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Archiver > APG > 2008-01 > 1201834712

From: " Charles S. Mason, Jr." <>
Subject: Re: [APG] Funeral records in a library
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2008 18:58:32 -0800


I have read the replies to your message and agree with the observation on identify theft. Someone recently told me about a story about someone stealing an identity from a funeral home. I suspect that somewhere someone was not doing their job and checking to be sure of whom they were dealing with. I believe also that most identity theft comes from stolen credit cards, SS numbers of living people, etc. If the death of anyone is reported to SSA, a red flag should come up is there is any activity on a deceased’s SS No.

I do a lot of research in a historical society’s library in NJ. They have a lot of funeral home records beginning in the late 1800s. They also have coffin maker’s records from the late 1700s and early 1800s. A number of the funeral homes in the area have allowed them to copy their records over the last 10-15 years. Several of the funeral homes’ records start in the early 1900s and continue today.

One of the funeral homes recently allowed the society to copy their records up to last fall. Another one has allowed them to copy the records from the original owner that end in 1968. They have said they will allow them to have later records in the future.

After they have copied the records someone has indexed the records. The information included in the indexes has varied depending on who did the indexing. They will allow researcher to see the copies of the records if the person asks to see them.

I have volunteered to index the funeral home that recently allowed the society to copy the original owner’s records. The original owner was a friend of my grandfathers and both of my parent’s families have used the funeral home for many years. The records begin in 1930. The information contained in them varies and the more recent records of course have more information than the older ones.

I have talked with the assistant librarian and we have agreed to not include causes of death, SS No. and other information that someone may not want included for their family. I will include in the index, names of every family member in the records, dates of birth, death, burial, places of birth and death, the cemetery, the minister or priest who performed the service, newspapers that printed obituaries, marital status, and occupations.

One item I will not include will be who paid for the funeral. A number of the records indicate that, the state, county, or township either paid for some or all of the funeral expenses. This happened not only during the depression, but even into the 1950s and 60s. Because this might embarrass someone I will not include that information, but will have a place to note there may be other information of interest to the researcher.

When I have used the records they have from other funeral homes, I always ask to see the originals. Often there is a lot of information that the indexer did not include in the index. I want to make the records I index as helpful as I can.

I have had a variety of experiences with contacting funeral homes. I had two not answer my letters with a SASE. Others have copied and sent me their records free of charge. Others have answered my questions, but sent no copies. They did offer to assist me if I had other questions. I am not sure how much more information they may have given me if I asked.

I was on a tour of a local funeral home here in VA last spring. Someone in the group asked the funeral director if he would allow people to see their records. He said he could not because of privacy. When asked what was in the records that he considered private he said SS Numbers. We quickly informed him that they were on the Internet on the SS death index. When he learned that, he said he would allow people to see records if they asked for the records of a specific person. Before we left he agreed to allow our local library copy their early records and add them to the collection of their genealogy room. This has not happened yet because the county built a new library and it just opened last week. I will be checking with the head of the genealogy collection to see if they do get the records.

I know this has gone on rather long, but I hope that this will help you and others with obtaining and using these very useful records for our research.

Chuck Mason
Fairfax Co, VA

--- wrote:

From: Kathy Rippel <>
To: <>
Subject: [APG] Funeral records in a library
Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2008 00:50:08 -0600

One of the librarians from my library system called me today with a
question. After we discussed the matter, I told her I would tap into
the collective brain of the APG and get input from serious genealogists.

This public library in a small Kansas town (population about 1900)
has been serious about collecting materials for their genealogy
section. They have active DAR members that index materials for them
on a regular basis.

Because of a good working relationship with the local funeral home,
the library just received the funeral home records up to about 1980.
The are being indexed by DAR members for MOST of the information, not
all. They will be stored in a locked case at this time.

The library director has been "cautioned" by an interested party that
they should not allow patrons to read the complete funeral home file
because of possible "identity theft" and other privacy reasons.

Could I have some feedback about what you think? Personally, I have
used funeral homes records at funeral homes and nothing was kept from
me because of privacy issues. They let me look at the whole record.

We appreciate any input so that the library director will feel like
she has considered everything.


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