Sunday, January 13, 2013

Investigating an Incorrect Obituary - George M. Dunn

George Monroe Dunn

An obituary is only as correct as the information that was reported by a third party. If you ever have to write an obituary please don't forget every member of the family even if you don't particularly like the person. What you put in writing will be there for an eternity. With the recent passing of my father an incorrect obituary was printed in one of our local newspapers. The paper did print a correct one a few days later, but that first information that was put out is still in everyone's mind that first read it. It named me and my sister as stepdaughters to our father, when in reality we were both adopted by both our parents. Also, his wife of 50 years was completely omitted. This is especially harmful for genealogists - we need the correct information. Maybe in 20 years or more when we are both gone, someone will find this obituary and wonder "who was his wife?" Then they'll have to go through all the trouble to look for a marriage record. Then they'll see the marriage date and wonder again "how did these girls become stepdaughters to this man?"

This problem also came about a few years ago when I found my great-grandfather's obit.
“January 9, 1933 - Noblesville Daily Courier.
ANOTHER CIVIL WAR VETERAN DIED SUNDAY - George M. Dunn, one of the last civil war veterans of Hamilton county, died Sunday morning at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Mary Hatfield, in Cicero., with whom he had been living for several months, at the age of eighty-seven . . . He served three years in the civil war . . . his death leaves less than thirty-five of these veterans still living in the county . . . The deceased spent most of his early life in the vicinity of Boxleytown. His wife died many years ago. He is survived by the following children: Mrs. Mary Hatfield, Mrs. Maggie Scott Miller both of Cicero, Mrs. Josephine Adair of Riverside, Calif.; Fred Dunn, of Maywood, Calif.; and Charles Dunn, of Indianapolis.”

I had heard stories from family members that George had outlived three wives. So here it was - his obit, great grandpa George had been married before and here were the names of his other children. I know I had the right family from all the other evidence I had collected. I relayed all this information to my father and he said he remembered having an uncle Charles. Dad used to go visit him in the summers when he maintained a vegetable stand at the old Farmer’s Market in Indianapolis. But I don’t know why his family back in Johnson county had been left out of the obituary like they were never a part of George’s life. The obit never named the other wife that he had survived either.

There were clues here, but a lot of work had to be done to fill in all the holes. There were birth records to be found on all the children - whose names were given as their parents? There were marriage records to be collected - maybe they would help fill in some of the gaps? Where were these other people buried, where did they live, did any of them keep in contact with their half brothers and sisters? Then there would be questions that would probably never be answered such as why were all the other children and other wives omitted? This one took a while to investigate, but at least the few clues that it left gave me something to start on. Omissions are the hardest to find and correct. So if you find yourself in a position to create an obituary please make it correct to the best of your ability.

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