Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mary's Misleading Obituary

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. 
The overall analysis is 80 percent true and probably true. That's not too bad -- unless you were depending on the 20 percent of information that isn't true.

Always take obituaries as clues, rather than absolute truth.

For anyone researching this family, the analysis and obituary follow.

Fact Content Truth
Marriage Date 1851 * False
Number Children Four ** False
Child Name James ** Unknown
Child Name Christina ** MISSING
Birth County Pickaway County Probable
Burial Acasto, MO Probable
Church Member of Methodist Church Probable
Funeral M.E. Church in Mt Sterling, IA Probable
Spouse Birth 1831 Probable
Birth State Ohio True
Birth Year 1834 True
Child Location Ft Madison, IA (Cantril) True
Child Location Pueblo, CO (Schafer) True
Child Name Absolom True
Child Name Mrs George Schafer True
Child Name Mrs T N Cantril True
Name Mrs Mary Neff True
Spouse George 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

No comments:

Post a Comment