The Death Notice is not the only significant document among South African estate papers. There would also be a Will (if one was made), Final Liquidation and Distribution Accounts, correspondence generated either before or after the death occurred, invoices etc.
All these are potential sources of information. To stop at the Death Notice – or to allow your local researcher to do so – is a grave mistake. Surprising facts emerge in apparently unlikely pieces of paper.
|Undertaker's Invoice 1911 mentions 2 carriages &|
a special tram car for mourners
|Milliner's Invoice 1869|
Letterheads among the estate correspondence may give snippets about a family business, its street address, who the directors were, or a picture of the building where the deceased lived, worked and died. How much more interesting, relevant and memorable it would be, rather than baldly stating the company name, to include a decorative engraved letterhead as an illustration when publishing the family’s story whether on the printed page or online.
|Engraved letterhead 1911|
Archival documents require interpretation, digging beyond the stated facts to unearth choice nuggets of detail to enliven the family history. This makes all the difference to a narrative which, no matter how accurate the names and dates might be, reads like a bland chronology of births, marriages and deaths.