Where family and friends can share memories of loved ones
Online obituaries

Online obituaries

The noun obituary, which appears in English in the early 18th century, comes from the Latin obīre, where ob- means “toward,” and īre, “to go,” suggesting a “going toward” one’s death. When someone passes away, it’s traditional to write an obituary honoring their life.

Tribute vs obituary

In general use there isn’t much practical difference between the two words and they are often confused or used inappropriately. However in the true technical or definitive sense of the words, and how they are used, there is a difference.

Obituary: A written biography of a recently deceased person published in a newspaper.

Tribute: To pay honor, admiration, or homage.

Tribute speeches are commemorative speeches that pay honor, admiration, and homage to an occasion, person, event, thing, or idea.

5 people who lived to read their own obituaries

“The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

Mark Twain

The news (in previous centuries newspapers, then television and radio and more recently social media) has been broadcasting the deaths of some of our most celebrated personalities before they actually died.

MARK TWAIN : In 1897, his cousin was dying and a reporter, mixing up his Twains, sent an inquiry to Twain’s publisher asking if he had passed yet, but was corrected before an obituary ran.

ALFRED NOBEL : Rumour has it that Nobel read about his death in the French papers (his brother had recently died and one publication at least got confused. Since Nobel was a pacifist who hated that his discovery of dynamite was killing people, it’s said that he then decided to start giving his famous prizes for peace.

MARCUS GARVEY : This Jamaican politician was possibly killed by their premature obituary. In 1940, Garvey suffered a stroke. A Chicago paper reported his death in which he happened to read about himself in a completely unflattering way, which may have brought on another stroke which killed him.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY : In 1954, after being almost killed in a plane crash after which his death was wrongly reported, Hemingway is said to have collected his obituaries in a scrapbook and read them at breakfast each morning. Whilst drinking champagne!

JOE DiMAGGIO : In 1999 NBC news announced that this baseball great had just died. Whilst DiMaggio was watching the news cast live. And was apparently at first not at all amused (a retraction was issued 20 minutes later!).

Online obituaries

Where an obituary used to be written and published in newspapers, with smaller reach and time delays, in today’s modern times, publishing obituaries in the virtual world has become a popular trend. Online obituaries are faster and far reaching. The obituary can be edited, added to, shared easily and has few character limits unlike printed obituaries.

They usually include a space for a photo and a space for additional notes or details about the person who has passed away.  It is a convenient, accessible way to communicate the information about the death of someone to close friends, family, and others in the community. It is a public way to pay tribute to your loved one’s memory.

Posting an online obituary can be free or subject to a small charge.

The downsides of online obituaries

Of course, being in the online world can have its disadvantages. You are vulnerable to all sorts of feedback and they become sometimes the subject of unwanted commentary. They can bizarrely provide an outlet for online trolls, people you may not even know.

But at least on an online obituary you can either control what comments are published, and/or delete unwanted comments.

There is also a chance that the older generation who aren’t so active, tech-savvy or comfortable online may not see it. For an older deceased person, his or her peers may not see the death notice and that audience might require a printed newspaper obituary.

Those printed obituaries can serve as a historical record of events. And they are archived in public libraries. With online obituaries if you don’t continue to pay for the service, or the hosting company terminates their service, that information is lost for the future. Your records are at risk longer term.

Obituaries take time and knowledge to write well, since you’re usually given a small amount of space and a large life to work with. 

A standard obituary usually includes the following information:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Date of death
  • Age
  • Cause of death (if desired)
  • Educational history
  • Professional history
  • Personal relationships (spouses, children, etc.)
  • Hobbies
  • List of surviving family members
  • List of predeceased family members
  • Event information

If you need some inspiration, click here.