Funeral Home Records
How to Use This Record
Use funeral home records to identify useful information not found on the death certificate. The records may contain a list of the surviving immediate relatives, sometimes the names of grandchildren, in-laws, and other relatives. The record could provide residences for the listed relatives. A copy of the obituary or notes used to prepare the obituary may be in the record, along with a record of newspapers where the obituary was placed. Records may also contain information regarding former residences, education, church affiliation, military service, membership in clubs, lodges and other organizations. The records may include details of the grave location or type of marker. Notes regarding the funeral services, such as the officiating minister, pallbearers, and music may also be included. Information may also include life insurance information where additional genealogical information could be obtained.
Why This Record Was Created
Funeral records are private business records used to record the expenses of services provided for the burial of an individual. Funeral homes are now required to prepare and file the death certificate with the appropriate health office. Most funeral directors now also prepare the obituary notice.
Funeral records generally began in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Embalming within the United States was not a widely accepted practice until the Civil War and the death of President Abraham Lincoln. Most funerals prior to the early twentieth century were a family and friends event taking place at the decedent’s home with burial taking place within twenty-four to forty-eight hours of death. Funeral homes or parlors were not used and caskets were made by the local cabinet or furniture maker. Large cities are more likely to have earlier funeral home records. Most rural areas did not have funeral homes until the early twentieth century. Funeral directors are now responsible for initiating and filing the death certificate. Since the 1950s many funeral homes have merged with other firms or gone out of business.
Most funeral homes came into existence in the early twentieth century.
Funeral records are generally recorded in the locality where the person resided or is buried. They were not used by the general population until local regulations required embalming and the use of a funeral home became a generally accepted practice.
Funeral records include death certificates, ledgers, and miscellaneous loose papers. Genealogical facts in entries are:
- Name of deceased
- Death date and place of deceased
- Burial date and place of deceased
- Birth date and place of deceased
- Name of informant
- Residence of deceased
- Names of family members such as spouse, children, and other relatives or friends
- Copy of obituary or notes used to prepare obituary and/or a list of newspapers where obituary was placed.
The name of the decedent, death date, and death place are quite reliable. Burial information will be reliable unless the body was transported to another locality. Other information provided will only be as reliable as the informant’s knowledge or memory.