Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fitch-Hillis Funeral Home - A Local Undertaking (Resource!)

Having a family burial plot is not only convenient for a family suffering the loss of a loved one but a wish come true for a genealogist that comes along a couple generations later.  Previously undocumented relatives are just waiting to be discovered in their final resting place near those great-great grandparents you discovered on your last trip to the library.

But wait......who was the cheapskate that placed a headstone with just a first initial, the surname, and only an engraving of "Died 1908"?  That's certainly not much help, especially since Missouri didn't begin recording deaths until 1910.  And since there isn't a full date, you can't look for an obituary unless you just have a few months of spare time to pass scanning frame after frame of microfilm.  If it's a child born after 1900, they won't even appear on a census record anywhere.  Now what do you do??

Well, one option is to check the funeral registry index of Fitch-Hillis Funeral Home online.  This is just an index to the records with information for getting copies available on the main index page. Their records date back to 1906, four years BEFORE Missouri required death certificates and currently spans their first century of business, ending in 2006 (so far).  If this potential long-lost "cousin" had a funeral and it was handled by Fitch-Hillis, there's a record of it.  Information varies from record to record but usually you can find a date of death (which sends you off to look for an obituary!!), possibly a cause of death, and the costs incurred to hold the funeral. The costs might include a cost for a pine box, carriage rental for travel to the cemetery, and clothing purchased for the deceased.  I've seen records with a total cost of $15! 

The big payoff with this record is who was billed for the expenses? Maybe a relationship is stated.  And how did they pay? All at once or on an installment plan?  This might just provide the missing link to that stray relative you previously knew nothing about and adds a little more to the family narrative you're writing and will publish someone day!!  It's more than just names, dates, and places.  Details help bring them to life, even in death.

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