My mother, Betty Sue Brown Adams, died last week. She was born on May 2, 1933 and died June 17, 2015. It felt very strange to add a death date to her entry in Reunion, my family tree software.
Since I’m a writer, my father asked me to write her obituary. Fortunately, we had had discussions about what she wanted in her obituary, so it was quite easy to write. I wrote it the day after she passed away and submitted to the local paper on June 19. It was published Sunday, June 21.
Yesterday, I was looking at the obituary and realized it contained an error, one that was completely my fault. It wasn’t a big deal–I wrote that she’d been a volunteer at the Blue Mountain Humane Society Gift Shop when in fact she’d been a volunteer at the Blue Mountain Humane Society Thrift Shop. It’s a subtle, but significant difference.
Seeing that error made me realize how easy it is for errors to be introduced into obituaries. I was writing with a clear head, with pre-planned information, into a document that I emailed to the newspaper. And yet an error showed up in print.
Just think how easily errors could be introduced into the obituaries of our ancestors: the writer may or may not have known the deceased person. The person who wrote the obituary may or may not be a good writer. The information may have been hand-entered for typesetting. There are so many ways an obituary can be made inaccurate.
So that’s today’s genealogy take away from my mother’s passing: Take obituaries with a grain of salt.
By the way, I wrote on my organizing blog yesterday about the importance of having the difficult conversation that will help make someone’s death easier for survivors. If you have loved ones near the ends of their lives, I encourage you to check it out.