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.