Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Kings County Record Newspaper : Death Index, 1897-1936 (MC3952 : John Fynn Collection)

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Almost from the time people began doing historical research there have been efforts to assist future researchers by publishing transcriptions of documents, bibliographies of sources, and indices of records. New Brunswick has a long history of such endeavours from W.O. Raymond to Esther Clark Wright and Louise Manny. With the explosion of genealogy interest in the 1970s, many records foundational to such inquiry have been indexed. Things like marriage records and census were some of the first transcriptions /indices. Daniel Johnson’s Vital Statistics from NB Newspapers is a significant example of these endeavours.

Until the past couple of decades these efforts have been paper based with limited distribution. On occasion, copies were printed but sales or distribution were more often in the dozens rather than the thousands. In some instances only one or two copies were made and these were either held by the compiler or available in an archives, library or museum. The genealogy community was one of first research sectors to embrace computers and the internet as a means of speeding up and sharing research with the general public. Following in this tradition, John Fynn has produced an index to deaths in the Kings County Record and he has generously provided it to the Provincial Archives so a wider audience can benefit from his effort. This index provides access to 11,262 entries from the Kings County Record between 1897 and 1936 and took over three years to complete.

The placing of obituaries or death notices in newspapers has taken various forms over the years and even the inclusion of death information has ebbed and flowed. When Mr. Fynn began his work on events in the late 19th century Kings County Record, many of the notices of people’s death appeared under the Community or Correspondents Columns, rather than taking the form of the obit we know today. Correspondents or Community Columns were usually written by residents of places too small to warrant a full-time reporter assigned to gather local stories and news. These columns also made a paper published in an adjoining larger town or city more relevant to the inhabitants of the rural and smaller communities in the region. Until recently, such columns were a staple of many newspapers and allowed readers to keep up with the news at the local level. Some of us are old enough to remember making the news when returning home to visit parents or relatives.

Over the course of time the format and style of newspapers has evolved and the inclusion of local happenings has changed. As a result, during the years covered by Mr. Fynn’s work, particularly after 1927, the mention of deaths shifted from the Correspondents Columns and more often began to appear as obits or death notices.