The Hamilton Spectator Death Announcements: Their Purpose & Origin
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The Hamilton Spectator Death Announcements: Their Purpose & Origin

The Hamilton Spectator Death Notices are a section in the Life News area of the Hamilton Spectator newspaper. Serving the Hamilton-Wentworth area since 1846, the paper is published six days a week. There is nothing intrinsically special or unique about the death notices section (they are not on YouTube, nor are they set to music), they are a source of comfort to the bereaved and provide vital information about their memorial services along with special requests by the family.

The Hamilton Spectator Death Notices

The Hamilton Spectator is the local newspaper for the port city of Hamilton in the province of Ontario, Canada. The paper is known affectionately as, 'The Spec', and this is the name of the online version of the paper. The 'Announcements' section of the paper, called 'Lifenews.ca', contains local information about births, deaths, anniversaries, etc. The Hamilton Spectator death announcements section, also called the 'Obituaries',  gives a brief biography of the deceased, along with details of the memorial service and special requests from the bereaved family.

George Hamilton (no, not that one) founded the city when he purchased a tract of land at the western end of Lake Ontario, a region known as The Golden Horseshoe. He bought the land, known then as the Durand farm, around the end of the War of 1812. The modern City of Hamilton was formally incorporated in 2001 and includes the original city along with certain minor municipalities located in the Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth. Residents of the old city are distinguished by the nickname, Hamiltonians.

The Spec was founded in 1846 by a man named Robert Smiley and a silent partner. They published the first edition on July 15, 1846. It was then known as The Hamilton Spectator and Journal of Commerce. Today, part of the Metroland Media Group, The Hamilton Spector is published every day apart from Sunday. 

The Origin of Obituaries

The very first death notices as we know them first appeared as regular features in newspapers some time during the 19th Century. Before that, they may have been compiled by hand and posted on a designated wall on city streets, as in Bulgaria. 

Death announcements are paid classified advertisements, of which there are two types. One is simply an announcement of the death. It leaves out biographical details and information about the funeral. It may be a legal requirement in some cases. The other is more of a memorial advertisement. This is what we conventionally regard as an obituary, and it contains the sort of information we are expecting, i.e., biography of the deceased, the time and location of the upcoming funeral, whether the family request that friends and relatives support a charity rather than sending flowers, etc.

Public figures and celebrities may merit a full-page obituary in a national magazine such as Time, Newsweek or the Economist. Often, these write-ups are prepared years in advance and then updated regularly so that they may appear as soon as the death is announced. Anthologies of obituaries may be published under a specific theme, such as sports figures, entertainers, military obituaries, etc.

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Comments (1)

good write up

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