Genealogists with Canadian ancestors should read A Better Place Death and Burial in Nineteenth-Century Ontario. Author Susan Smart discusses in-depth, how death and burial evolved from the early settling of Canada through the nineteenth-century. Family historians researching Canadian roots will find this book very useful when learning about their ancestors’ customs. Non-Canadian researchers will also find many parallels between death and burial customs in Canada and the United States in the nineteenth-century.
The book is divided into two sections, Death and Burial and Genealogical Implications. In the first section, Smart discusses early nineteenth-century death and burials. Smart starts with pioneer burials and early cemeteries. She moves from there to changes in customs in the mid-1860s as Queen Victoria’s husband died in England and the Civil War was raging in America. Both events caused a shift in how Canadians and non-Canadians dealt with death, burial and mourning.
The establishment of cemeteries fills many chapters as Smart discusses the beginnings of cemeteries on farms or family land to the establishment of church and town cemeteries. Religious customs are explored and Smart presents information on the origins of late nineteenth century funeral customs. Smart talks about the wake, wearing of black, flowers and food, tombstones and epitaphs and mementoes of the dead and how those changed over time.
Section two, Genealogical Implications takes the reader on a journey to locate church records, estate records, coroner’s reports, newspaper articles, official death registrations and home sources. Smart ends this section by addressing the different record sources available according to religion.
This section is important to researchers because Smart explains where records exist, when they came into being and what they contain. Smart provides examples of books, newspapers and online sources to help the researcher.
The book ends with a timeline of important world events, Canadian history events and changes in laws and customs regarding burials and records. A glossary of terms, notes and an extensive bibliography follow.
Canadian researchers will find many useful sources in this book. They will more fully understand why their ancestors did things a certain way in regards to death and burial. Non-Canadian researchers will see many parallels between Canadian and U.S. burials and customs. Much can be gained for genealogical researchers by reading this book and exploring new record sources.
Disclosure statement: I was sent this book by Dundurn Press to review.