I love reading obituaries because I get so much good information. I am currently working on my husband’s Irish ancestors. Four of his great great great grandparents came to America in the 1800’s. I want to take a trip to Ireland to visit the areas where they lived. I have contacted some researchers in Ireland and was told that I did not have enough information to give them to help them with their research and it would be a waste of my money. The surnames are too common: Burke, Johnson, McBrien, and Hickey. All four of these people lived in Terre Haute, IN. Terre Haute newspapers are all on file in the Indiana archives in downtown Indianapolis. I created a list of all of my husband’s ancestors from Terre Haute first. The Terre Haute Library has a wonderful, free database of obituaries. All you have to do is put in the surname and they will show you all of the people who died with that last name and where the obituary can be found. After I made my list of obituaries and the names of the newspapers, dates and pages, I headed to Indianapolis to search for the obituaries on microfilm. When I found one, it was very easy to make a copy. Once I had my copies, I scanned all the obituaries so I now have digital copies. The most interesting obituary was one for my husband’s great uncle who was murdered in 1906. He had hired a handyman to do some work for him. The man got drunk and came to his house and slit my husband’s relative’s throat. This murder made front page news for four straight days. In 1906 they did not publish photos so they had drawings of the relative and even a drawing of his house.
Back to my research about the Irish relatives-I was able to learn which county all four grandparents lived from the obituaries. I even found out a couple parishes. I am now going to gather all of my information on these four and hire somebody in Ireland to do more research for me. We hope to make a trip to Ireland in 2017.
Jeremiah Burke who died in 1901 was my husband’s great great great grandfather. The other Jeremiah Burke listed was his son, who died in 1956. There are a total of 187 obituaries listed with the surname of Burke.
Obituaries can provide lots of information or very little. One thing I have learned is that they are not always accurate. They are only as good as the person providing the information. I have found many discrepancies. In this obituary, his wife is listed as Mary O’Brien. In other documents, she is listed as Mary McBrien or Mary McBryan. Many people from Ireland changed their names once they arrived in America for many reasons. People from Poland made some of the most drastic changes. My ancestor Gottlieb Hartwig (in German) is listed in some records as Bogumil Hartwich. That is why researching can be so difficult.