Friday, November 2, 2012

Dissecting an Obituary

I love obituaries. What a treasure trove of information! I think that some people look at an obituary and miss some vital clues.


LUMBERTON, Miss., March 15. -
Funeral services for Jesse C. Simmons, who died at the home of his brother-in-law and sister, Mr. and Mrs. N. D. Entrekin, in the Carnes community east of Lumberton, were held at the Entrekin family cemetery with the Rev. Jesse Broadus and the Rev. Charlie Lee, Baptist minister, officiating. Mr. Simmons was the son of the late J. E. Simmons and Corinne Graham Simmons and was born April 10, 1894. He had resided in the Carnes section all his life. A number of years ago he was married to Mrs. Velma who died four weeks after their marriage. Until last September he was employed at Picayune by the Crosby Lumber and Manufacturing company. Ill health forced his retirement. Survivors include three brothers, Walter Simmons of Hattiesburg and Elmore and Houston Simmons of Purvis, Route No. 1; two half brothers, Wilson and Andrew Simmons of Baxterville, Lamar county; three sisters, Mrs. Ada Bounds of Sumrall Mrs. N. D. Entrekin, Lumberton, Route No. 2 and Mrs. Claudie Mae Lee of Purvis, Route No. 2, and one half sister, Mrs. Birdie Herrin of Purvis. Pallbearers were C. F. Lee, Wilmer Entrekin, Ellis Bounds, Levis Simmons, Leroy Palmer and Robert Yawn.

"Funeral for Jesse Simmons," Hattiesburg American, 15 Mar 1943, p. 10, col. 4.

So how much info can we extract out of this obituary? Here is the information I extracted and what I would do with it. Note, anyone listed in the obit was still living at the time of the obit so their death dates can be recorded as "after 15 Mar 1943."

  1. Name of deceased: Jesse C. Simmons.
  2. He was buried in the Entrekin Family Cemetery in Carnes (Lamar County, MS) on 15 Mar 1943.
  3. He died (most likely) the 13th or 14th of March 1943.
  4. He died in Carnes.
  5. His parents were J. E. Simmons and Corinne (Graham) Simmons who were already deceased at the time of Jesse's death.
  6. Corinne's maiden name was Graham.
  7. Jesse was Baptist.
  8. Jesse was born 10 Apr 1894 which would make him 48 at the time of his death.
  9. He had lived in Carnes "all his life."
  10. He was married to "Velma" who died only 4 weeks after they were married. There is no mention in the obit of a later wife nor any children.
  11. He worked for the Crosby Lumber and Manufacturing Company in Picayune, MS until September 1942.
  12. Brother Walter Simmons of Hattiesburg (Forrest County). He was a full brother as evidence later in the obit where half siblings are named.
  13. Brother Elmore Simmons of Purvis Route 1. Purvis is in Lamar County right next door to Forrest County.
  14. Brother Houston Simmons of Purvis Route 1.
  15. Half-brother Wilson Simmons of Baxterville (Lamar County). We now know that Jesse's father J. E. remarried and had more children.
  16. Half-brother Andrew Simmons of Baxterville.
  17. Sister Ada Bounds of Sumrall (Lamar County). Sister Ada Simmons married a man named Bounds.
  18. Sister Mrs. N. D. Entrekin of Lumberton Route 2 (Carnes). Unknown sister married a man named N. D. Entrekin. N. D. Entrekin is named as his brother-in-law at the beginning of the obit.
  19. Sister Mrs. Claudie Mae Lee of Purvis Route 2. Sister Claudie Mae Simmons married a man named Lee.
  20. Half-sister Mrs. Birdie Herrin of Purvis (proper). Half-sister Birdie Simmons married a man named Herrin.
  21. Pallbearer C. E. Lee has the same last named as Jesse's married sister Claudie. This is a probable connection.
  22. Pallbearer Wilmer Entrekin has the same last name as Jesse's sister Mrs. N. D. Entrekin.
  23. Pallbearer Ellis Bounds has the same last name as sister Ada.
  24. Pallbearer Levis Simmons has the same last name as Jesse.
  25. Pallbearer Leroy Palmer (no obvious connection).
  26. Pallbearer Robert Yawn (no obvious connection).
  27. There are two other people mentioned on the obit, Rev. Jesse Broadus and Rev. Charlie Lee. You might not think there would be a relationship but in a small rural community anything is possible. We need to look at them too.

Now I will list exactly what was found for each clue listed above.

  1. Full name Jesse Colon Simmons
  2. I visited the cemetery and he does have a marker with the following inscription:
    APR. 10, 1893
    MAR. 11, 1943
    Still a little unclear on what spelling Jesse/Jessie actually used.
  3. Jesse actually died on 11 Mar 1943 according to his death certificate. This 4 day delay is pretty unusual for a local burial during this time period.
  4. His place of death is confirmed by his death certificate.
  5. His parents were James Elexander Simmons (died 28 Dec 1937) and Corrine Elizabeth Graham (died 17 Nov 1910).
  6. Corrine was the daughter of Albert Gallitan Graham and Mary Richardson Grantham.
  7. No church records for this time period have been found for the local churches in the Carnes area.
  8. His date of birth was confirmed by his World War I draft card. He would have provided his birth date himself.
  9. He actually moved to Carnes from neighboring Lamar County between 04 May 1910 (1910 census) and 05 Jun 1917 (the date of his WWI draft card). His draft card listed him as living in Helena which is the old name for Carnes.
  10. His wife was Velma Rushing. Her complete name is on Jesse's death certificate. Jesse is listed as a widower with his dead wife being Velma so it does appear that Jesse never remarried nor had any children.
  11. I was curious to see if this company was still in existence which would mean there MIGHT be some employee records to be had. A simple Google search gave me the answer I needed. Crosby Lumber and Manufacturing Company was formed on 13 Jan 1934 (they bought out Foster Creek Lumber and Manufacturing Company). They closed down on 12 Nov 1963 (Google is your friend).
  12. Brother Walter William Simmons died 17 Nov 1958 in Lamar County which is the next county over from where he was living in 1943. He was easy to trace because he stayed in the same area.
  13. Brother Rufus Elmore Simmons died 22 Nov 1967 in the same county where he was living in 1943.
  14. Brother William Houston Simmons died 13 Mar 1978 in Brandon, FL. He had moved from Lamar County a few months before his death.
  15. Half brother Woodrow Wilson Leonard Simmons died 23 Jul 1988 in Baton Rouge, LA. He was actually hard to trace because he moved all over the place. At least I had a starting point knowing that he was still in Lamar County in 1943. Their father James Elexander Simmons had indeed remarried. His second wife was widow Harriet (Woodard) Smith.
  16. Half brother Andrew Simmons died 15 Jul 1971. He wasn't as hard to trace because he followed his older brother to Louisiana.
  17. Sister Francis Ada Simmons married Henry A. Bounds. She died 14 Aug 1954 in Forrest County, the next county over from where she was living in 1943.
  18. Sister Mary Leona Simmons married Norman David Entrekin. She died 02 Jul 1976 in Lamar County (that is where the hospital was) but is buried in the same cemetery as Jesse which makes sense since they were both living in the same community. This is her husband's family cemetery.
  19. Sister Claudia Mae Simmons married Carlos Evon Lee. She died 23 Jan 1968 in Forrest County which is the next county over from where she was living in 1943.
  20. Half sister Anna Bertha "Birdie" Simmons married Thomas Jewel Herrin. She died 14 Mar 2001 in Lamar County which is where she was living in 1943.
  21. Pallbearer Carlos Evon Lee, Jesse's brother-in-law (married to sister Claudia)
  22. Pallbearer Wilmer C. Entrekin, Jesse's nephew. He was the son of Jesse's sister Mary Leona and her husband Norman David Entrekin.
  23. Pallbearer Ellis Bounds, Jesse's nephew. He was the son of Jesse's sister Ada Francis and her husband Henry A. Bounds.
  24. Pallbearer Levis Lafate Simmons, Jesse's nephew. He was the son of Jesse's brother Walter William Simmons.
  25. Pallbearer Leroy Palmer. This was either a friends/coworker/fellow churchgoer of Jesse's. Leroy's brother was married to one of Jesse's sister Claudia's step-daughters. This was a small community so even if the last name doesn't seem to fit in, there still might be a connection.
  26. Pallbearer Robert Yawn. Robert's brother Johnnie Yawn was married to the daughter of Jesse's sister Ada and he too was apparently a friend of Jesse's.
  27. Even though Jesse Broadus was "only" the preacher at the funeral, there is probably some sort of familial connection as well. I have several Broadus' in the tree but I haven't been able to connect Jesse up. Suffice to say that he was part of Jesse's small, close knit community and they probably knew each other well. The same goes for Charlie Lee. Charles was NOT one of Carlos Lee's children though he could have easily been related to him in some way. The point is, don't ignore anyone that appears in an obituary.

I found 27 clues in one paragraph. Not only do you need to note who is listed but where they were living at the time of the death. In this obituary it wasn't as critical but sometimes a survivor is listed as living somewhere else which will lead you in the right direction when you are looking for records for that person. I create "residence" events for everyone mentioned (I use Legacy Family Tree but I am sure that all of the top genealogy programs can do this).

You need to try and get obits for the parents and all of the siblings in a family group. When you do this you will pick up on migrations as well as multiple marriages for woman. I have a man that was married twice and had a total of 18 children. I was able find obits on 17 of the 18 children. You would be amazed at the amount of information that was gleaned from those obits.

NOTE: Sources for ALL of this information is available. It is a bit hard for me (techno dinosaur) to format footnotes properly on this blog. If you want to see any of my sources just ask. In these examples sources aren't critical as the principles shown are more relevant than the information contained. I could have just made all of this info up and it would have been just as valid. Even so, if you want to see my sources send me an email.

Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Dear Michele

    I have been lurking and reading your blog for several months. It really is a great idea for a blog and you do so well with it. 27 facts from one obituary - who would have thunk?? Great stuff. I too have had difficulty in the past with footnoting a blog in the past. Wiser folks than I have recommended writing it all up in word first and then putting it in the blog. Not sure if that helps. Or is it just the footnotes themselves that cause you grief? Now I'm back at Uni I have to footnote all the time. There are all these wonderful programs on the market that kind of do it for you as you still have to put in the information originally but then just press a button and hey presto - a reference appears. There are some paid programs of course (EndNote and RefWorks are the two my Uni uses). Some freeware is Zotero and Mendeley.

    I like the idea of finding information about the company for which Jesse worked. Is there any chance that their company records might be kept somewhere? The local library? The local archives? I've just done a bit of a google meself and found that the William David McCain Library seems to hold some archives of the Crosby family and some photos of the Company. Have a look here searching Crosby Keep up the great work Michele. Alex

  2. Thanks so much for your kind comments, Alex!

    This was actually a short and very straight foward obit. I wanted to demonstrate the technique of getting all of the goodies out of an easy one. Maybe I will do this again with a much more complicated obit. My list would be closer to 50 or 60 :)

    I can footnote on the blog using simple footnotes (where the reader has to scroll back and forth between the text and footnotes). It is the fancy footnotes that are a problem, the kind that are linked to each other and you can just click back and forth between them. The HTML code is a pain. Even if I copy and paste it I have to change the numbers within the code with each footnote. When I have time (ha!) I will make a template that has the correct numbers for about 10 footnotes and then it will be easier. If I copy and paste from Word it won't work because the blog has to be in HTML code (unless I use the "compose" (non HTML) feature. I have only used that once and the formatting never comes out right and my font is all messed up. I would be scared to see what it would do with a Word document with footnotes!

    Thanks for the heads up about the McCain library! I have a cousin that goes there on a semi regular basis. I will put her on to it!