Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Modern Mystery

As genealogists, we all have those elusive ancestors or other family members who create brick walls and cause us much frustration.

Today, another Ancestry.com user posted a comment on my family tree with information about one branch of the family tree. What caught my eye was information that my Dad's first cousin died only two months ago. This was news to me. But - most of the living family members don't stay in touch now that their parents have passed away, so it was not unusual for us not to have been notified of his death.

While on Ancestry, I searched on this cousin and found his death information in the Social Security Death Index. My next step was to visit Legacy.com, a web site I use for locating obituaries from the past decade. I typed in the cousin's last name and there were no matches. I next turned to Google to see if I could locate an obituary, but with no luck. I also tried the Google News Archives search with no luck. I located the online newspaper from the city where I knew he had lived in recent years and there were no results for an obituary.

Then I changed my search strategy and changed to the shortened version of his first name and found two references to online obituaries. I went to both sites. The first one only listed his date of death. There was no obituary, no guest book entries, no photos, nothing on a funeral or memorial service.

It was what I found on the next site that left me with a modern mystery. It only listed his dates of birth and death and one more sentence. "He was last known to be living in ____" (name of city omitted here). How many times I have come across similar words in those old newspapers from 100, 120 years ago when family members seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth. How often I've read, "He was last known to have been residing in Mexico," or "When last heard from, he was living in Canada."

Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that a present day obituary would be so elusive on the internet. Not having a published obituary available online for such a recent death is certainly not something that I would have expected.

I've contacted the person who posted the comment on my family tree, inquiring if he has an obituary for this cousin. And I will continue my online exploration. Since I know the general area where he last lived, there's always the option of contacting the newspapers in the area. I just found it intriguing that the kind of information that we take for granted in the internet age is elusive . . . so far.

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