Occasionally, I work with a family wishing to forgo the printing of the death announcement, a.k.a. obituary, in the newspaper. Before becoming a funeral practitioner, I, as these families, thought obituaries unnecessary and a bit obsolete, especially if the decedent’s circles of friends and family were small. I have a rather small group of immediate and intimate friends and family, and have thought in the past, that when my time comes, the printing of an obituary would be unnecessary. After becoming a funeral director and working with families for a few years, my opinion of the necessity of an obituary notice, printed in the newspaper, has most definitely changed. It is a small bit of money, very well spent.
A death notice, a.k.a. obituary is a quick and fairly inexpensive way of notifying the living, that an acquaintance, friend, relative, co-worker, etc. has recently died. It also informs them of the service dates and times if they wish to attend or send condolences.
The obituary lists the names of family who have preceded the decedent in death, as well as the survivors. This is a very important part of the obituary. Listing the preceding kinship and surviving kinship allows readers to recognize those in their community that will be entering bereavement. It also allows them to link families and verify that they may, or may not know the decedent. This knowledge also allows the community to understand the unusual melancholy behavior among the survivors with greater understanding and compassion.
The obituary may also be used by HR services, to verify and allow bereavement leave for family members. It also verifies time off for staff and personnel wishing to attend services. On occasion, it may be used for certain bereavement allowances and discounts.
The most important role of the obituary, however, is to link genealogy. The listing of kindred dead and living survivors serves as a printed witness for family historians and genealogists. Obituaries can be used as evidentiary paperwork to prove lineage when other documents are not available. The obituary lists personality characteristics of the decedent, as well. This information is a treasure trove for the generations that follow. Saving and re-reading obituaries may serve as helpful therapeutic grief recovery tools in the months and years that follow a significant loss.
If you have suffered the loss of a loved one or expect a loss in the future, please consider the importance of a well-written obituary. I have researched loved ones through obituaries. If fortune is smiling upon me, there will be a picture included. These tiny bits of genealogical treasure bring me great joy.