Picture of Dennis Prue

Dennis Prue

Dennis has been researching family trees for more than 30 years. His expertise has been invaluable in helping to break through brick walls.


Using Obituaries to Fill in Gaps in Our Genealogy

This month’s column discusses using obituaries to fill in the holes in your family tree.

In the last few weeks, I have learned of the death of a distant cousin named Sandy Cormier. I knew we were related but not sure how. I used her obituary to add her to my tree. So I hunted for more information on her father, Damase, to find out which branch of the family he belongs to.

The problem was that I could not find the marriage record for Damase’s parents. When I asked a friend for help finding this couple’s marriage, he suggested that the name may have been mispronounced when someone who spoke mainly French was telling an English-speaking town official. The name was King, but the clerk wrote Keen. With that insight, I changed my search and thus, found the parents of Damase.

Knowing that Sandy’s grandparents were Paul Cormier and Mary King, I turned to the obituaries to fill in missing information on Damase’s children. From various censuses, I knew that Damase and his wife, Julia, had 11 children. So between the obituaries and the “Find a Grave” website, I was able to locate Sandy and her siblings.

I now could add Damase’s wife and many children to my tree. I also realized that I went to school with Sandy’s son, John. Each person’s obituary gives a small slice of the overall picture of that family. It’s not the whole picture, but it gives a glimpse of the family.

It is not the first time with this Covid-19 shut down that I’ve used obits to fill in missing information. I use the state-wide major newspapers to research obituaries.

I went to the paper website and researched the surname, and found a lot of information on female relatives. Looking at each one that popped up, I was able to find married female relatives and their families.

As families grow and move away, the sense of connection is lost. Obituaries have given me a way to connect to lost family members and to remember the long friendships with cousins and all the times we enjoyed spending together.

An obituary connected me with an older cousin whose company I truly enjoyed until her death a few years ago. Obituaries can help with research and a possible chance to connect with other, maybe formerly unknown, living family members.

Creative Commons License
Using Obituaries to Fill in Gaps in Our Genealogy by Dennis Prue is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at ac-gs.org.