Printed and online obituaries can be full of wonderful family information. Unfortunately, they often contain errors, also.
Mary Maddox Neff's 1907 obituary is a good example of the types of mistakes that you might see. Taking the information in the obituary as entirely true could lead to bad assumptions and missed records.
Deconstructing the obituary, there were 19 facts.
- Two were incorrect.
- One was unknown.
- Five were unknown, but probably true.
- One other key fact was missing.
Always take obituaries as clues, rather than absolute truth.
For anyone researching this family, the analysis and obituary follow.
|Marriage Date||1851 *||False|
|Number Children||Four **||False|
|Child Name||James **||Unknown|
|Child Name||Christina **||MISSING|
|Birth County||Pickaway County||Probable|
|Church||Member of Methodist Church||Probable|
|Funeral||M.E. Church in Mt Sterling, IA||Probable|
|Child Location||Ft Madison, IA (Cantril)||True|
|Child Location||Pueblo, CO (Schafer)||True|
|Child Name||Mrs George Schafer||True|
|Child Name||Mrs T N Cantril||True|
|Name||Mrs Mary Neff||True|
|Spouse Death||October 6, 1897||True|
|Survivors||2 children and 2 grandchildren||True|
*The Neff marriage was celebrated in Pickaway County, Ohio, on February 1, 1852. Reference book 4-255.
**The 1900 census showed that Mary had 5 children, 2 of whom were living. James was never on the census, but most likely would have been born between 1860 and 1863. Child Christina was the eldest in the census and was entirely omitted in the obituary in both child count and list of names.
Fort Madison (Iowa) Weekly Democrat, 11 September 1907, Page 2, Column 3