Jul 6, 2014

Posted | 2 Comments

52 Weeks of Genealogical Records in 2014 – Week 21 Obituaries

This blog challenge is to stimulate my own genealogy blogging efforts in 2014 by focusing on a different kind of genealogical record each week. I wanted a challenge that reflected my own archival background as well as my own genealogy interests and there are probably lots of other records that I could have included. The challenge has an Australian focus but most of these records will be found just about anywhere in the genealogy world.

The 52 different types of genealogical records I finally decided on are listed in no particular order (each week will be a random surprise). Originally I planned to do this over 52 weeks but I now realise that I have to factor in travel and illness so it will continue a little bit over a year. Anyone is welcome to do all or part of this blogging challenge.  Let me know if you are participating and I will put a link to your post under each week’s challenge.

So far I know of six bloggers who are taking up the challenge from time to time and I have put links to their individual entries at the end of each week’s blog if they have submitted something for that week. Thanks Judy WebsterSharn WhiteCassmobAnneCampaspe Library and Sharon for participating and encouraging me to keep up the blog challenge myself!

Also participating in this blog challenge:

Links to Week 1 Military Medals Week 2 Internal Migration Week 3 Probates (wills and administrations) Week 4 Memorial Cards Week 5 Family Stories Week 6 Land Records Week 7 Local Histories Week 8 Diaries Week 9 Inquest Records Week 10Occupation Records Week 11 Newspapers Week 12 Gazetteers Week 13 Personal Names and Surnames Week 14 Cemetery Records Week 15 Civil Registration and Certificates Week 16 Naturalization and Citizenship Records Week 17 Court Records Week 18 Almanacs   Week 19 Family Bibles Week 20 Mining Records

Week 21 Obituaries

This week’s topic is obituaries and sadly I have never found any on my own direct ancestors and I have only found a few on the siblings of my direct ancestors. But even these can be worth looking for because they may have clues that help to confirm your research on a direct ancestor.

My great greObituary Thomas Johnstonat grandfather Adam Johnston was a bit of a rogue (and left extremely interesting records) while his older brother Thomas Johnston was much more respectable. When Thomas died in 1909 an obituary under the heading of ‘Death of an Oxley Pioneer’ appeared in the Brisbane Courier and it even included a photograph. How exciting as I don’t have any photos of Adam.

But it was the detail in the obituary which really helped my Irish research. It reports that he was born at Knockbride in County Cavan. Knockbride is a parish located outside the town of Bailieborough. On Adam’s certificates I found just Cavan and/or various spellings of Bailieborough. Between the certificates and the obituary I had an exact place to start looking for their baptisms.  The search was successful but I have never been able to trace their parents back (yet).

My partner Max’s families were a lot more socially respectable than my families and I have a number of obituaries particularly for his Burstow family. Thomas Stephen Burstow came out to Queensland and became a very successful businessman, a distinguished freemason and even Mayor of Toowoomba at one stage of his career.

The obituary in the Brisbane Courier in 1928 was headed ‘Worthy Career’ and had a photograph of him in his Masonic regalia. There are details of his career, community involvement and his many Masonic  achievements  but what was more interesting to me was that the obituary reported that Thomas and his wife had gone back to the Old Country for a visit. I don’t think any of my own direct relatives ever did that so I found that snippet fascinating.Thomas Stephen Burstow in Masonic regalia, obituary 1928

There was also a smaller obituary in the Queensland Times (Ipswich) and a report of his death in The Queenslander. If someone is well known look for more than one obituary or account of their death as the information in each may be different.

Thanks to Trove we can now more easily search for and find obituaries. When I first looked for the Burstow obituary all I found was the one in the Brisbane Courier, now there are another two reports following his death. Remember that new newspapers are being digitised and placed online all the time so it is necessary to recheck from time to time for new information. Another option for me is to monitor new titles coming and I am ‘patiently’ waiting for a few titles this year!

Obituaries may have information that is not found in official documents so it is definitely worth spending some time to see if something appeared in the local newspaper after a person’s death. I know lots of people who have done a little genealogy happy dance after finding an obituary. Why not try it too?



  1. Well Shauna, I am doing that genealogy happy dance that you wrote about. I have just discovered two obituaries that have confirmed the oral version of what happened to these relatives of my husband Ern.
    I really enjoy reading your articles. Regards Del

  2. Shauna Hicks says:

    Thanks Del, glad that the obituaries paid off! At Mum’s at the moment, we should probably catch up some time!

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