Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Lillian Waterman's Obituary ~ I Have Questions

MyHeritage recently introduced a new newspaper website called OldNews.com. The other day I did a search in OldNews.com for Homer C. Waterman, my maternal 2nd great-granduncle, and an obituary for his daughter, Lillian, was listed in the search results. I had never seen her obituary before. It contained some intriguing family history information.

I also found Lillian's obituary on the Library of Congress Chronicling America website. The digital image of her obituary from Chronicling America is what I am sharing today.

Here is Lillian's obituary, dated 29 January 1931, in the Morgan County (Ohio) Democrat newspaper1:

Transcription of Lillian's obituary:

Miss Lillian Waterman Dies

   Lillian Waterman, aged 77 years, mention of whose critical illness was made in this paper last week, passed away at the family home in East Bloom, Sunday evening. For several days preceding death, her condition had been very critical. She was a daughter of the late Dr. Homer C. Waterman and wife of Zanesville, and was born at Middleport, Ohio. For many years she and her brother-in-law Elmer E. Richardson and wife made their home together. The deceased for a number of years had been an invalid, and for the last three years had been blind. Notwithstanding her afflictions, she was bright and cheerful until the last. She was conscious of the fact that she was soon to be taken from this earth---a change which she expressed to those about her she cheerfully welcomed. Surviving are a brother, William Waterman of Rockwell City, Iowa, and a sister, Mrs. Ralph Ebert of Zanesville. Three sisters are deceased---Mary, who was the wife of Willis Helmick of Zanesville; Clara, who died in infancy, and Helen, wife of Elmer E. Richardson, who died last June. Miss Waterman was a good musician, and for some time was church organist at Mt. Zion. She was a member of the Universalist church.
   Funeral services were held Tuesday afternoon at 2 o'clock, at the Wesley Chapel church, and interment was made in the church cemetery.

This obituary provides additional family history information and clues including the following:

Name of Deceased: Lillian Waterman
Age at Death: 77
Place of Death: Family home in East Bloom
Day and Date of Death: Sunday, 25 January 1931 (based on date of newspaper article and January 1931 calendar)
Father's Name: Dr. Homer C. Waterman
Lillian's Birthplace: Middleport, Ohio
Surviving Family Members Mentioned:
Brother: William Waterman of Rockwell City, Iowa (his location on January 29, 1931 can be added to his timeline)
Stepsister: Mrs. Ralph Ebert of Zanesville (Jennie Metcalf)
Deceased Family Members Mentioned:
Sister: Mary, wife of Willis Helmick of Zanesville
Sister: Clara, who died in infancy
Sister: Helen, wife of Elmer E. Richardson (Lillian lived with her and Elmer for many years)
Date of Helen (Waterman) Richardson's Death: June 1930
Lillian's Church Membership: Universalist Church
Date of Burial: Tuesday, 27 January 1931 (based on date of newspaper article and January 1931 calendar)
Place of Burial: Wesley Chapel Church Cemetery

There is so much helpful family history information in Lillian's obituary, including married names of her sisters, which is amazing! Here are some things I could do with the information provided in this obituary: order Lillian's death certificate, research Universalist Church records for any mention of Lillian or her family members, research cemetery records, research the lives and families of Lillian's brother and sisters. The obituary also stated that Lillian's illness was mentioned in the newspaper the previous week. I will be looking for that article to see if there is any additional helpful information. 

My family history records already include information about Lillian's parents and her siblings, Helen, William, and Mary. But I did not know anything about her sister Clara, who died in infancy. In Lillian's obituary, another sister is mentioned as Mrs. Ralph Ebert. This was Lillian's stepsister, Jennie Metcalf. Lillian's mother, Sarah Rathburn, died in 1874.2 Lillian's father, Homer, married Nancy (Kenison) Metcalf in 1877.3

I have questions about Lillian's sister, Clara, who died in infancy. Was she the daughter of Homer and his first wife, Sarah, or Homer and his second wife, Nancy? Where was Clara born? Where and when did she die? What was her cause of death? In what cemetery was she interred? I have done some research to find Clara on Ancestry, FamilySearch, Find a Grave, and BillionGraves, but haven't found her yet. I will continue my research efforts to find Clara.

Obituaries and newspaper research in general are valuable family history resources. What family history discoveries have you found through your newspaper and obituary research?

Thanks for stopping by!


© 2024 Copyright by Jana Iverson Last, All Rights Reserved 

1 Library of Congress, "Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, database with images, Morgan County Democrat (McConnelsville, Ohio) (https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87075008/1931-01-29/ed-1/seq-1/ : accessed 19 March 2024), "Miss Lillian Waterman Dies," obituary, 29 January 1931, p. 1, col. 2, image provided by Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio.
2 "Ohio, U.S., Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center Obituary Index, 1810s-2016," database with images, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 18 March 2024); Mrs. Sarah A. Waterman, citing Gallipolis Bulletin, 25 February 1874, p. 3, col. 1, Bossard Library (Gallipolis).
3 "Ohio Marriages, 1800-1958," database, FamilySearch.org (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XDK4-82Q : accessed 14 March 2017); H. C. Waterman and Nannie Metcalf, 16 September 1877.


  1. Interesting to note that in the obit, in the custom of the time, wives were rarely mentioned by name, simply as "Doc Waterman & wife," "brother-in-law __ & wife," etc. No wonder we tear out our hair researching married women!

    1. Exactly! Yes, it's so frustrating, isn't it? Thankfully, I already knew the name of Homer's wife, and that Helen Waterman was married to Elmer Richardson. But I didn't know who Mrs. Ralph Ebert was until I did some research.




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