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.
Happy Birthday to the Statue of Liberty, who doesn't look a day over 125! And, in the same general location, Ellis Island has opened the Peopling of America Center.
A major map library has moved into state-of-the-art quarters and the largest collection of Hispanic American newspapers is now online.
In celebration of Halloween or Dia de los Muertos - take your pick - the Genealogy Canada blog will post an updated list of websites and blogs for Canadian obituaries tomorrow. If you are searching family north of the border, your elusive ancestors may be among records on those websites.