Write your own obituary, because who can do it better than you? Who amongst your surviving relatives will know why you took the life paths you did? Who will have the insight and writing skills to convey to generations to come who you were in life?
As genealogists, we are happy when we find proof of birth, marriage, death, and relationships. But those facts alone do not inform us about who the person was. Vital records do not convey our ancestors’ hope & dreams, regrets, motivators, or even political party. Why did they leave their homeland? Did they love their children equally? Were they professionally happy? Vital records can only tell us so much about a person’s life and can be boring in their limitations.
Finding newspaper articles about our ancestors illuminates a moment of their life, but are a rare find. Rare also is the ancestor worthy of being biographied. A diary or journal is a gold mine for genealogists with first-hand accounts of those hope & dreams, regrets, motivators. I have kept a journal on and off since high school. Though some of my personal writings may be embarrassing to share, I enjoy the idea that descendants three generations from now will know more about me than I do of my great great… grandparents. I hope they treasure what I’ve left for them without thinking it TMI.
Short of a commitment to journaling, and sparing you the embarrassment, there is the option of writing your own obituary. Here is a communication tool designed as a time capsule. A good obituary not only tells the age, birthplace, parentage, siblings, children of the deceased but it can also tell us a little about who they were when living. We are lucky when the obituary writer takes the opportunity to forego a template and improvise a brief biography of the departed.
Again, don’t leave it to chance that someone will write your own story and do it justice. Take on the task yourself and write it now. Commit to writing one full page of your vitals stats and the key pieces you want your descendants to know about your time on Earth. In your obit include that you yourself have written this piece, which tells future generations of researchers that they have in hand a Primary source with Direct evidence. Wouldn’t that be a gift to the future! Include your hobbies, loves, travels, happiest moments, and biggest regrets. Once written, place it with your Living Trust or Will and let your relatives know where to find it. Review and update it on occasion.
If you need help with the form and style of an obituary, take a look at these sites.
- 55+ Best Obituary Examples | Writing Help! — on Love Lives On
- How to write the perfect obituary, according to professional writers — by Nicole Spector
There have been some fantastic, humorous, inspiring obituaries written through the ages. Here are some examples that may inspire your legacy.
- 9 Of The Most Incredible Obituaries Ever Written — by Rochelle Rietow on FuneralOne Blog.
- Lives Told Well: The Best Obituaries — by Jessica Campbell on Legacy.com
- 10 Incredible Obituary Examples That Will Make Your Day — by Fraser Consultants
As a genealogist, it likely you’ve written short biographies about your ancestors. Don’t forget your own story. You are the best expert about yourself. Share yourself with the future by writing your own obituary and having the last word.