The Final Home: Researching Funeral Home Records
by Irene B. Walters
Genealogy record searching can take you in many strange directions and into places that are uncomfortable to visit in your everyday life. One of these uncomfortable places is a funeral home, but funeral home records can contain a wealth of information for the genealogist. The information in an individual’s funeral home record should include at the very least the individual’s name, date of death, sex, burial location, and who paid for the funeral. It may also include; maiden name, birthdate, birth place, race, cause of death, place of death, occupation, marital status, spouse’s name, father’s name, mother’s name (including maiden name), parent’s birthplaces, children’s names, siblings’ names, physician’s name, minister’s name who held the service, location of funeral service (i.e. church’s name), date and time of funeral, burial location within a cemetery, military service information, obituary, information on the funeral service such as hymns played, and more.
The records created by an undertaker or mortician are not always easy to find, but Clayton Library does have some materials that can help you on your search. First off are multiple sets of books that abstract funeral home records from different states and counties. One of the newest sets is the Miller & O'Bryan Funeral Home Records, Mount Vernon, Ohio by Carol Montrose.
This 16 volume set contains abstracts of the records created by the Miller and O’Bryan Funeral Home in Mount Vernon, Knox County, Ohio from 1918 to 1950 with the only gap in Clayton’s collection being August 3, 1945 to March 21, 1947. These abstracts contain as much of the information from the categories above as is found in the original record. Other books like these can be found in Clayton’s collection by searching the Houston Public Library catalog using the terms “funeral home,” “funeral homes,” or “mortuary.” These searches will pull up more than 300 titles that abstract these types of records from funeral homes around the country.
Clayton Library also is the holder of the original records of two Houston funeral homes, the Fogle West Funeral Home (1921-1975) and the Boulevard Undertaking Company (1961-1967). Clayton was given these records after these two funeral homes closed their doors. A searchable database you can access 24/7 is called Clayton's Death Records Database.
If the funeral home that handled your relative’s funeral is not found in any of these records then you might want to try another of Clayton’s new books the “2017 Funeral Home & Cemetery Directory.” This directory can help you locate funeral homes that are still in business across America. If the funeral home that handled your relative’s funeral is not still in business, you can use this book to find the local funeral home in the area that your ancestor lived in. That local funeral home may be able to tell you what funeral home might have handled funerals during the time of your ancestor’s death and what may have happened to the records of that funeral home.
Funeral homes may be uncomfortable to visit, but their records could provide you with some very helpful information in your search to bring life to your ancestors. Hopefully the funeral home materials found at Clayton will help you in this quest.
by Rodney Sam
The Clayton Library has a rich collection of books relating to the colonial history and genealogies of Southwest Louisiana families. Diocese of Baton Rouge, Catholic Church records: East and West Baton Rouge and the Felicianas, 1800-1880: individuals without surnames and Diocese of Baton Rouge, Catholic Church records: Pointe Coupee records, 1770-1900: individuals without surnames are the most recent additions to this collection.
The two volumes contain abstracts of Catholic sacramental records of slaves and free persons of color recorded by priests without surnames. Slaves are indexed alphabetically by forename and the surname of the slave owner, therefore, making the volumes easier to navigate. Sacramental records often provide genealogical details about slaves that would overwise be unknown like their exact dates of birth and death, names of parents, slaveholder, physical description (i.e. mulatresse, negre, griffe), birthplace, and even ethnic identity (i.e. Creole, Igbo, native of Virginia). Slaves were also married within the sacraments of the Catholic Church.
For example, I was able to locate the marriage entry for my ancestor, Marie Jeanne, a free woman of color in the index of slaves by the name of the slave owner. The witness to her marriage ceremony was stated as being her former slave owner. I did not know this information before. I also stumbled across the slave baptismal record of my paternal grandmother’s uncle (I knew from previous research he had origins in Pointe Coupee). These personal anecdotes gathered from my own family research reveals how useful these two volumes are for people who descend from slaves and free persons of color in Southwest Louisiana. These two volumes can be found in the Louisiana state section on the first floor of the Clayton Genealogical Library.
Google Chrome Apps that help organize, compare and analyze AncestryDNA matches
Are you frustrated trying to make sense of your massive list of DNA matches? If the answer is no, it’s probably because you tested for the sole purpose of discovering your ethnicity. For those of us responding resoundingly, yes, trying to connect the dots between these mysterious cousins is a daunting and seemingly overwhelming challenge. My first questions when looking through my matches were, who are these folks, how are we related, and most important how do I translate our genetic numbers into genealogical relationships. You expect your DNA provider to be the first source for clues and tools to guide you through the process, and to some extent most companies provide some practical applications to assist you, and then there’s AncestryDNA.
While every DNA test provider has challenges, AncestryDNA causes me the greatest anxiety. My feelings about AncestryDNA can be best described as a love-hate relationship. I love their massive database of more than 14 million tested, double the size of their next competitor, but hate that they have no useable tools to help compare and analyze your matches. Despite my torn emotions, AncestryDNA has been the source of my most revealing DNA discoveries. Their one bright spot is the number of matches with family trees, but access to those family trees requires a full membership. Until Ancestry decides to create more practical and useful tools beyond their ethnic communities and DNA circles, which provide little family history assistance, we’ll have to turn to third party tools for help. Here are three free Chrome apps from the Google apps store that will relieve some stress and anxiety for beginners when working with AncestraDNA.
AncestryDNA Helper: Free app created by Jeff Snavely, supported by Barbara Taylor.
Important Note: All managed or shared kits must be scanned to utilize features with all kits.
The most useful features allow you to:
- Search for user ID’s in one or all of your shared/managed kits,
- Keyword search notes for each shared/managed kit,
- Download a csv file of kit matches,
- Displays an icon for shared/managed kits that identify matches to other shared/managed kits.
- Perform a one-to one comparison, list shared matches for two shared/managed kits, does have issues loading at times.
- Scanning can take a long time, depends on your internet speed. You can terminate scans if you don’t need your lower matches. Limit scan by checking estimated cousin matches being scanned.
- Scanning may remove stars from starred matches
- App may not always load to kit page, troubleshoot by opening app icon on Chrome tool bar and click on “Your DNA Home Page.”
- Some features may not work consistently but with a little patience and persistence it performs.
Use the following links to download and learn more about AncestryDNA Helper:
DNA Match Labeling: Free app created by Blaine Bettinger. Color coding app for clustering and organizing AncestryDNA matches.
- Six different color coding labels.
- Color code/label your matches however you choose. Example – color code to parents, grandparents, known ancestors-ancestral lines, brick walls, etc.
- Good for everyone but especially useful for beginners and adoptees.
- Only one color for each match which requires creative labeling and coding where there’s heavy endogamy.
- As with AncestryDNA, requires download to each device and each shared/managed kit color is coded separately.
- Similar to Dana Leeds’ “Color Clustering” method but is done from kit page.
MedBetterDNA: Free app created by Michael Devore (Devore Software)
- Filters to view starred or non-starred matches.
- Filter matches by confidence level from moderate to extremely high matches.
- Use hashtags in your notes description to search specific surnames.
- Displays match notes on main matches page, no clicking required to see content of note.
For download and details see the following links:
There are many other tools that will improve your AncestryDNA experience. These are but a few. I hope these tools will help you organize and make better sense of your AncestryDNA matches.