Get it? Funeral home records – buried treasure? Sorry, couldn’t resist a morbid joke. But if this post caught your eye, you’re probably a genealogist, and so little details that some might consider “morbid” are basically some of your favorite things.
But let’s get down to business. What are the Boyer Funeral Home Records (MS-277), and what “buried treasure” is potentially in it for you, the genealogist?
Boyer Funeral Home was established in Dayton, Ohio, in the mid-1800s, and may have been the first undertaking establishment in Dayton. The Boyer Funeral Home Records collection spans from 1905 to 1995 and contains information that would be useful to genealogists, as well as those interested in the funeral industry. For full details of the collection, view the online finding aid (PDF).
Boyer Funeral Home, 609 W. Riverview Avenue, undated (photo by Bunting, from the Dayton Daily News Archive MS-458)
Notable Daytonians who temporarily rested at Boyer’s Funeral Home include: John H. Patterson, James M. Cox, Charles F. Kettering, Orville Wright, and George H. Mead.
The bulk of the collection consists of Mortuary Records from 1922-1978. These include documents related to the funeral details of individuals. Records contain information concerning services rendered (casket price, professional services, embalming, shaving/dressing, funeral car, etc.); cash disbursed (funeral car, flower car, newspaper notices, etc.); and biographical information (date of birth/death, residence, cause of death, etc.). Later Mortuary Records often include a copy of the original obituary clipped from the newspaper.
Important Note: The mortuary records are arranged chronologically, then alphabetically by last name. Therefore, the death year (or at least a ballpark) and the person’s legal last name at death must be known in order to use the records effectively for genealogical research. Again, keep in mind, the mortuary files (the part of the collection that has all the tasty genealogical nuggets) only span 1922-1978, even though parts of the collection date from 1905-1995. And obviously, if the person’s funeral was not handled by Boyer’s, then unfortunately the person’s records will not be found in this collection.
If you do not know the date of death, here are some free online databases that may help you to determine it:
Now for the good stuff! Here are some examples of the “buried treasure” you might find in these records. (With the exception of the mortuary record form, not all items shown below will be available for every individual.)
Mortuary Record File form
Every person whose funeral was handled by Boyer’s should have a completed form similar to the one below, including information about services rendered, cash disbursed, and brief biographical information. The biographical information may include birth date, death date, age, and cause of death. Keep in mind, some of those fields may have been left blank. The record usually includes the location of the funeral and burial as well.
Mortuary record for Charles E. Blackburn, 1922, page 1 of 3 (MS-277, Box 1, File 1)
Mortuary record for Charles E. Blackburn, 1922, page 2 of 3 (MS-277, Box 1, File 1) (click to enlarge)
Mortuary record for Charles E. Blackburn, 1922, page 3 of 3 (MS-277, Box 1, File 1)
Press Release Notes, Obituary
The person’s funeral records may also include a form wherein the funeral director recorded notes of what should be included in the obituary and potentially a copy of the final printed obituary itself. If you are a genealogist, you no doubt already know what a boon this could be, as it often lists (sometimes in extensive detail) the person’s next of kin and often their city of residence. Other morsels often included in obituaries may include the deceased person’s parents’ names, occupation, church or other organizational affiliations, and sometimes education. Sometimes, the clipping consists of a longer article that may even include a photograph, if the person was prominent or well-known.
Press notice notes form and obituary for Mrs. Mary Standish, 1968 (MS-277 Box 17, File 20) (click to enlarge)
In some cases, the funeral file includes a copy of the death certificate. As most genealogists know, death certificates offer a wealth of biographical information, usually including the much-desired parents’ names! Perhaps one of the most exciting things about the potential to find a copy of this document in your relative’s Boyer Funeral Home record is the fact that, while Ohio death records are public records (anyone can obtain a copy), the availability of “uncertified” records has been mostly discontinued for more recent records, and certified records can be expensive.
Again, remember that not every funeral record includes a copy of the death record. However, based on a cursory look in the boxes, it appears that most of the records from the mid-1940s onward seem to include one.
While we are on the subject of death certificates, it is worth pointing out that the database referenced above – Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953 from FamilySearch.org – includes images of the original death certificates. You must create an account and login in order to view/print/download the certificate, but it is completely free to do so.
It is also worth noting that the death certificate copy filed in the funeral home records is not physically identical to the copy that you will find filed with the state/county or the one that you might find on FamilySearch. It is a second handwritten or typed copy, not a photocopy of the one filed with the state. All of the information “should” be the same, but…just bear that in mind. Here is an example, showing the death certificate from the Boyer files on the left and the final copy filed with the state (via FamilySearch.org) on the right.
Two copies of Anna Spinning’s 1944 death certificate, showing how the Boyer copy and the state-filed copy look slightly different (click to enlarge)
Hospital Release Form/ Undertaker’s Receipt/ Transport Form
If the person died at a hospital, their funeral record may include a hospital release form or undertaker’s receipt. This documents the funeral home’s acquisition of the deceased person’s body from the hospital. It may include the person’s home address, age, diagnosis and cause of death, and length of hospital stay, all of which could be of interest to genealogists.
There may also be paperwork describing other transportation of the body, such as its arrival by train from another city.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed learning what kinds of information may be waiting for you in the Boyer Funeral Home Records! If you are curious what other types of records we have that could be of interest to your genealogical research, please visit our web site.