Sunday, November 28, 2010

Obituary Stitches

Among the Daniels family items passed down by Aunt Mattie Daniels Townsend is a small (very small) collection of obituary clippings. From pedigree memory, I can easily connect each person's obituary back to our family tree, even if only remotely, with the exception of one: Frank Eamigh.

This obituary, despite its mystery, has always caught my attention. As a surname that failed to register on my genealogical radar, it was not the contents that caught my attention, but rather, the carefully stitched pieces of newspaper. Obviously, this obituary was very important to someone. They took the time to sit and stitch the two pieces from the differing sections of the newspaper to produce a small keepsake.

I did a quick search in Rootsweb and Findagrave for this fellow. Both produced an entry. However, from the lineage listed, I still cannot see a familial link to this guy. Of course, his wife (who is missing from the online pedigrees) could be our link, but I don't recognize her maiden name at all. Perhaps one of his sisters married into our family? It could also be from the Townsend side of the family since Aunt Mattie spent a lot of time researching and transcribing historical profiles of her husband's geographic and genealogical ties.

But then, it could also be one of those wonderful wild goose chases that litter our family documents. I use the term "litter" in a light hearted way because any information about our ancestors is valuable. The wild goose chase I refer to is the sprinkling of friend information within the items passed down to the descendants. My Mother's side of the family is rife with these sprinklings of friend information: photos, notes, etc. It just so happens that my Mother actually knew which people were friends when I couldn't place a name into the family tree. She also knew how the friend was connected and why their things might have been kept. But most keepers of the family heritage are not lucky enough to have that kind of extra information.

For a branch of the family that does not have such a wonderful guide through the items, the friend connection, while providing a glimpse into the social life of our ancestors, can actually be quite a time waster as we dig and dig, exhausting our research skills on a person that will never fit into that family tree no matter how much we try to fit them in there! So my advice, when processing a family collection, is to look at the whole collection with the same eye you would look at your own. Just as we live to day with friends near and dear, so our ancestors more than likely kept their dearest friend mementos, which eventually fell into the family keepsake pile as things were passed down.

If you suspect you have a family friend in the family archives, note the pertinent details and then do a quick search locally. For instance, many of the family friends in our collection are young people. If you know their name and which ancestor they resemble in age, check the class rosters. Chances are, they are a school chum. If the friend is in uniform, you probably have an old army buddy. If they are older, check the local atlases to see which family groups lived nearby. Back before TV or computers, local neighbors frequently maintained close relationships. And don't forget churches! Many friends can be found in the member rolls.

I have not ruled out a family connection for Frank, but noting his young age at death (25) and the care with which someone stitched together his obituary, I have mentally categorized him as a possible friend relationship. In other words, I have him documented and he stays in the collection, but I will not spend an exorbitant amount of research time on him unless I find another clue that points him back into the family category. Of course, all of this advice is for those of us who are pressed for time and cannot spend full time hours on our genealogy research......with that being said, the historian in me would like to remind everyone that we are trying to tell a complete story, and those friendships could someday prove to be invaluable links to further information, or lead to a story that would knock your socks off!
Happy hunting!



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