How to Find Your Ancestor’s Funeral Records

By Sharon DeBartolo Carmack Premium

Q. How can I access information from a funeral home listing on a relative who resided in California and died in the area?

A. First, try to obtain your relative’s death certificate from the California state vital records office. Check to see if the newspapers carried an obituary. Either of these sources should give the name of the funeral home.

While most funeral homes have no problem accommodating genealogists in their requests for relatives’ records, keep in mind that funeral home records are private records, and the funeral home is within its rights to restrict or deny access. Also because funeral home records are private records, the content varies from one funeral home to another and from one time period to another.

To locate the funeral home, try searching for it online using your favorite search engine or a directory site such as Or use the following reference guides to help you locate funeral homes: American Blue Book of Funeral Service (Kates-Boylston), The National Yellow Book of Funeral Directors (Nomis) and The Redbook (National Directory of Morticians). One of these directories should be available in your public library’s reference section. 

If the funeral home is no longer in business, online research may reveal it was bought by another home—possibly, along with its records. You also could check old city directories to see if funeral home of a different name suddenly pops up at the same address as the home that handled your ancestor’s arrangements. If you can’t track down what happened to the home, the local historical society or library may be able to help. These organizations sometimes have old records of local businesses such as funeral homes, too.
Trying to track down ancestors’ death records? Our Death Records Workbook is a complete genealogy guide to death records, with
  • instructions on finding death records
  • family history clues you’ll find in death records
  • sample death records with source citations
  • a form to help you organize your death records search
  • other old records that provide death information