Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Musings on Funeral Home Records

Some years back, the Fisher-Pou funeral home donated its records, 1926-1979, to the West Florida Genealogical Society and the Pensacola Public Library.  In turn, these organizations donated them to the University Archives and West Florida History Center at the University of West Florida.   I was able to find funding to have them microfilmed and donate a set of that film to the West Florida Genealogical Library.   We still have the original records and another copy of the microfilm.

The funeral home arranged its records chronologically and numbered each funeral or death that they handled and put these in a binder.   When the binder became unwieldly (560-840 pages!), they started a new binder.   So in all there were 36 binders.   Within the binders, they had a typed page for each year of the names of the funerals/deaths they handled.

Roy Wilkinson led the effort to begin to index these based on the fact that Book #36 (last book) had its last burial as #9493.  That seemed reasonable and the indexing project was going great until I discovered that the numbering system ran 1926-1963 (#1 - 10,103) at which point they started numbering again, so 1963-1979 (#1-9493).    There weren't 9,493 names to index, there were instead 19,596 names!!

I don't think the index was ever fully finished.  But today we can find the funeral record using the index sheets from each volume, the Social Security Death Index, the various cemetery headstone index, and other means.  The collection is very valuable for genealogists.

There is a sheet for each death/funeral.   On this form, the front contains information about the deceased, family, cemetery, cause of death, etc.   On the back is pasted a clipping of the obituary and notations of who and when the account was paid.   I discovered that there were Volumes 37-39 which were for those whose funerals were
not paid.   These were "collection" volumes.

I've been slightly embarassed when I've provided genealogists with a copy of their relative's funeral/death and it came from the 'unpaid' volume -- and I've told them that.   The reaction invariably is laughter!
One lady said it made a great story to tell the family..."and John never paid the account!"

One fascinating overlooked fact about the funeral home records is that even if they did not actually do the funeral, they did make a notation if a deceased was sent to another city or state, so there is a paper trail occasionally for that "missing" ancestor.

We're always glad to look up funerals in the Fisher-Pou Funeral Home Records (Collection M2000-08).

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