Only a genealogist would call an obituary “exciting.” An obituary can yield clues to information that might otherwise have been elusive. These mini-biographies are compact collections of possibly important genealogical information. They must, however, be carefully scrutinized because they may contain errors that have been introduced by unknowledgeable relatives, by the person who took down the information, and/or by the publisher of the obituary. The obituary is always a secondary source, and the details included should be verified with other original documentary resources.
The first order of business in working with an obituary is, of course, to read it. You must then glean the details of the “facts” included in the piece. My favorite method of doing this is to use a process very like the sentence diagramming I performed in school. Do you remember it? Sentence diagramming consists of deconstructing a sentence, identifying the various parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, etc. The sentence is then broken apart and reconstructed into a diagram that represents the arrangement and relationship of the various parts of speech to one another. In other words, I break an obituary into its component parts and address each part individually.
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