While it may seem a glaringly obvious point, it’s a point worth keeping in mind when you discover an ancestor’s obituary.
That obituary or death notice1 that you discovered for your ancestor didn’t just write itself. Somebody had to write it; and was that somebody a staff writer for the newspaper, or a family member who paid for the announcement? And even if written by a staff writer, somebody (probably not a staff writer, unless your ancestor was famous or infamous, or at least, in the case of more local or regional papers, unless your ancestor was a highly prominent citizen of the locality) had to supply the relevant details.The thing didn’t just write itself, in other words: it had to be written by someone, based on information supplied by somebody.
A Double Obituary
From the Irish World and American Industrial Liberator, 13 February 1892, here is an obituary (see image, right) for the Messrs. Thomas and Alexander Moran: a double obituary notice with details of a “double bereavement.”
And I certainly wasn’t expecting to find an obituary notice for my 2x-great-grandfather Alexander Michael Moran — of Huntley Township, Carleton County, Ontario, Canada — in an Irish-American newspaper that was published in New York City. Nor was I expecting to find one for his eldest brother Thomas. But that’s the wonderful thing about online, digital newspaper repositories such as GenealogyBank and Newspapers.com: they can help you turn up little gems that you never would have discovered otherwise.
Two brothers, Thomas Moran and Alexander Michael Moran, both of Huntley Township, Carleton County, Ontario, Canada died five days apart in late January 1892, of la grippe (influenza) with pneumonia. Thomas, a lifelong bachelor farmer known as “Uncle Tom” to “a legion of nephews and nieces,” was the eldest son of James Moran and Margaret Jamieson. His younger brother Alexander (“Sandy”) Michael was the husband of Mary Ann Leavy,2 with whom he raised a family of twelve children, one of whom, Margaret Jane, died young; six of whom married and remained in the Ottawa area; and five of whom emigrated to Grand Forks, North Dakota and East Grand Forks, Minnesota.
Though you won’t find any specific details of parental or spousal relations in this obituary notice from the Irish World: no, not even the names of the brothers’ parents, never mind the name of Alexander Moran’s wife, nor of his eleven surviving children. No mention, either, of Thomas and Alexander’s four surviving sisters, all of whom were alive and well and living in, or next-door-to, Carleton County at the time.3
Instead, the obituary focuses on the brothers’ standing in “the farming community of Carleton County”; on the respect paid to the men at their funerals, when the church was “appropriately draped in mourning;” and, in the case of the elder brother, on Thomas Moran’s status as an “exemplary Catholic.”
Who Wrote this Obituary?
So: who wrote this obituary?
Well, of course I do not, and cannot, know who authored this obituary. But if I had to hazard a guess, I’d place my money on the Rev. Patrick Corkery, who is mentioned in the obituary as the “Father Corkery” who “performed the burial ceremony” for Thomas Moran.4
And here are the three reasons why I would guess Father Corkery (but I emphasize that this is only a guess, and perhaps a wrong one):
TO BE CONTINUED…
- There’s no bright line, no hard and fast rule for distinguishing, between a death (or mortuary) notice and an obituary. In general, a death notice was very brief, perhaps only one or two lines of vital information, whereas an obituary offered at least a bit (or perhaps more than a bit) of narrative: a life story, or a biographical sketch, with some key names, dates, and details. ↩
- Daughter of John Leavy and Jane Byrne, originally of Co. Longford, Ireland. ↩
- Elizabeth Moran, wife of Peter Doyle, was in Montague township, Lanark County, Ontario; the other three sisters — Marcella Moran, wife of John Hogan; Margaret Moran, wife of Arsène Charlebois; and Henrietta Moran, a lifelong spinster — were in Carleton County. It was after the death of her brothers that Henrietta, moved to Ottawa. ↩
- Thomas Moran’s funeral and burial took place on 23 January 1892, with the Rev. P. Corkery officiating. Five days later, on 28 January 1892, the Rev. P. Corkery performed the funeral rites for Alexander Michael Moran. ↩