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August 24, 2008

Writing Your Own Obituary or How to Really Creep Yourself Out

Over on Facebook, where quite a few genealogy bloggers hang out, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak posted a link to Funeral Planning.

While I haven't gone so far as to plan my funeral or write my own obit (although the thought of doing so is tempting!), last year I have put together a copy of what I want done after my demise. Yes, really. I jotted notes on items such as burial versus cremation, what cemetery I wish to be buried in - and what inscription I want on a headstone.

I've been married three times (divorce then death brought me to my third husband) - should I put all three of my husbands' names on my stone? Do I want to have number one's name immortalized for eternity on MY stone??

My thoughts began to stray to having inscriptions like the following: "beloved wife of husbands two and three" and "long-suffering and not-so-beloved wife of husband number one aka he-who-shall-not-be-named"

What about my parents' names and places of birth? As a genealogist I want it all! I found myself fantasizing about having a 4-generation pedigree chart engraved on a huge headstone. Has it been done before? Is there room?

As a genealogist, I'm also concerned about my own obituary! After reading through hundreds of my ancestors' obits, I know exactly what I wish had been in each. Why oh why were women's maiden names so infrequently mentioned? Why does my great grandmother's obit simply say "she came with her parents from Ireland when she was a young girl"

Acck! Could they not have written something a bit more detailed, such as "she came with her parents John Smith and Lucy McGillicuddy from Ballyhoogan Co. Down Ireland in 1843 on the ship Rosemary which sailed from Belfast Ireland to Quebec on 23 May..."

My children never seem to remember that I was born in Oshawa, not Ajax (which is where I grew up). Neither my kids nor my husband seem to remember how my maiden name McGinnis is spelled!

So I've written down all the facts that I want included in my obit. My maiden name McGinnis (spelled correctly of course). My parents' names and where they were from. Where and when I was born. My husbands' names (yes, even he-who-shall-not-be-named). Where I lived until the age of 17. Where I went to University. A little bit about my interests and hobbies. My children's names. I've even included my 11 grandchildren's names although I doubt anyone will want to pay enough to have them all mentioned.

I'm doing this for future generations who will (hopefully) be looking for me 200 years from now. It was a bit disconcerting when I first began, but as I went along I really became quite interested in the task! After writing down all my notes for my tombstone inscription and obituary, I placed them in a large manilla envelope labelled "For my executor" and put it in an antique blanket box. Family members know where to find these papers.

I didn't make copies and send them to my children because I may want to add or remove items. When you come right down to it, I'm planning on sticking around a very long time! Who knows how many things I might want to change over the years.

By the way, I opted to NOT have hubby number one's name on my tombstone... I managed to get him out of my life, why on earth would I want him around afterwards?


looking4ancestors said...

I plan on writing my own obit as well. I can only hope my kids decide to use when the time comes, and that it doesn't cost them too much.

Brenda said...

Great post, Lorine! My obit is also a work in progress (smile) and my executor and children already have instructions how to access my computer files.

Renee Zamora said...

Four generation pedigree charts are very popular on the back of headstones here in American Fork, UT. Your stone would be right at home here in Utah among all of us genealogist. I definitely want a pedigree chart on my headstone.