One Obituary, So Many Clues

Obituaries (aka obits) are fabulous if you can find them. While browsing around on Trove (aka Troving) recently I came across this obit for Private Charles Spurgeon McCullough. This gent is one of my great grandma’s (Dorothy McCullough) brothers – so that makes him my great grand uncle.

It’s not a long one in comparison to some – but you really have the be in awe of the detail that this obit includes.

While this is a great read for anyone (family or not), for this post I have decided to extract each detail one-by-one to highlight just how valuable an obituary really can be. And while newspapers may not be 100% accurate, they can be used as a guide.

PRIVATE C. S. McCULLOUGH. (1915, August 14). Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 - 1954), , p. 42. Retrieved March 11, 2016, from

Australians in Action, Roll of Honour
PRIVATE C. S. McCULLOUGH, 14 August 1915 Chronicle, p. 42.

So let’s start …

  1. we know his name – the article names him as C.S. McCullough – no it doesn’t give his actual name, but it doesn’t just list him as Private McCullough or Mr C. McCullough either. It has both initials, so that’s a bonus.
  2. and says that he was in the Australian army and in which battalion – the article lists him as a Private in the army “who left with the 4th Reinforcements for the 6th Battalion of the A.I.F.”
  3. we learn his position in the army – “Private C.S. McCullough”
  4. this was in World War 1 – the newspaper date was in 1915
  5. the date of his death – the article lists his date of death as 13 July
  6. no year of death given but it is inferred that it is the same year as the newspaper (1915)
  7. he has an older brother as he is listed as “the second son”
  8. his parents are listed as Rev. R. and Mrs McCullough
  9. his father’s title is Reverend – so his father is a minister
  10. it also mentions where his father was a minister – Mitcham, [South Australia] and Burnie, Tasmania – “recently left the pastorate of the Mitcham Baptist Church for Burnie, Tasmania.”
  11. and that his family has recently moved to Tasmania
  12. it mentions which religion – Baptist
  13. his age is mentioned – “just over 30 years of age”, based on that we can assume he would have been born around 1885
  14. his education is mentioned – “was educated at Queen’s School (Hobart) and Parkside School” [South Australia]
  15. this also give clues as to where the family was living – Adelaide and Hobart
  16. his employment is also mentioned – “employment was with Messrs. Cowell Bros. and James Marshall & Co. Prior to offering his services to the army he had been with the Union Steamship Company.”
  17. he had four sisters, two were married, two not
  18. the sisters are all listed with their place of residence at the time (1915) – “He left four sisters, Mrs. Ralph Hannaford, Narracoorte; Mrs. P. Willmott, Sydney; Nurse McCullough, “Walwa” Hospital, Fullarton; and Miss E. McCullough, Burnie
  19. one of his sisters was a nurse
  20. and she worked at the “Walwa” Hospital, at Fullarton, South Australia
  21. C.S. McCullough also had two brothers – “Mr. R. L. McCullough, of Messrs. Elder, Smith & Co., Adelaide, and Corporal A.G. McCullough,
    who left this State with the 3rd Expeditionary Force.”
  22. one of who worked for Elder, Smith & Co. in Adelaide
  23. and the other was also in the A.I.F., and fought with the 3rd Expeditionary Force.
  24. his brother, A.G. McCullough was living in South Australia prior to serving in the A.I.F.

So you see just how much information can be gleaned from just one obituary. And based on this info, there’s a lot here that can be followed up on – military records, ministry records, school records, and employment records for numerous family members. Possibly even land records and local history for the area the family lived and/or worked.

Here’s hoping for more family obits!!

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