Until the late 1800's / early 1900's (and even long into the 1900's), families would hold funerals at home with the deceased laid out in a room in their house. After the funeral the deceased would then be taken from home directly to the cemetery. As funeral homes gained 'popularity' in the 1900's it became common place to use this new service.
Funeral Homes keep record of each funeral and burial they coordinate. These records contain a wealth of information including the name and age of the deceased, their date and place of death, date and exact place of burial, as well as who paid for the expenses of the funeral. The records may also include names of the next-of-kin, and names of (and sometimes the relationship to) the pallbearers.
Locating and obtaining a funeral home record presents several challenges:
The records are owned by the funeral home and subject to their rules and regulations. Most funeral homes take privacy very seriously and will only share a record if it's required by law or with the consent of the client.
Funeral homes are required to keep records for a period of 10 years from the date of the service or the date of the cancellation of the service contract. After 10 years the records can be destroyed.
Some Funeral Homes might share records that were created more than 75 years ago. Assuming that the funeral home existed at that time and that they kept the records.
When a funeral home is sold to a new owner the records usually stay with the home and become the property of the new owners. However, if a funeral home goes out of business their records either stay with the former owner, are destroyed, or are passed along to the Board of Funeral Services or a local archive.
Given this information it may sound like seeking a funeral home record is a lost cause. It's a challenge yes, but not entirely impossible. And if successful it may provide information not available in other genealogy records.
The first step in locating a funeral home record is knowing where the person you seek died or was buried. Their death record or obituary may mention if a funeral home was used. It may also be on file with the cemetery office.
If you don't know what funeral home was used check directories, local histories, and newspapers to learn what funeral homes existed at the time of your ancestor's death. Then, use Canada411 or Google to see if the Funeral Home still exists today. It may not have the same address, but if you find a Funeral Home of the same name in the same town or city you may have found the correct one. Also take note of other Funeral Homes in other locations with the same name - could the Funeral Home you're seeking be part of a "chain" or larger franchise?
Some funeral home records have been donated to local archives and libraries.