How have obituaries changed over the years? Has public fascination with celebrities grown during the 20th century, while interest in those who achieve or produce (scientists, inventors or religious figures) has decreased?
A University of South Carolina sociologist has now investigated a century of New York Times obits as a cultural barometer.
Using The New York Times obituaries, sociologist Patrick Nolan has analyzed 100 years of obits (1900-2000), working from the paper’s “notable deaths” section. The results of his study, “Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Apotheosis of Celebrities in 20th-century America,” are in the summer issue of the sociological journal “Sociation Today.”
He expected his theory to hold true. The surprise was how strong the evidence would be. Nolan says the most striking results were simultaneous increases in celebrity obits and declines in religious obits.
They document the increasing secularization and hedonism of American culture at a time when personal income was rising and public concern was shifting away from the basic issues of survival.
The magnitude of these trends is seismic. While the Greeks may have looked to their gods for guidance and entertainment, we’ve turned increasingly to our celebrities – entertainers and athletes.
Yesterday we completed the uploading of all 1940 Census images. Users around the world have been searching the census for free and have already found their ancestors’ records at www.MyHeritage.com/1940Census.
We couldn’t resist researching the records of celebrities who were alive in 1940. Thanks to our fantastic team of genealogists, we made some exciting discoveries and we invite you to see the census images below:
His father was a carpenter, and his mother was a seamstress, and little did they or the enumerator know what lay ahead for this 5 year old boy – Elvis.