U is for Undertakers

My A to Z 2016 theme is how to pursue an interest in family Uhistory/genealogy – I’d love you to join me on the journey.

U is for Undertakers

Of course I could have used “F for Funeral Directors” but I couldn’t think of another example for U.

One might think that if we have a death certificate and/or a death or funeral notice from the newspapers, it would be superfluous to need any further information from funeral directors’ records. However, that would be a mistake.

Funeral hearse made by John Hislop in Brisbane ca. 1895

Unidentified 1895, Funeral hearse made by John Hislop in Brisbane, ca. 1895, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image out of copyright. http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/37936527

Not all funeral directors have archived their records, let alone made them available to genealogical societies, but in Queensland, Australia, we are quite lucky. FindMyPast (FMP) has now indexed over 620,00 entries making the information easily accessible. Once again, there is much more than is available through the indexes which are the tip of the iceberg.

Let me give you an example from one of my extended family members.

Years ago I used the microfilmed records from Alex Gow Funeral Directors, held by the Genealogical Society of Queensland. This is the information provided, which elaborates on the FMP indexed information.My reference states ref #971/39939.

Ellen Mabel Paterson, aged 80, home duties, Old Age Pensioner

Late residence: 110 Pashen St, Morningside. Where died: 110 Pashen St, Morningside at 6:40am on 28 April 1974.

Next of kin: Mrs Catherine Miriam Simpson, pensioner, sister, residing at 62 Carmel St, Bardon.

Dr D McAvoy, Norman Park Group Practice.

Requiem Mass at 2:45pm St Sabina Roman Catholic Church, Thynne Rd, Morningside. Funeral 30 April 1974. Buried Nudgee Lawn Cemetery, grave L633. Fr Kelly, Catholic.

Note: no age to be dislosed on name plate or in service. Rosary and crucifix in hands.

Have I convinced you that it’s worth trying to check out the undertaker’s records where they exist?

I can also now go to Nudgee Cemetery online search and confirm the location of the grave. How good is that? Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the grave to share with you.

funeral card nora sweeney2
The funeral/memorial card for one of the O’Brien-Garvey descendants in the USA.

Prior to the release of decades of civil registration death indexes, Queenslanders were severely limited in their forward search for relatives.Hard to believe now, but back in the 1980s we couldn’t search beyond c1900, whereas now indexes are available to 1986.

It was imperative to “play the system” using funeral cards, death notices, gravestones and cemetery records to learn more about the person. So often the funeral or death notices would reveal the married names of sisters or daughters which were previously unknown. The expansion of the wonderful Ryerson Index has also provided Australian researchers with a way of tapping into more recent death notices…and checking whether elderly relatives are still alive.

If the undertakers you’re interested in have not donated their records, perhaps you’ll be able to check whether the company is still in business and contact them with your enquiry.

Thank you for visiting me on this journey. I love comments <smile>
There’s a plethora of reading choices on this year’s A to Z Challenge, so my challenge to you is to visit the sign-up page and select one (or more) blogs to read between the numbers 600-699.




16 thoughts on “U is for Undertakers

  1. I KNOW checking with funeral directors is a good idea, but I’ve always been too chicken to actually do it. Your example though is reason enough for me to get my act together and make some inquiries.


  2. Thank you for this reminder about funeral directors. I have had success in the past both visiting and calling funeral directors — a couple of these led to gravestone company records about stone purchases, another valuable source of family history details.


  3. I pursued genealogy years ago, but stuck mostly with census records, newspapers, and family documents. My research on one branch of my family tree in particular inspired my latest book. The first draft had excerpts from period newspaper articles to start every chapter, but formatting became problematic, so I took them out. I came across several newspaper articles related to circumstances surrounding untimely deaths. I never thought of using undertaker records. Very enriching for the family as well as a great resource for story ideas, adding layers, etc.


    1. Undertakers’ records can be very helpful when they’re available. And I know exactly what you mean about the joys of formatting. Sorry your comment had ended up in my pending tab.


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