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September 2016 Newsletter

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Obituaries on Steroids

I was very surprised and pleased to see that some of the old newspapers in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives routinely published the necrology reports of Harvard alumni.

These detailed necrology obituary reports are usually much longer than a death notice or obituary. Why? Harvard University had a “Committee on Necrology” to research and document the lives of its alumni and then write these very genealogically-detailed obituaries.

In 1873 the practice of compiling these necrology reports almost stopped when the donations from the alumni fell short of the cost of preparing and publishing these obituaries.

Massachusetts Spy (Worcester, Massachusetts), 27 June 1873, page 3

Genealogists can be grateful that Harvard continued to publish these detailed obituaries.

These compact biographical essays are usually dense with family history and biographical details – typically giving the names, dates/places of birth, marriage and death of the children of the deceased, along with many other details.

The 1861 necrology report was published in the Boston Daily Advertiser on 16 July 1862.

Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts), 16 July 1862, page 2

Looking at the report I found my cousin: Daniel Gilman Hatch (1798-1862). It was a long, detailed obituary. This is just the first part of the entire article:

Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts), 16 July 1862, page 2

What do we learn about Daniel Gilman Hatch and his family?

  • He was born in Exeter, New Hampshire, 3 August 1798.
  • He died in Exeter, New Hampshire, 13 March 1862 at age 63.
  • He was a member of Harvard College, Class of 1817, but “left college in the last term of his senior year” to teach in Virginia.
  • He moved from Virginia to Kentucky in about 1837.
  • He was the oldest son of Samuel and Mary (Gilman) Hatch.
  • His parents both died in about 1861.
  • He was living in Covington, Kentucky, when his parents died, and returned to Exeter, New Hampshire, after their death – where he himself died in the home where he was born.
  • He attended Phillips Academy in Exeter.
  • He worked as a teacher in Virginia for over 20 years.
  • There he married Ann Eliza Thompson on 30 May 1822 in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. She died 13 April 1837.
  • They had one son and two daughters; one daughter predeceased him.
  • His other daughter, Mary E. Prudentia Hatch, married Col. B.R. Johnson on 15 April 1852. He was a professor at the Nashville Military Academy. She died 22 May 1858 in Nashville, Tennessee.
  • He married his 2nd wife, Mary R. Hall, on 12 February 1849 in Georgetown, Kentucky.
  • She was the daughter of Kinsley and Mary Hall of Exeter, New Hampshire.
  • They had two sons and six daughters; two of the daughters predeceased him and the rest survived him.

Wow – an enormous amount of detail – and there is still more biographical information in this obituary. Read the rest of the obituary to learn all of the details they published about his life.

Genealogy Tip: Notice that Daniel was born and died in Exeter, New Hampshire, and he lived most of his life in Virginia and Kentucky. But, because he attended Harvard, his obituary was written and published in the Boston Daily Advertiser – a reminder to be flexible in searching for your ancestors and cousins.