Monday, March 16, 2009

An Elusive Obituary

For years I had searched for an obituary for my great grandfather William Sheffield and one day while transcribing old newspapers for the historical society’s quarterly journal, I stumbled upon the printed notice of his death, which was recorded in the newspaper several weeks after his death. His death notice from the October 12, 1916 issue of The Itawamba County News reads: “We regret that we failed to note the sudden death of Uncle William Sheffield, one of Itawamba’s aged citizens who died at his daughters near Mantachie several weeks ago. Uncle William was very old having gone through the Civil War in which he received several wounds, which no doubt shortened his days on earth. He leaves a host of relatives and friends of whom, Mr. J.H. Sheffield, one of his sons, lives in Fulton to mourn his loss. The News join them in sympathy.”

In transcribing old newspapers for several years I have learned that prior to the 1930s, obituaries were written by the family of the deceased and submitted to the newspaper. Notices of deaths were also reported in the various community news columns as reported by the community news writers. The newspapers here usually did not publish obituaries composed by the newspaper prior to the 1930s. If an ancestor's obituary cannot be found, don't forget to read through the community news items. It could be hidden within those columns, as was my great grandfather's death notice from 1916. It is also a good idea to search the newspapers for several weeks after the death of an ancestor, as sometimes it was weeks before the death was reported in the newspaper since the information was compiled by a neighbor or family member and submitted for publication.

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