This not exactly about TeX, but about typography, and the TeX SE is the closest place I think of to ask this question in.
In academic texts, I’ve very often come across a cross (no pun intended; I mean this:
†). It is used as a footnote marker after people’s names, and for a moment, it always makes me think its purpose is to denote that the person has passed away (which is not the case).
Why is this symbol used?