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Who’s Alive? - At Birth, Marriage, Death - Sat, 6 Apr 2013

As I was adding Life Events to Behold, some of the “events” included the names of parents and older siblings who were alive when the person was born. I was trying to force them into the Life Event structure I had created, but they weren’t really an event in the person’s life.

I determined then, that what I was doing was simply listing the important people who were living at the person’s birth. I thought about it and realized that was an necessary list to have. These people are all affected by the birth, and that newborn’s life is influenced and shaped by the context of who is in their life.

Similarly, I realized that the people alive at a person’s marriage will likely have been to the marriage, or at least invited to the marriage, and researching each of those people may provide further clues into the newlywed’s life.

Likewise, the people alive at a person’s death are affected by that person’s death. Many may have been to the funeral, some travelling to get there. Many of them are likely listed in the obituary. Having a list of the important people and comparing them to those in the obituary could prove to be very useful.

So having a list of the “important” people in a person’s life who are alive at a specific event can help your research. What I needed to figure out was how to best present this and how to order the people.

The one pseudo-standard I have found is the ordering of the survivors and the predeceased as are listed in obituaries. Generally the survivors are listed first followed by those predeceased but some obituaries list predeceased first. Within each group, there is a generally followed order that I’ve identified to be:

  • spouse/partner
  • child (spouse) … child (spouse)
  • grandchild (spouse) … grandchild (spouse)
  • great-grandchildren
  • parents
  • sibling (spouse) … sibling (spouse)
  • nieces and nephews
  • great nieces and great nephews
  • parent-in-laws (e.g. spouse’s parents)
  • spouses’ siblings
  • step-parents
  • step-siblings
  • grandparents
  • uncles and aunts
  • cousins
  • other relatives
  • extended family
  • friends

Put together as two drawn-out sentences, the information in an obituary often looks like this:

She is survived by daughter Catherine (Ed), son Joseph (Hilary), and son Stan, grandchildren Teresa, Michael (Sophie) and Marie (John), 7 great-grandchildren, sister Connie (Larry), sister-in-law Judy, numerous nieces, nephews and friends. She was predeceased by her son Blake, her parents Paul and Jessie and her sister Olive.

There are many informal “rules” for this listing. When there are many relatives high on the list, the ones following are often not all listed, with sometimes the number of them given (e.g. 12 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchild and many cousins and friends). Half siblings and adoptions are usually not mentioned as such but are listed along with the full siblings and full children.

Additional information is sometimes provided in obituaries, such as years of marriage, married names, city of residence and ages of descendants which makes obituaries wonderful source of information for researchers.

So why is this “snapshot” information not available in most genealogy programs? Probably because most developers haven’t found a good place to put it, or they realized it is a lot of work to implement. If they do have it, then they’d make you look at this information one person or maybe even one event at a time.

Behold is going to generate this for everyone for the types of events (birth / marriage / death) that you want. It will be more comprehensive than the simple obituary list above and should prove very useful, hopefully without being too overwhelming. This will be in version 1.1. I’m hoping the final consensus will be that this is an important and necessary feature to have.

2 Comments           comments Leave a Comment

1. Keith Riggle (geneatech)
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Joined: Sun, 7 Apr 2013
14 blog comments, 0 forum posts
Posted: Sun, 7 Apr 2013  Permalink

Yes, absolutely, “important people” is a necessary feature. Your use of the obituary as a model is a great idea. Will the user be able to select which categories of important people are included on a report?

2. Louis Kessler (lkessler)
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Joined: Sun, 9 Mar 2003
231 blog comments, 226 forum posts
Posted: Sun, 7 Apr 2013  Permalink


Yes, in groupings similar to those shown above (children, grandchildren, nieces/nephews, etc.) That will be in the Report Options of the Organize Pages.


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