Burying The Dead
The notes below were contributed by Ken Wood, president of the Wood County, WI Genealogy Society,
detailing a monthly meeting in January 2006, where a funeral director was invited to share with the members.
Our Genealogy Society wanted to find out what type of records were kept and if they were public and things like that for genealogy. The guy was really nice and funny. He wanted just a question and answer session and we talked for over an hour. All metal coffins are supposed to be sealed and most cemeteries today require some type of vault. The state does not so it is up to the individual cemetery. They are used mainly to keep the grave from caving in and to prevent contamination of the ground water. Embalming is necessary only if the person died of a communicable disease or the body is going to be transported across state lines or for an open casket. You can be buried anywhere in WI or have your ashes put anywhere. One woman buried her husband in the back yard and a few years later sold the house and couldn't find him. They have a rental casket if the person wants a showing before cremation. People often never pick up the cremains. He said they had 5-6 waiting to be picked up and have contacted the people several times and they just don't come. There is a special crypt in our cemetery where they can be stored but it costs to get them from there later. The records that a funeral home have go should go back to its beginning. They include some of all of the following. How complete they are depends on the person filling out the info. Name of the deceased, date of death, date of burial, place of burial, cause of death, name of parents (usually only if it is a child), and age. These records are open to the public as they contain what is on the death record, more or less, and it is public info. Funeral homes will check their records for you if you ask. Funeral homes were in furniture stores in the early years because that was where the coffins were made. Also the funeral home often was the ambulance service and some times the hearse served double duty. Remember that ambulances were mainly transport to the hospital and did not have EMTs until rather recently.
Obituary information is gathered from the family and is typed into a format on the computer and is e-mailed to what ever newspapers the family wants it sent to. Pictures can be scanned and included. This may vary with funeral homes but this is what is done here in Marshfield.
Prices at a funeral home today are set for each item of service provided so the director can tell you exactly what the cost will be based on the selection of services. For example, if no viewing is held a fixed amount will be deducted.
If an exhumation is requested a release from the coroner is needed and then the cemetery takes it from there. The funeral home is not involved. These rules apply in Wisconsin and may vary in other states.