  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your blog is outstanding!

Here is the url of the blog from the Archives of the Sandusky Library if you would like to take a look: