Mortuaries or funeral homes originally tended to be located on the second floor or a back room of the local furniture makerís shop. The reason for that was because the furniture maker was the craftsman who constructed coffins as well as other types of furniture. It simply became an accepted practice for the deceased person to be placed in the coffin at the furniture makerís shop, and taken from there to be buried. In many cases, though, the deceased person would be taken to the family home and kept there for a few daysí viewing by family and friends.
In some cases, the furniture maker discovered that there was a more constant demand for coffins and the services of a funeral home than there was for just plain furniture. Over time, certain furniture makers stopped constructing tables and chairs, and instead devoted all their energies and time toward constructing coffins and accomodating the families that wanted to view their deceased loved ones in the coffin, but not in their own homes. The funeral home, as a separate and distinct business, emerged in the late 1800s and early 1900s throughout the region. The craftsmen formerly known as carpenters, furniture makers or cabinet-makers, became known as funeral directors. As time went on, formal education in the arts of embalming and mortuary management became a requirement in order to operate a funeral home.
Because of the fact that funeral homes were generally established by furniture makers, records were kept haphazardly, if at all. When the funeral business became established solely as such, the records that the funeral director maintained would kept as that particular individual wanted. There was no uniformity between the various funeral homes in the region. As funeral directors began to acquire an education in mortuary management, they learned various techniques of record processing and storage. Such records normally included the deceased personís name, date of death and age. Sometimes the deceased personís closest family memberís name would be included (such as a spouse or parent). In some, but not all cases, the cemetery in which the deceased person was intended to be buried would be included in the funeral homeís records.
It should also be noted that when a funeral home went out of business, if it was not purchased by another local funeral home director, the records accumulated by the original owner would be maintained by the family. Certain of those record collections might then be passed on to a local historical society.