Over the course of the next few blogs, we will focus on obituaries, answering questions that might arise when you are faced with writing one for a loved one. This first segment is some general information about obituaries, then in later blogs we'll move into more details about where to post them, how to write them and who to turn for help.
Obituaries have been around longer that you probably know. The word "obit" in Latin can be translated as "going down or setting" (as in a sunset) or more bluntly, death. Obituaries first appeared in the early days of Rome, when sophisticated society enjoyed a daily papyrus newsletter of sorts which included happenings of the day, including death announcements of important citizens. In America 's history, the purpose remains the same, which is to announce the passing of someone to the broader community. Obituaries can take many forms. Some are very official and serious, others can be sweet or funny. Poetry is sometimes included and many such poems can be retrieved today through a simple Google search. Initially obituaries were short, due to the difficult processing of printing and publishing. According to an article "The History of The Obituary" from by Frazer Consultants, the Civil War was a major turning point of the importance of the obituary in America . "As soldiers left their home states to fight in the war, obituaries became more prominent. They would have more biographical details and list genealogical information to help spread the word to as many relatives as possible."
The article also stated that historians have used the style of published obituaries to gauge the mood of the country. For instance in times of war or despair, obituaries are more sentimental and religious. In booming times, the focus is more on success, jobs and wealth. Throughout most of history, papers would hire reporters to write obituaries, in fact, it was a "beginning beat" for many newly hired reporters. Now, with so many other options for sharing the word about the loss of a loved one, find an obituary editor can be a bit more difficult. Next time, we'll cover a few things to consider when you need to write an obituary for someone you love. Thank you to Frazer Consultant's "History of the Obituary" which provided information for this and future articles.