Morbid Curiosities

2014-054 WHS Casket

2014-054 WHS – Image of a man kneeling in front of a casket

Ok, I will admit it – I have a fascination with death. Perhaps, it is a hazard of being a genealogist and local history librarian, but I think that it comes from a deep and visceral level. We all die. It’s a fate that we cannot escape. The myriad of rituals and beliefs tied up with death and dying makes the obsession that much more intriguing.

I am a regular obituary reader. Daily, I’ll scan over the obituaries online to see if I recognize a name, a face or family. While I may not personally know the departed, I often recognize distant and former neighbours, co-workers, or casual acquaintances. As I grow older, the recognition of names, sadly, becomes more frequent.

Funerals are another curiosity of mine. The ceremony, rituals, beliefs and practices of death and its commemoration are fascinating – especially when seen over time. And I’ve always wondered about the special breed of people that choose or find themselves in this field of work.

Marion Roes knows much about funeral home history in Waterloo Region. Her family founded the Dreisinger Funeral Home in Elmira. Come join me on Monday November 16th @ 7pm at Country Hills Community Library, 1500 Block Line Road, Kitchener to hear Marion’s updated talk on funeral home history in Kitchener. She is sharing her vast knowledge and research on local funeral homes, particularly that of Schreiter-Sandrock, the oldest in our area. I’m told, that she has lots of new images to share, too.

The Country Hills branch is attached to St. Mary’s High School  (see map). The library is on the end of the complex closest to Homer Watson. There’s lots of free parking and no registration is required for the event.

Do you have a favourite Waterloo County funeral in your family history?

Cheers, Karen


Horses, hearses and taking your last ride in style

Dreisinger Funeral Vehicles book by Marion Roes

Marion Roes’ Dreisinger Funeral Home Vehicles book

We’ve recently added a copy of Marion Roes’ book, “From a Horse-Drawn Hearse to Studebakers, Packards and Cadillacs: Dreisinger Funeral Home Vehicles” to the Grace Schmidt Room (GSR) collection. Marion, who is the past-president of the Waterloo Historical Society, has written a delightful and informative book about the evolution of funeral service vehicles belonging to the Dreisinger Funeral home in Elmira. Part family, local and business history, the book provides identification and history of vehicles, along with chronicling the history of the funeral home, which Marion’s great-grandfather, Christian (known as ‘Christ’) Dreisinger started in 1905, along with a furniture store.

Each vehicle identification is annotated with year, photo type, location, and financial record data, such as invoices,  ledger entries and financial statements.  The financial record data is interesting as it points to other Elmira and Waterloo County businesses operating in the same time frame.

A special feature were the funeral vehicles being used for weddings and other events. While I had never considered that a funeral home might rent out its more luxurious sedans for hire, the cross-use of vehicles made perfect sense. Why not travel to and from any of life’s important events in style?

You can find Marion’s book in the GSR collection.