. . . you are in luck!
The Southern Genealogists Exchange Society has been obsessed with death -- that of other people, that is, and recording all sorts of facts about that occurrence in the lives of residents of Jacksonville and surrounding areas. We have our own hop-to-it graveyard rabbits, and I plan to introduce them to you soon. We also have an extensive collection of obituaries from a variety of local publications, dating from 1851 to 2009. One virtue of obituaries is that they often name other family members. This can provide clues for follow-up and can lead to some important genealogical discoveries.
Obituaries vary greatly in their format and content. Many are written by family members, and these can contain a great deal of information. They also may contain a certain bit of hyperbole, so may be approached with caution.
The big lucky news for those who do have ancestors who died in Jacksonville is that the SGES obituary collection is now available through Ancestry.com. The mounting of the collection was announced in the Ancestry Monthly Update for September 2011. There are more than 105,000 obituaries in the collection. Interspersed in the collection are some funeral home records and some newspaper articles about the individuals in the collection.
Ancestry provides the following information about what is in the collection: The name of the publication in which the obituary appeared, the date of publication, the publication location (that is, whether it was located in Jacksonville proper or elsewhere in north Florida), and the given name and the surname of the decedent. Other information which may be in the collection (on an entry-by-entry basis; some have it, some do not) is: The name of the decedent's spouse, the decedent's birth date, the decedent's death date, the decedent's age, the names of surviving relatives, the location of the death and the burial of the decedent, the date and location of the funeral service, the name of the officiating clergy, the decedent's parents' names, and in some cases even an image of the decedent.
The collection is not definitive. Your obedient servant searched for her grandmother and mother, both of whom died in Jacksonville, and found neither. Nor did she find her husband's grandfather, his grandmother, or his mother, though she did find his father's obituary. One must also realize that occasionally, there is no obituary for some individuals. To the right is a browse function, but it is not functioning. It says you can browse either by a span of years, selected from a drop-down list, or by the first letter of the surname. There is, however, no drop-down or other list for an alphabet from which to choose the first letter of the surname, nor is there a box into which to enter such a letter. This is apparently a programming glitch that needs to be fixed, and your official SGES blogger has notified Ancestry of the problem.
Of course, access to the collection requires an Ancestry.com membership, or access at a public library or other facility, and in Jacksonville at the SGES library. You can, as with other documents in Ancestry's database, easily attach the obituary you find to the relevant individual in your family tree on your Ancestry account. When you do find an obituary, it is displayed on a field in which it may be enlarged for easier reading.
This adds another layer to the wealth of information available at Ancestry.com, and SGES is pleased to have provided it.