Wonderful, genuine tributes to remarkable people

We all have loved ones and want to remember them with wonderful but genuine tributes.

The passing of Frank Sumsion, whose Memories of Combe Down are a well-loved and well-read part of the site made me think.

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Frank and Jane Sumsion

What might Prior to Now offer the Combe Down area to not only honour their memory but also “cement” them into our history? An obituary page seemed the obvious solution and would also allow us to search out historical obituaries of people who came before and provide another small insight.

I approached the Sumsion family who, very kindly, gave their permission and provided the material.

I also wanted to remember Glenys Green (née Wynne) who we met very soon after we came to Combe Down in 1984. She became a Godmother to our daughter Victoria and she was just the nicest, most genuine person you could meet. She also did a great deal of voluntary charity work.

So I asked Etta, Glenys’ grand-daughter, whether she would provide an obituary for Glenys. She said yes.

So came about the obituaries page.

We’d love to learn about your suggestions as to whom we might seek out historically, and it’s not easy, obituaries were quite unusual. Brief announcements of death were published in America as early as the 16th century. But not until the 19th century, and following a lead from us British, did obituaries become more detailed accounts, appearing with regularity in the press.

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Richard and Glenys Green

The first obituaries were published in ancient Rome around 59 B.C.E. on papyrus newspapers called Acta Diurna.

Ancestry, has enhanced its online obituary archives by using AI algorithms to extract biographical information from over 262 million obituaries dating back to the 1750s – which sounds like a lot of obituaries until you calculate it as a percentage of people who have lived.

As newspapers began automating typesetting in the 20th century, more space became available for death notices and obituaries.

Newspapers realized the financial potential in publishing obituaries, leading to the modern obituary template taking shape in the 1930s and 1940s. This template typically consists of a death announcement, a short biography, a “survived by” section, and funeral details.

Naturally, we would be happy to receive requests to add an obituary for genuine Combe Down area people – but you have to provide it, and allow us to edit it. There are some suggestions about how to write a tremendous obituary here.

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