There were often documents created after an individual’s death that may help you with your family research. Don’t overlook these postmortem items. These records may include undertaker’s bills and cemetery monument orders. You may find these records in probate packets, among family papers, in local historical society museums, or among the books and papers of these types of businesses.
Recently I featured Chris Miller in a Tombstone Tuesday blog. Chris was the son of my great grandfather, Jacob Miller and his second wife. After reading the blog my dad sent me copies of two original funeral-related bills from our family.
Chris Miller died of typhoid in Texas in 1911 and this is a copy of the undertaker’s bill. The bill is dated Oct 25, 1911, the day after Chris died. The undertaker was E G Hill. His office and parlors were located at 900 Scott Avenue, Wichita Falls, Texas. Their phone number was 225. Apparently there weren’t many phones in 1911 if their phone number was simply a three-digit number.
The itemized bill from EG Hill:
Shaving, bathing, etc, $5
Transportation to station, $5
Undertaker and Tax [total of above], $97.50 + $1.25 [tx] = $98.75
E G Hill [his signature]
The bill was marked paid on 25 Oct 1911.
It is interesting to see what funeral charges were 100 years ago. But postmortem bills may also contain valuable information when a tombstone no longer exists, as in the example below.
The grave marker of Landon Bennett, Joe’s great-great-grandfather, no longer exists. The tombstone was located in Ellis Cemetery, south of Montezuma, in Franklin Township, Mercer County, Ohio. The tombstone of Elizabeth (Grant) Bennett, wife of Landon, is still in row 11 in Ellis Cemetery. Landon and Elizabeth’s stones were originally side by side. Here is a transcription of the original order for their tombstones, dated 15 June 1871:
The undersigned has bought of Joseph Flanery a set of grave stones about 2
[hand written between the lines]: Cap 6 feet 6 in Sqr 6 in Marble Clasped Hands on Cap
Feet high, 6 inches wide, 6 inches thick, of Italian Marble with
Two inscriptions Book in Hand & Bird and inscribed, Landon
Bennett. Died May 31 1866 Aged 57 Yr 6 M
15 Days and Elizabeth wife of Landon Bennett
Died Feb 4 1871 Aged 64 Yr 8 M 19 Days
With such extensions or abbreviations as may be necessary, which he agrees to receive
In Elis [sic] G Y Mercer County, any time when
Delivered after the Dec 1 next, at Nintyfive [sic] Dollars Balance in
Three months from date of delivery.
H B Bennett, adm. [his signature]
H B [Henry Brandenburg] Bennett was Landon and Elizabeth’s son and the administrator of their estates. The copy of this document was given to me by another Bennett researcher, Juanita Kellerman. I am not sure where the original was located but I suspect it was in Landon’s probate packet. Unfortunately, Landon’s probate packet cannot be found today and his tombstone no longer exists. There is no probate record of his death because Ohio started recording deaths in 1867, the year after he died. So this one document is a very important one. It is the only document that I know of that records Landon’s date of death and his age at the time of his death. This record would be considered both a primary and secondary source of information. A primary source because Henry B. would have known when his parents died and a secondary source because Henry would have known their birth dates second-hand.
Another example of a record created after death is this original monument order. This order is from Dabbelt & Birkmeier Marble and Granite Works, Delphos, Ohio. It was for Maria R. Muller, daughter of J & C Muller [Jakob & Christena Muller]. Maria died 10 March 1905, aged 21 years, 17 days. The grave marker was to be made of Blue Marble and the order gives the size and details of the stone and base. It was 4 feet, 6 inches high. The name “Muller” was to be on the west side in large letters. It was to be delivered to Zion’s Cemetery on or before September 1905. The cost was $55 and it was signed Jakob Muller, RFD #1, Willshire, O. My dad is in possession of this original record. This would be considered a primary source of information because Maria’s father, Jakob Muller, the informant, would have known when his daughter was born and when she died.
We can also see the handwritten signatures of our ancestors on these records. So remember to look through those old papers you may find during your research. You never know what little piece of information they may contain.