Galt Museum archives assistant, Bobbie Fox, presents a slideshow while discussing obituaries and the lasting impact they have. The museum hosted this event on April 21, 2023 Justin Sibbet, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Obituaries can help people connect with those who passed away several generations ago while simultaneously immortalizing memories forever.

From death notices to heartfelt obituaries, the publicized news of a loved one passing away has been commonplace for centuries.

Bobbie Fox, the archives assistant at the Galt Museum and Archives, says obituaries have taken many forms over thousands of years, but the general idea has remained the same.

“Obituaries have long been part of the funerary customs of many cultures, with the first ones actually dating back to ancient Rome,” said Fox.

However, Fox says the method for writing obituaries as we know it today did not start until the 1920s.

Prior to this time, she says reporters would interview family members of the deceased and then write an obituary on their behalf.

“Families now start to take over this process,” said Fox.

She says this new method has enabled people to write more accurate and heartwarming information.

Furthermore, Fox says the introduction of the internet will ensure the survival of obituaries for a long time with little risk of losing the information.

“One of the recent trends that has been occurring a lot more frequently, as the population ages that uses social media, is the concept of the Facebook memorial,” said Fox.

Facebook allows personal accounts to be frozen in time to serve as a digital memorial for a deceased person.

According to an article on its website, Facebook will memorialize any account if it deems the request to be true.

“It’s our policy to memorialize an account for someone who has passed if a valid request is received.”

Fox says the memorialized accounts act as a more detailed obituary than a traditional report.

“It also gives people who knew [the deceased person] a place to gather and share memories,” said Fox.

She says these new methods are easier to maintain and enable people to quickly search for their loved ones online.

As digital obituaries continue to become even more popular, older records are also being added to online archives every day.

Fox says there are several organizations in Lethbridge that have begun scanning their physical documents for online libraries.

As the obituaries become more accessible, Fox says it will help people interested in learning about their own family tree since she says obituaries are a great source for information.

She also says any article relating to your family can be found in these online databases.

“There’s a lot more than just family obituaries that you can find in the paper. Anytime you had a family member mentioned in the paper, you’ll be able to find the related article,” said Fox.

This has sped up access to genealogical records for people who would otherwise have been unable to obtain the information about their ancestors.

Fox does warn prospective family researchers about the accuracy of obituaries though.

“You can’t believe everything that you read,” said Fox.

She used this cliché by continuing to say families who write obituaries may not have all the information.

“While obituaries contain a wealth of information, it’s also important to remember that the deceased’s family only shares the information that they know,” said Fox.

The archives assistant says if someone is looking for additional information on a family member, the Galt Museum will be happy to assist them.

By Justin Sibbet, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 28, 2023 at 09:23

This item reprinted with permission from   Lethbridge Herald    Lethbridge, Alberta
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