Monday, July 23, 2012

Tuesday's Tip - The Obituaries Aren't Always Right!

Fond du Lac Commonwealth Reporter, 24MAY1927

The Campbellsport News
So I visited the Wisconsin Historical Society in June.  It was a long day and I was so absorbed in my research that I forgot to eat or drink the entire time I was there (fellow genealogists can understand this completely) and by 4:00pm my head and stomach were starting to hurt so it was time to start the 2-1/2 hour drive back to Green Bay (construction...yuck!).  By the time I got back, my head was a little better, but I couldn't bring myself to look at any of my finds until the next morning.

Now maybe I'm wrong to not be looking at my finds as I get them, but honestly I don't.  I get to the WHS once, maybe twice, a year if I'm lucky and by then I've got tons to look up.  In fact, I didn't get through everything I wanted to yesterday, but I did get through 3/4 of it.  Saturday morning as I sat down with my coffee and my printouts I showed my mother-in-law the obituaries for her great grandparents, William and Katherine Boegel nee Melzer.  I was bummed about the fact that Katherine's was scanned from a newspaper that was apparently bound and her obit was on the inside edge so part of it is unreadable, but we enjoyed looking at them, and then I noticed it....

The Campbellsport News
In both Katherine and William's obituaries it states that they were preceded in death by their spouse.  Did I have the wrong Katherine or William?  I was confused and concerned.  I pulled both obituaries with dates that I had from their tombstone and they were on the same tombstone!  I found it hard to believe that there were two Katherine or William Boegels that died on the same day in the same town.  I then compared the rest of the obituary.  Same kids.  Same wedding date.  The newspaper had made a mistake.  I'm sure Katherine must have been delighted when reading her husband's obituary that she died years before.  She may have felt like it at the time, but I assure you she was quite alive.

I know those of us that have been researching our families (or other families) for more than a hot second, already know that obituaries, death certificates, etc can have mistakes in them, but the death of a spouse in the obituary is certainly something that many of us might have used to at least narrow down a date of death for the other if it was still unknown.

Taking a line from The X-Files, "The truth is out there," we just need to figure it out amidst the details that may be leading us astray.


  1. Love your writing! I've missed it! I just (finally!!!) got internet and cable at my place. So now that I can sit down, with a beer, and actually ENJOY being on a computer, I can finally catch up on your blog. I wish I could have met you in Madison again. Maybe Christmas! Keep up the hard work with your genealogy and keep up the great write-ups. Love ya! ~ Care

    1. Hey, Carrie! Miss ya and hopefully we'll be able to see you in Wisconsin or on your way through Colorado Springs sometime! Keep those trainees in line!

  2. Cheryl,
    I especially enjoyed this post. I've had numerous examples of printed materials containing errors -- especially Death Certificates! I NEVER trust a death certificate without really trying to find supportive documentation. Love your line from the X-files.