Obituary Etiquette: Comparing Modern Obituaries to Those of the Past

When you search through the obituaries published today and compare them to obituaries published over 100 years ago, the format and content is still virtually the same. The language may vary slightly, the detail of information given depends on the discretion of the family and there may or may not be a photo. Generally speaking, things have not changed in centuries.

Why is that? Well, to be honest, what exactly would you change? The purpose of the obituary is to highlight the most important components prevalent throughout the life of the deceased.

Modern Obituaries

Modern obituaries begin by listing your full name, date of birth followed by your date of death. After this, they list a tiny description about some of the achievements the deceased made throughout their life. They were enlisted in the Air Force, they were a long time civil servant, they were the proud owners of Patterson Stable farms or they simply loved to spend their retirement years fly fishing. Following this, they begin listing the parents of the deceased, and then who they are survived by. At the very end, it will give details surrounding a funeral, wake or celebration of life and usually include a place to donate to in lieu of flowers. This place sometimes has to do with the cause of death, for example, if someone passed from cancer, they may request donations be made to a local cancer society.

Obituaries of the Past

Back in the day, obituaries were similar yet in some cases far more detailed. They tended to tell the story of what happened throughout the life of the deceased, right up until the day they died. It often times described their final moments, and has details surrounding their death. I suppose in an age where news took a while to reach the people who cared, it was best to publish all the details so the families and friends would have a sense of closure. It wasn’t odd to publish how the deceased passed, or where they passed or where their remains were kept. Often times, people would host wakes and funerals directly in their homes. They would mourn the life of the deceased directly in their home. The obituary would have been useful to give an appropriate date and time to come and mourn before leading the deceased to their final place of rest.

It’s a much different world today.

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