Monday, September 12, 2016

What funeral home and undertaker records offer genealogists

Finding a local funeral home's records can be challenging. Do you think I use the word challenging too often? I think I do but honestly, it is the perfect word for most searches in genealogy. 

Which funeral home

The first challenge will be to figure out which funeral home is the correct one. If it is a small town, there will likely only be one but if the city is moderate in size, there may be several. In the case of Middletown, Conn. where many of my ancestors were buried, there was more than one. Which one was used seems to have been determined by nationality, religion and time period.


While most people used an undertaker, not all undertakers were affiliated with a funeral parlor which complicates things. 

Where are the records

If things haven't seemed challenging up to this point, things are going to get really complicated now. If the funeral parlor is still in business, give them a call and ask them where the records are. If they are not in business, check with the local library, historical society, a local genealogical library, or any other place where they could be stored. Don't be surprised if you can't locate them. 

What they may contain

Now if you are lucky enough to find the records they may reveal some very interesting information. I found out that my 2nd great grandmother was 5'7 inches tall and my second great grandfather was 6 feet tall. This was information that I would have never found anywhere else. And, since I have no photos of these people, I had no idea how tall they were. 

You will also find out how much their funeral cost them. This tells you a lot about their financial situation. It may also give a lot of details about the casket, horses, and carriages used etc. Fascinating stuff. 

The date of death, place of burial, burial date, cause of death, where they died, and next of kin may also be listed. Some even have a little map showing where the grave is and which grave in the plot was used. But, there is no guarantee that any of this will be included, it is just things that I have seen over the years.

In our genealogical research, we like to leave no stone unturned and funeral parlor records are one stone you may not have considered. When it comes to adding flesh to your genealogy, it can be very helpful. 

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