A much overlooked and extremely valuable source of information for genealogists is the obituary. Yet, there really is no greater source for information on the social lives and accomplishments of an ancestor. For most people, this is the only biography of their lives ever written and there are often genealogical gems like surviving relatives, church affiliations, occupations, military service and civil service to be found. Last Friday I received the following obituary for my great great great grandfather’s brother, Isaac Parmenter Jr. (1833-1903) of Mt. Carmel, Wabash, Illinois. This is extracted from the Wabash County Register, 5 Feb 1903.

“SUDDEN

Was the death of Isaac Parmenter.

His friends were totally unprepared for the announcement of the death of Mr. Isaac Parmenter, none knowing that he was ill. He had been up in the city, the day before, and on Wednesday, the day of his death, had worked until eleven o’clock in the forenoon. About that hour he was noticed to be acting a little querrly, and to have partially lost the use of his hands.

Mrs. Parmenter prepared his dinner and he ate as usual. In the afternoon he was unable to resume his work, and gradually grew worse, and medical skill failed to relieve him. He died at four o’clock, Wednesday afternoon, of paralysis.

Isaac Parmenter was a member of a family prominent in the early affairs of Wabash county, being a son of Major Isaac Parmenter, an officer in the Black Hawk war.

Isaac was a native of Wabash county, and was born in Bald Hill Prairie, February 10, 1833, and lacked but six bays [sic] of being seventy years old at the time of his death. The greater portion of his life was passed in farming. A few years ago he removed to Mt.Carmel, and his death took place at the family residence on East Fourth street.

Mr. Parmenter was twice married. His first wife was Miss Jennie Brines, to whom he was married, September 11, 1854. There were nine children of this union, two sons and seven daughters. The surviving children are Mr. E. Parmenter, Lancaster; Mrs. Anna Glouser, this city; Mrs. Laura Sawyer, Wayne county; Mrs. Ella Sawyer, Bellmont.

September 20, 1899, he was married to Mrs. Katharine Peterson, who survives him.

Mr. Parmenter was a man of strong convictions, but his odd conceits and quaint expressions made him a general favorite. He was a great reader, and kept well posted on the events of the day. Polictically he was an independent, and voted for his friends, regardless of their party affiliations.

He was kind-hearted and generous, and his death causes his friends sincere sorrow.

He was a member of the Christian church, and had taken quite an interest in the meetings which have been in progress there for some weeks.

The funeral services will be held at the Christian church, Saturday morning at 10 o’clock, conducted by Elder Lee Tinsley. Burial will take place in Hallock’s graveyard.”

There are such are amazing details in this obituary. It’s easy to get caught up in the race to go back as many generations as possible, but often the generations in-between become lonely names and dates in a file. Whenever possible, I urge you to search for information like this that will put the history of your family into context and make your genealogical quest much more rewarding.