©2009-2016 Becky Higgins

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Evidence Gleaned From One Obituary

The Ishpeming Record, Ishpeming, Michigan, Friday, 9 May 1930, page 5, columns 2 & 3; obituary for Mrs. Charles Larson.

To shorten things up a bit, let’s assume I already have sufficient evidence to state that Mrs. Charles Larson is the same person as Amelia (Ellstrom) Christiansen Larson. I could go into greater detail on this but the purpose of this writing is to determine what information can come from her obituary. So here goes.

  1. “Mrs. Charles Larson, who was 71 years of age…” places Amelia’s birth in about 1859. Other records put her birth on 24 Nov 1858. She was actually 71 years, 5 months, 6 days old at death.
  2. “…and a resident here for over 50 years”, she had lived in Ishpeming, Michigan half a century.
  3. “…passed from life Wednesday night,” – date of death 7 May 1930. The obituary was published on Friday the 9th of May, 1930. We’ll want to be careful with this one as we’ll find later in this same article that this death date is impossible.
  4. “…at the family home on East Empire Street.” She lived on Empire Street, Ishpeming, Michigan on and before her death.
  5. “The deceased had been ill the past several months and death was not unexpected”. This is a clue to follow-up for health history. Will the death certificate give more details?
  6. “The deceased was a native of Sweden locating in Marquette with her parents 61 years ago, later living in Ishpeming p to the time of her death.” Family and personal information will be found in Swedish records; immigrated in about 1869; original U. S. residence was Marquette. Lots of clues here.
  7. “Surviving are her husband and the following children: Mrs. Fred Davey Chicago; Miss Teckla, Miss Lida Larson and Clarence Larson, all residents of Ishpeming; Mrs. Albert E Porter, Sault Ste. Marie, and Mrs. H. F. St. Helen of Portland, Ore. The following brothers and sister: Alex Ellstrom, Pueblo, Colo,; Albert Ellstrom, Detroit; Mrs. Charles Seagren, St. Paul, Minn.; Mrs. Axel Peterson, Marquette, and Miss Alice Ellstrom, Saginaw…“ Wow, where to start with this paragraph. First, it tells us Amelia’s husband, Charles, is still living; second, we get a listing of her living children which includes not just her daughters’ married names but the full names of her daughters’ husbands, third we’re told where her children are living on 9 May 1930. We get the same information regarding her surviving siblings.
  8. “Funeral took place Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock from the family home…” Here’s where the date calculated in item number 3 proves incorrect. Since the paper was issued on Friday, the 9th of May and the funeral had already taken place on Sunday, her death could not have been on Wednesday the 7th. She died 30 Apr 1930 from evidence found here and from other evidence such as Family Bible records and a telegram from Clarence Larson to Mrs. Fred Davey.
  9. “…from the Swedish Baptist church…” Amelia was probably a member of this church and more records may be available there.
  10. “The pall bearers were : Mr. John Asplund of Marquette; William Anderson, August Olson, John Swanson, Charles Benson and Emil Olson.” Pall bearers are often but not always family members. They deserve some research to determine their relationship to the deceased and/or family.

The older obituaries and those from smaller communities tend to provide the most information.  Often in the larger cities there is only a death notice giving only the briefest information. Today, due to the cost, printed obituaries seem to be getting smaller; however, with many funeral homes providing memorial type pages on their website the obituary is seeing a come back.

Granted, you can’t take what’s written in an obituary as absolute truth but, wow, what an abundance of clues they can provide!


  1. Nice article, Becky. I was wondering at first if the error in funeral time was the verb...that they meant "will be" on Saturday rather than "was". That could happen too. But then you told me more and it seems the error was in saying "Saturday" and not clearly designating that it was -last- Saturday...not the coming one. Editors, in the old days, (and one still wonders sometimes) were more literate than many readers, but not necessarily quite literate enough. Or maybe they just would get too busy with all that had to be done by the deadline. And, of course, they couldn't type it out on the computer, fix the errors, and print. Each individual letter had to be placed in the right order--and proofread "backwards" to be sure it was right. A moment's distraction--and there was an error when the paper came out. On the other hand, many errors creep in because the bereaved who is writing the obituary is having a tough day. It's so easy to make an error when one is in tears. I am going to suggest to my readers that they come and read this, if that's OK with you! KG

    1. KG, Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to recommend this post to anyone. I agree about how easy it is to get errors in obituaries. Been there myself.