Funeral records donated to Warren library system
By BOB COUPLAND
WARREN –Wanting to give back to the community with something he believes will be of general interest to the public, James McFarland, formerly with McFarland Funeral Home, presented his family’s funeral records from 1897 to the present to the Local History and Genealogy Department of the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library.
McFarland, who retired from the funeral home in 2017, had given the records to William Nicholas with Wm Nicholas Funeral Home in Niles this year, and the two decided to make a donation of the records to the center.
Nicholas gave the funeral records to the department with McFarland’s blessing.
Ten tote boxes filled with record books of every funeral handled by McFarland Funeral Home from 1965 to 2017 were presented last week. The genealogy department was previously given the records from 1897 to 1964 by McFarland.
McFarland Funeral Home was sold in 2017 to Mark Barbee, who closed it this year.
“The first funeral handled by my family was on July 28, 1897, for Warren Packard,” father of W.D. Packard of automaking fame, McFarland said.
That handwritten funeral record was the first in one of many record books.
McFarland said the funeral home averaged about 120 funerals a year so there were many records over the years.
“Before I retired, I had already donated many of the original records up to 1964. We wanted to give the rest. These will best serve their purpose here,” he said.
Nicholas said when he acquired the more recent funeral records, he wanted to make sure they received the proper care and could be used to benefit others.
Elizabeth Glasgow, local history and genealogy librarian, said the records contain “a vast wealth of information about each person’s funeral.”
Glasgow said they have the original records in their archives and made photocopies for McFarland.
“Not everyone had an obituary in the newspaper or it was a very short one. Someone wanting to look up a funeral may be able to look at the records and find all kinds of information from when someone died, what they died of, where did they live last, the attending physician, the clergy officiating and where they are buried. This provides a unique way to look at funeral records and learn information on people’s lives,” she said.
Nicholas said the records can also help families with their genealogies. When they may not know all their relatives, they can find data in a funeral record.
Glasgow said indexes have been made based on years to help people locate someone. She said it was interesting to index the oldest records because of the handwriting
“The handwriting is very legible,” she said.
McFarland said some of the handwriting was his great-grandfather’s.
Glasgow said copies can be made of records for the public.
She said some of the early obituaries in the newspaper only would say someone died and have limited information — while the records have more details on families, burials, times and places.
“Mr. McFarland has been advocate of our department for a long time. We now have all the original records from the funeral home,” Glasgow said.
McFarland said there is funeral information on prominent pioneer families of the community such as Perkins, Kinsmans and Packards as well as community leaders over the years whose funerals were handled by the McFarlands.
McFarland said what he and Nicholas agreed to do with the donation is “his family’s contribution to the community for 120 years”
“People will use this information. They can learn local history. I find the information fascinating and could read this all day. .. It makes me feel good it is available here,” McFarland said.
Glasgow said what they have been given is something they “could never have bought.”
Nicholas and McFarland said when Barbee closed the funeral home this summer he had to provide the records and the pre-planned burials to a licensed funeral director. Nicholas, who had worked for 11 years for McFarland, was contacted.
Nicholas said he stepped in to assist with any current pre-arrangements the McFarland Funeral Home had so they could be given to a funeral home of the family’s choice.