Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to Find Really Obscure Genealogical Sources -- Part Five - The Obscure

Note: (You may skip this first paragraph if you have read the previous parts) This is a series of posts that reflect the classes I have taught about breaking down brick walls in genealogy at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. My next series of classes on this subject is scheduled for August, 2013 beginning on August 8 and continuing on Thursday and Friday mornings for the rest of the month. For more specific information see the Mesa FamilySearch Library Schedule of Classes. These posts are not necessarily class notes, but rather reflections on the subject matter covered in the classes. Also note, that I have discussed some of these subjects before, but I am repeating some things for emphasis and because I need to prepare for the classes.

Any written record created in during the time period and in the place where and when your ancestor lived could contain valuable genealogical information. In addition, many records created after your ancestor died may also have valuable genealogical information. When I refer to the place where your ancestor lived, you need to remember that the place includes all possible jurisdictions at all pertinent times. For example, my Great-grandfather lived in several states. So, records concerning his life might be located in any one of the states he lived in or even in records kept by the U.S. Federal Government (if he were in the Army etc.). 

When finding an ancestor by searching for his or her name fails to provide adequate record sources, then the focus of your research needs to move for looking for a name to looking for records. Remember, that each stage of your ancestor's life created a cloud of documents, most of which are valuable for filling in details in the ancestor's life. To illustrate this, I would like to quote a North Carolina statute:
§ 130A-113. Permits for burial-transit, authorization for cremation and
(a) The funeral director or person acting as such who first assumes custody of a dead
body or fetus which is under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner shall obtain a
burial-transit permit signed by the medical examiner prior to final disposition or removal from the State and within five days after death.
(b) A dead body shall not be cremated or buried at sea unless the provisions of G.S.
130A-388 are met.
(c) A permit for disinterment-reinterment shall be required prior to disinterment of a
dead body or fetus except as otherwise authorized by law or rule. The permit shall be issued by the local registrar to a funeral director, embalmer or other person acting as such upon proper application.
(d) No dead body or fetus shall be brought into this State unless accompanied by a
burial-transit or disposal permit issued under the law of the state in which death or disinterment occurred. The permit shall be final authority for final disposition of the body or fetus in this State.
(e) The local registrar shall issue a burial-transit permit for the removal of a dead body
or fetus from this State if the requirements of G.S. 130A-112 are met and that the death is not under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner. (1973, c. 873, s. 2; 1977, c. 163,, s. 2; 1983,, c. 891, s. 2.)
Now, think about this statute and you will see a number of valuable documents have or would have been created for each burial:
  • Funeral Records
  • Mortuary Records
  • Medical Examiner Records
  • Burial-Transit Permit
  • Disinterment-reinterment Permit (possible)
  • Disposal Permit
Here is the statute for North Carolina concerning prerequisites for burial at sea:
§ 130A‑388.  Medical examiner's permission necessary before embalming, burial and cremation.(a)        No person knowing or having reason to know that a death may be under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner pursuant to G.S. 130A‑383 or 130A‑384, shall embalm, bury or cremate the body without the permission of the medical examiner.(b)        A dead body shall not be cremated or buried at sea unless a medical examiner certifies that he has inquired into the cause and the manner of death and has the opinion that no further examination is necessary. This subsection shall not apply to deaths occurring less than 24 hours after birth or to deaths of patients resulting only from natural disease and occurring in a licensed hospital unless the death falls within the jurisdiction of the medical examiner under G.S. 130A‑383 or 130A‑384. The Commission is authorized to adopt rules creating additional exceptions to this subsection. For making this certification, the medical examiner shall be entitled to a fee in an amount determined reasonable and appropriate by the Secretary, not to exceed fifty dollars ($50.00), to be paid by the applicant. (1955, c. 972, s. 1; 1957, c. 1357, s. 1; 1963, c. 492, s. 4; 1967, c. 1154, s. 1; 1971, c. 444, s. 7; 1973, c. 873, s. 7; 1983, c. 891, s. 2.)
See, more documents and records. By the way, burial permits are generally used and have been for a very long time, throughout the United States. When was the last time you looked for any of these post-death type records? Did you know that they existed?

If you want to see how complicated these burial procedures can become, take a look at the Pennsylvania Laws Regarding Burial Practices and Cemeteries. This article outlines a number of requirements that may create genealogically significant records. 

How many of these commonly required burial permits have made their way into the online data bases? Not very many. lists one collection of over 11,000 records in Kansas. So where are these records? They are sitting in mortuaries, cemetery offices, city offices, county offices and state offices all over the United States. 

To find your ancestor you need to be aware of all the possible places to look. You just might want to spend some time looking at the types of records available rather than spending unfruitful time searching for a name. Almost every other area of an individual's life has the same cloud of records. 

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