Saturday, February 16, 2013

Upcoming Event : Anatomy of an Obituary, February 25

The Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS) will open its 2013 program year with "Anatomy of an Obituary," presented by Toni I. Benson (yours truly), Monday, February 25, 7 p.m. at the Webster Memorial Library, Decatur.

This is a lecture that I have wanted to give for some time, one that will appeal to historians of all experience levels who may beresearching family anywhere in the United States. Defined as a brief biography published by a newspaper, obituaries can lead to important clues in the search for the history of your family. 

Experience working with visiting patrons and with compiling my own family history over the years has given me some key insight into successful newspaper obituary research.  During "Anatomy of an Obituary," we will discuss:
Decatur Republican, December 15, 1921
  1. Reasons why your obituary research is not complete
  2. Tips for locating obituaries online and offline
  3. Creating an obituary search checklist
  4. List of obituary links websites
  5. Access to & search tips for newspaper digital archives
  6. Troubleshooting those hard-to-find obituaries
  7. Key components of a typical obituary
  8. Taking your research to the next level

To be truly successful with obituary research, one must:

  1. Look in the right place (notice our example to the right here for Nellie Potts Champlin - Nellie was raised in Decatur [Van Buren County], spent most of her adult life in Chelsea [Washtenaw County], and died in New York State)
  2. Verify your information (are you using the right date of death?)
  3. Seek out all versions of an obituary (with Nellie, there is potentially at least three versions of her obituary in three different papers).  Even with present-day notices, information can vary.
  4. Evaluate each peace of information for accuracy 
  5. Follow up with additional resources
There will be dozens of examples to illustrate these and other points, a handout with an outline of the presentation and lists of websites, and a brief question & answer period at the end of the lecture.

As the Van Buren District Library local history librarian, I will also be making announcements regarding new activities and acquisitions for the collection since last October as well as upcoming library-sponsored programs for 2013.   I hope to see you there.

VBRGS programs are free and open to the public and they welcome everyone who may have an interest in family and local history. For questions or more information please contact Ann Flora at 

Nameless Picture of the Day
 "Thompson house" 
Hartford, Michigan

 Can you identify the present-day location or address of the house in this photograph, taken in or near Hartford, Michigan?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.

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