October 2008, V7#10: Genealogy Saturday, Jan 10 2009 

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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September 2006, V5#9: Genealogy Tuesday, Jan 6 2009 

Every Genealogist Needs a Will by Frederick E. Moss, J.D., LL.M
Do you have a current will?  We may not all have extensive property or possessions to dispose of but there are other benefits that can be realized by expressing our desires through a last will and testament.  If you have minor children, you may suggest a more appropriate guardian than a court might appoint in the absence of your direction.  If you nominate an executor you can trust, you may reduce the expenses taken out of your estate by waiving bond and accounting.  These and other measures your attorney may suggest can insure that taxes and other charges are minimized that would otherwise reduce the estate available to your intended beneficiaries.
 Genealogists may have come to appreciate the value of wills as a source of information to future generations.  Lawyers will normally include the basic information declaring the testator’s name and domicile and will address the testator’s wishes for the disposition of his property to named beneficiaries.  Our legal training will not always direct our attention to the information-sharing and preservation opportunity that the drafting of a will provides.

Discuss with your lawyer the possibility of including what I have called a three-generation declaration similar to the following:

 
“I, Joseph Abraham Moss, was born the 23d day of January 1853 in Gordon County, Georgia the son of Johnson Moss and the former Sarah Caroline Love.  I married Charlotte Jane Roberson, the daughter of Thomas Howery Roberson and the former Emaline Lewis, on the 5th day of January 1873 in Crawford County, Arkansas.  Our son, Thomas Johnson Moss was born the 8th day of December 1875 in Crawford County, Arkansas.  Our son, James Monroe Moss was born the 26th day of September 1876 in Crawford County, Arkansas. Our daughter, Sarah Emaline Moss was born the 27th day of September 1878 in Crawford County, Arkansas.  Our daughter, Mary Inez Moss was born the 30th day of March 1880 in Crawford County, Arkansas. . . .”
 
There may be circumstances where it may be inappropriate to go into this level of detail and you should do so only with special care for insuring the accuracy of the information provided.  Although wills become public records when admitted to probate upon the death of the testator, triggering our sensitivities about publishing data on living individuals, the limited distribution these papers normally receive minimizes the risk of abuse.  
 
But if you do chose to do so, to paraphrase Proverbs, the genealogists among your great-grandchildren will rise up and call you blessed. 
From Federation of Genealogical Societies “FGS Delegate Digest”  Volume 13, No. 9, July 2006