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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course US: Newspaper Records  by Rhonda McClure. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Vital Statistics In Newspapers


Memorials are often written a short time after the death of the individual by someone close to that individual. They are not always written by a family member. There have been entries written by students of a deceased teacher, for instance. Often the memorials do not give you much in the way of history on the individual, but they do give a great insight into the character of the deceased. You may also learn about the deceased’s involvement in local charitable or social organizations.

In Memoriam

Death of Mr. Edward P. Rudd.

The brother of sleep, as the ancients termed death, has suddenly taken from us a young man of great energy of character, of wide and extended influence, and what is still more important in these days of private and public profligacy, a truly good, honest and Christian man. We allude to Edward P. Rudd, the late head of the well-known publishing house of Rudd and Carleton. Having known Mr. R. intimately, I desire to pay a passing tribute to his memory. He was the son of Rev. Mr. Rudd, of Lyons, in this State. At the early age of 15 he entered the book-house of J.C. Derby, at Auburn, where he remained three years. Thinking New-York offered a wider sphere for him, he came here at 18 with strong letters to A. S. Barnes and Co. With them, and with Sheldon, Lamport and Co., he remained until 1854. He then started for himself in Ann-street, his sole capital being his good name. Edward Livermore, who had made quite a stir with the “Docsticks” books was attracted by his business habits, and proposed partnership. At their new store in Broadway, they soon gathered round them the rising lights in the literary world, and introduced to the public several authors who are now established favorites. While in the flush of popularity, Mr. Livermore retired from business. Mr. G.W. Carleton at that time (1857) had just returned from Europe and finding Mr. Rudd a congenial spirit, the firm of Rudd and Carleton was soon formed. They have pursued the even tenor of their way through the troubles that have fallen like a blight on literature, acting solely on the good old maxim of “being just and fearing not.”

The circumstances of Mr. Rudd’s death are peculiarly touching. While in anxious attendance on a sick wife who was suffering from typhus, he himself contracted the disease about six weeks ago. He thought he was convalescing, and being afraid of tasking his friends here, he insisted upon coming back to the city. About three weeks since we met him in Broadway. A relapse setting in, he returned to West Bloomfield, N.J. and died there last Friday at the early age of 28. Dear friends surrounded him in his last moments, but the spirit was unconscious, having remained so for a week previous to his death. At long intervals, however, there was a slight recognition, and during one of the lucid moments in the delirium of typhoid, his eye lighted up with some of the old geniality, and the family felt that for a moment he held sacred commune with them, although he spoke not. His remains were taken to Sag Harbor last Sunday. May the Great Ruler temper the grief of the widowed one, and may his many friends take a sad pleasure in the thought that Edward P. Rudd left behind him a good name. G.H.C.S.

The New York Times, November 28, 1861

As we see here the author of this memorial for Edward P Rudd is full of high praise for his character. Unusual to many memorials though is the details about his father. Like most memorials though, the bulk of the writing is devoted to showing his upstanding business practices and likeability.

Other times the memorial may address some special ceremony, especially if the deceased was a highly respected member of some benevolent or social organization.

In Memoriam.

Adelphic Lodge, No. 348, held last evening at Dodworth’s Hall, No. 806 Broadway, a lodge of sorrow to the memory of their late Past Master J.B. Yates Sommers, also late Deputy Grand Master of the State of New York. The room was appropriately dressed. In the centre, on a raised platform of three steps, emblematic of youth, manhood and old age, stood the catafalque on which was placed the regalia and jewel of office of the deceased, the lambskin apron, white gloves, and a most beautiful white wreath with black background, on which was inscribed the name of “J.B. Yates Sommers,” the white wreath being the masonic emblem of death and purity. At each corner was placed the funeral urn and tapez, at the foot of the platform stood the altar, properly draped, supporting the Holy Bible, and surrounded by the three lesser lights.

After the opening of the Lodge, prayer by Rev. Bro. Ferd. C. Ewer and the singing of a hymn by Bros. Miller and Gardner, the solemn, and impressive ceremonies of the Masonic Ritual were performed conducted by W. Adon Smith, Jr., Master; W.E.M. Banks as Senior Warden, W.W.T. Marvin as Junior Warden, J.W. Bennett as Senior Deacon, G. W. Barnes as Junior Deacon, and Rev. Bro. F.C. Ewer as Coaplain. From the extinguishing of the tapers, emblematic of death, throughout the entire ceremony to the relighting of them, emblematic of the resurrection, the service was most solemn.

After the ceremonies, R.W. John H. Anthon, D.G.M. of the First Mason District, delivered a truthful and feeling eulogy. He said no eulogy was needed. The life of the late Deputy Grand Master, a life of love, was a eulogy in itself more beautiful than man could utter. He continued for some twenty minutes in a strain of eloquence that brought tears to the eyes of many.

Among the distinguished Brethren present were: R.W. J.J. Crane, Past Grand Master; R.W. Jas. Austin, Grand Secretary; R.W. Brother Hereing, Past Grand Secretary; W. Brother Thos. S. Sommers, Master of Kane Lodge and brother of deceased; W. Brothers Pratt, Cornell and many others.

The New York Times, January 15, 1864

In addition to showing respect for the deceased, this memorial is a wealth of information about the Masons and some of the members at the time of J.B. Yates Sommers’ death. This memorial identifies the Masonic lodge to which Sommers was a member, a crucial piece of information when investigating an ancestor’s fraternal organization involvement. There are other less helpful notices of death.

Official Lists of Dead

There are times though when all we have is a list of individuals who died on a given date or as a result of a given event. This is especially true of the soldiers who perished, especially during the American Civil War. These lists are not without their benefits though. They at least close the book on an ancestor, supplying you with an indication of when and maybe even where your ancestor died.

Figure 12: Civil War List
The Richmond Enquirer and Examiner, November 19, 1869

Civil War7bY.jpg


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course US: Newspaper Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.