Use Funeral Homes When Researching

 Genealogists are fascinated with cemeteries.  Besides being the final resting place for ones ancestors, cemeteries provide vital information.  Tombstone and cemetery records often reveal more than death information.  Cemeteries, however, are not the only sources of information regarding the deceased.  Do not forget funeral homes. 

Funeral homes are another resource for providing family information.  Their records often contain biographical information not found on the deth certificate or in the obituary.  They may also have a copy of the funeral program, printed eulogies, as well as a copy of the death certificate and obituary. 

Funeral home records are private business documents.  You do not have a legal right to view them.  They are not covered by the Freedom of Information Act.  Most funeral directors, however, are individuals who are more than willing to help genealogists. 

Many funeral directors have allowed their records to be microfilmed.  Often genealogical societies have published the records.  For example, the Tulsa Genealogical Society has published 12 volumes of funeral home records.  The Lawton Ritter-Gray funeral home records to 1994 are on microfilm and available at the Lawton Public Library.

If you do not know what funeral home was used, the death certificate or obituary should provide this information.

If you are looking for a list of funeral homes and cemeteries currently operating, go to www.imortuary.com.  Select by location or browse the state and town.  The address, phone number, web address and location on a map are given. 

That web site is a quick and easy way to locate funeral homes and cemeteries throughout the country.  Memorial parks, such as Sunset Memorial (Lawton) are listed under funeral homes and not cemeteries. 

The site does not list all known cemeteries for an area.  Not included are rural, inactive, family and small cemeteries.  For example, Highland Cemetery (Lawton) is listed, but not the cemeteries in Cache, Indiahoma or Elgin.  Local funeral homes can often provide you with a list of local cemeteries.  They are experts on this subject. 

The National Yellow Book of Funeral Directors and The National Directory of Morticians, both published annually, are excellent print guides to funeral homes.  Arrangement is by state and town.  Genealogy libraries, including the Lawton Public Library, often own a copy. 

What if the funeral home is no longer in business? Again, ask the funeral home still in business as it may have the records of the old funeral homes or know where they may be located. 

(This information was taken from Paul Follett’s column Tree Tracers published in the Lawton Constitution on December 10, 2007.)

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