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05 July 2013

You Can't Barge Into a Funeral Home and Make Demands

The records maintained by a funeral home are private business records--not public records. Funeral homes do not "have" to allow you to see their old records. Some do as a public service and because it generates goodwill in the community. A few even charge. But a funeral home is under no obligation to let you have access to any materials they retained after your relative's funeral--no matter what it cost.


  1. Thank you for this tip! I have been requesting records from funeral homes for the past 25 years that I have been doing research. I have only been refused twice and both times the funeral homes reason was because their records were private. I normally send a letter, typed and short, with a self-address stamped envelope requesting records. In my letter I put the name of the person and their death date and request copies of any records they might have. I also offer to pay any copy expenses if there are any. I have never been charged for copies these past 25 years. I have requested records by email but I find that the letter and SASE through the postal service works best.

    Melissa Barker
    Professional Genealogist for Tennessee and Kentucky
    Houston County, TN. Archivist/Records Manager

  2. I agree, we should all tread carefully with any funeral homes we work with. Build a rapport with them if possible. I had to look up some information regarding a monument in our city, and was able to get some information from the original proprietor. But, when I called the funeral home for information,they didn't have any. They sent me to the original proprietor who had sold the business. It was obvious to me from speaking with the new staff that there was some ill-will between them and the original proprietor. We NEVER know the politics of a situation, and we must always bear in mind that we are dealing with people who may not be interested in helping us for some reason or another. Fortunately, they were happy to give me the information for the original proprietor, and I was able to confirm that they were also in the monument business at one time. I'm glad they gave me the info, as it helped get a monument rebuilt in my city. But, I could easily have turned the discussion with the new staff into a hostile one, if I hadn't realized what that the relationship had soured between them and the person they bought the company from.

    The same advise I believe also stands for private burial grounds like religious cemeteries. I don't believe they have to give you the info, but we are lucky when they will, and we should be appreciative. Even with public cemeteries, you have to realize that this is a small part of a large job that they do, and the better you treat them, the more likely you are to get helped!

  3. What happens to old records when a funeral home closes and no one has bought the funeral home -- curious as I have a situation where I would love to find the old records to possibly locate the gravesite within a cemetery in Uhrichsville, OH as we know she is buried there but the cemetery's records have either been destroyed by a fire or thrown out so I was hoping to find these records or something in the funeral home's records. Her death was in 1883 and the records seem to have bee lost/destroyed in the early 1900's -- what laws existed if any on where the funeral home's records would go if they closed their business and not sold to a new owner?

    1. There's really no laws about the maintenance of funeral home records, particularly for ones of the time period anonymous mentions. Modern funeral homes that are purchased may have to maintain some records for tax and other legal purposes for a set time, but I would doubt that the length of time is anywhere close to the time anonymous would need. Since they are private records, a private person would not really have any "justification" to see them. If there is a retention schedule, it's likely for tax and legal purposes.