One of the issues over which I have been at variance with my wife and
others in preparing our family history is what information to include,
beyond the usual vital statistics. A recent article in the Washington Post
(Outlook Section, 14 February 1999)relating to the writing of obituaries
reveals the journalist's perspective. E. R. Shipp, the paper's Ombudsman,
writes of the distinction between death notices, which are classified ads,
and obituaries, which are news stories. In particular obituaries may
contain unflattering information such as unpleasant divorces, criminal
activities or other information that could be embarassing to the family but
essential to the journalist.
I believe this is an approach that we can adopt in preparing a family
history. The same article notes that obituaries are among the most popular
sections of a newspaper. Somehow contemplating the lives of others is a
satisfying human experience that we can try to cultivate in trying to
develop an effective human history.
Great Falls, Virginia