Sunday, March 31, 2013

Writing An Obituary

My wife's grandfather Lawrence Wisner recently passed away and we knew it was coming. He had been in decline for the last few years, which I guess made it easier to handle the news of his passing. I can't say for sure with how it affected others in my family who were closer to him, but for me it didn't really affect me that much because I didn't have a lifetime of memories with him. He was only my grandpa-in-law.

There was, however, another side of me that kicked into genealogy overdrive. I quickly updated my database with his death information, added his memorial to, and started scanning in pictures to make a video to show at his funeral. I also started asking questions like "who is writing his obituary?" and "which newspapers will it be running in?" since he lived in multiple places.

So I took on the task of writing an obituary for him thinking that, hey, I've read a ton of obituaries, I should be able to write one and include everything that is pertinent to the story of his life and genealogy. I wrote the highlights of his life, where he lived, his military story, and also listed out his surviving relatives. I get done, feeling that it was a pretty balanced obit and not too long, only to start the battle of editing based on how much it would cost to run in 1 or more newspapers. Since I wasn't the one paying for it to be published, I felt pressed to justify every line, since it would affect the price.

In the end there were 2 obituaries, one in the Sacramento Bee, which was short and pointed to the mortuary website where the full obit could be read for 30 days (he had lived in the Sacramento area for almost the last 50 years). The other was published in the Mt Shasta Herald, and was the longer version (he had lived in the Mt Shasta area for around 20 years of his life and many of his relatives still live there). The Sac Bee was more expensive, and was a part of the system. The Mt Shasta Herald was cheaper, but less readers and not in the system. I wanted to make sure that his information was published somewhere so that future genealogists who would want to find his obituary could find it, and I think I accomplished that.

I guess as the future comes, more and more sources will be available online and newspapers won't be like they were a hundred years ago. They already aren't. But it just felt like if no one had taken the time to write even a brief synopsis of his life in an obituary, future generations might only know his birth, death and marriage dates, just like I have only found for many of my ancestors.

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