Funeral ethics in the recent past

The following is taken from the standard funeral record book used by Burns Brothers of Coulterville, Illinois. Burns Bros. provided funeral services for many of our southern Illinois Logans and allied families. Burns Bros. records range from 1893-1929. As was common at the time, the Burns family owned both a furniture store and undertaking service. The furniture store provided the coffin.

It’s interesting to see how transportation, customs, folkways, the funeral profession, ethics, and society itself has changed:

  • If bodies needed to be shipped, it was by train. Trains were ubiquitous.
  • The order of carriages, surreys, and buggies in the funeral cortege represents a time gone away.
  • “Where bodies are neither embalmed nor put on ice, keep in coolest place possible, perhaps, best between two open windows, with the sunshades drawn down as far as needed, and use a bleacher frequently over face and hands of the deceased.” Wakes and many funerals took place in the home plus there were detailed graveside services.
  • Societal norms were difficult and conflicted concerning stillborn babies during this time in America. We see this among some of our families in Logan Connections. We see it below with this statement: “Stillborns are buried by the undertaker alone. It is unusual that any of the family attend the interment.”

Burns Bros.jpg


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