Once you have found the obituary for your ancestor’s death, take note of the name of the funeral home that handled the arrangements. Then, contact them to see what information they have in their records regarding your ancestor.
Funeral homes keep detailed records about the individuals that they provide service to and care for. Funeral home records can be a valuable resource. The funeral home will have a copy of the “funeral card” or the card given to those who attend the service, a copy of the death record they issued for the family and information on the next of kin. They will also have a list of all of the newspapers that the obituary for your ancestor was published in.
If an autopsy was performed on your ancestor, the funeral home can supply you with the information for the name and address of the coroner as well, which will allow you to contact that resource for detailed information and details surrounding the cause of death. The funeral home can provide you with the name of the deceased’s family physician, the name of the insurance company, (if the insurance company paid for any part of the funeral), the name of the clergy that performed the service, and often they can provide you with information about where to find a will for the deceased.
During the interview conducted by the funeral home at the time that the funeral arrangements were made, a number of details are provided. These may include:
- church affiliation
- military service
- membership in clubs, lodges or other organizations
Plans for the service might include:
- the place, time and location
- the names of any pallbearers (and perhaps their relationship to the deceased).
- music played
- speeches or eulogies
You will learn whether there was a burial or a cremation, the date of the burial or cremation and if cremated, the disposition of the cremains (whether they were buried or perhaps given to a family member for safekeeping etc).
Don’t be shy. Start writing letters requesting the information you are looking for regarding your ancestor. This information will provide you with the details you need to help “flesh out” who your ancestor really was.
Always include the offer of paying for photocopying and mailing of the information (most of these resources will not charge for this information, but will be pleased that you acknowledged their time). Include an e-mail address so that if possible, the records can be scanned and sent to you electronically. Also by providing this contact information, the funeral home can contact you with any outstanding questions that they would like clarified before they send out the final reports to you.
Additional Resource: While you are researching funeral home data, you can also Search Obituaries at Genealogy Bank