Searching for vital records is usually the first step we take in researching an ancestor. For death records in particular, we often search first for death certificates, then for religious burial records, obituaries, cemetery records, or gravestones. Having found one or more of those records, we generally stop there. Even more experienced researchers often forget about the potentially rich resource of funeral home records.
What’s included in funeral home records can vary significantly. For great examples of the variety you may come across, check out this 8-minute YouTube video from the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania. Or see Tina Beaird’s 1-hour YouTube video, “Death Demystified: Digging Deeper into Coroner & Funeral Home Records,” found on this page from Fountaindale Public Library in Bolingbroke, Illinois. Or see FamilySearch’s wiki page, United States Funeral Home Records.
The purpose of this article, however, is more specific. What about records from a funeral home that is no longer in business? What happens to those records? Where do they go? And how do we find them? The answer is a very common one in genealogical research: it depends.
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