Genealogy Research Tip

by Laurel | April 10th, 2010

Generally I do not post on weekends, but while this is on my mind …

At one point, not only were deaths reported in the paper via obituaries and death notices, but very often the funeral was also reported. Funeral notices were typically short, unless the deceased was someone of note, but generally the funeral notices included at least a list of pall bearers.

It has been my experience that a pall bearer was quite often connected to the deceased in some manner. I have researched some of my lines and noticed a certain pattern of repetition regarding the men were were pall bearers, and through further investigation was able to learn how they were connected. I have had a high success rate in the clues provided by funeral notices and have been able to add lots of people to my family tree this way. The men who often served as pall bearers were relations that were not cited in the obituary itself: in-laws, cousins, uncles, etc.

This, of course, does not work if the pall bearers are from a club or fraternal organization — Foresters, Masons, Odd Fellows, etc.

For example, I was going through some of my files a couple of days ago and purely by chance found the notice copied below, published in the Springfield Republican on 12 April 1931.

“The funeral of Mrs. Elizabeth McKenzie was held this afternoon at the parlors of Dickinson-Streeter company, Rev. E. B. Robinson officiated. The bearers were James Blackhall, Aleck Burnett, William Henderson and Alex Cathro. Burial was in Forestdale cemetery. The Daughters of Caledonia conducted services at the grave.”

Now James Blackhall is in my tree, on my mother’s side of the family. Alex Cathro is also in my tree, on my dad’s side. I have a lot of Holyoke based Burnett names, but not “Aleck,” ditto Henderson.

I am guessing this could be the spouse of someone they were all connected to rather than relatives — perhaps via sports or the fact they all seem to be Scots or even the simple likelihood they were all members of Grace Church. This is one I do not hold much hope for, in terms of genealogical additions to my tree. However my interest is piqued and I will be checking out who Elizabeth McKenzie was.

At any rate, my point is if you are researching newspapers and go to the trouble of doing an obit look up on microfilm, spend a few minutes more to find the funeral notice, it may provide some clues that will be helpful in your research.

2 Responses to “Genealogy Research Tip”

  1. My interest is also piqued and you know why ?! That was 2 years before my grandfather died. By chance do you have his obit ? I have learned quite a bit from Dale. Will pass it on when I get a chance to compile it.

  2. My interest is also piqued. I know the spelling is different. That was 2 years before my grandfather died. By chance, do you have his obit ?


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