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Finding death notices printed in newspapers "from away" places
Posted 24 July 2012
By J. Brian Gilchrist

Many of our readers know of my passion for the use of newspapers in family and local history research. Indeed, with all the changes in technology over the past 200 years - the printed newspaper may well be one of the few constants that remain to connect us with our ancestors. The "reading of the news" provided a time (often on Sunday after Church) where the family would gather to listen as some literate member of the family (perhaps one of the children who was "being learned at school") read the newspaper aloud. It helped the reader to improve their reading skills and vocabulary, and helped to keep the other, illiterate members of the family informed.

As you can appreciate even back then there was a variety of information printed in a newspaper and the type of items changed over time as the needs of the community. changed. Notices about farm sales, Chancery sales, Sherriff's sales, Court notices, government regulations, and of course, the local news about buggy accidents, fires and the "hatches, matches and dispatches" - which we now call the "births, marriages and deaths" were all informative.

Sometimes items appear in the most unexpected places, and for the most unexpected people. Usually the more tragic and gory the death - the more widespread it was published - but we will leave those for another day …

However in many cases the reasons for publication in a certain newspaper cannot be determined - if at all. This week I came across, by fluke, two death notices for a woman who died in an area far removed from the places where her death notices were published.

Source: The Globe (Toronto) on-line, Wed. May 5, 1847, page 3, column 4
Died … "At McKillop, Huron District, on the 20th ultimo, Helen Stinson, wife of Adolphus Meyer, Esq."

Then the following week, May 12, 1847 in The Spectator, published in Hamilton, we read: "Died at McKillop, Huron District, on the 20th ultimo, Helen Stinson, wife of Adolphus Meyer, Esq. The deceased was the daughter of the late Alexander Stinson, Esq., at one time Mayor of Cashell, County Tipperary, Ireland who with his family emigrated to the Huron District in 1834."

It would be interesting to know if Mrs. Meyer had a death notice in either the Goderich or London papers of the day?

Why were these notices paid for and inserted into these two newspapers? Maybe someone who is researching this family can provide an answer or possible explanation.

Please bear in mind that sometimes our questions can not be answered … unless by fluke. The late Jim Watson was one of my students back in the 1980's. A gentlemen then in his mid 70's decided to trace his family tree and ended up producing a first rate, hard bound book for his family as a keep sake. The family came from England, and he too had found newspapers to be a wonderful genealogical resource but could not find any items that would help him with a specific quest.

Jim had a wonderful sense of humour and a quick repartee. The one specific quest that he had until the day he died was to know about an elusive "x" ancestor. Jim would often say to the class "You know, all I want to know is what colour he was when he died …".

Of course, many of us thought to ourselves, ok so he had a racially mixed family in his background - many people do so no big deal.

However, such was not the case … what Jim had failed to tell us was he wanted to know literally what colour his ancestor was when he died.

The ancestor concerned was a night watchman at a paint factory, and died by drowning after falling into a vat of paint …

And some people say searching your family tree is boring …

Happy hunting!

J. Brian Gilchrist

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