Obituary Indexing Project, Programs

Undertakers Uncovered

Schreiter's Funeral Home, Kitchener, ON

Interior view of Schreiter’s Funeral Home in Kitchener, ON

Ever wonder about undertakers? Marion Roes does. Undertaking is in her blood – literally.  As the granddaughter of Elmira undertaker, Christian Dreisinger, Marion grew up in and around the family’s funeral business. She’s been “uncovering undertakers” and their businesses  which are “buried” in records like directories, obituaries, assessment records, and newspapers. She is “Sherlock Roes” – solving history mysteries about undertaking and the men and women who help guide us through the rituals, ceremonies and details of death.

Come join us on Wednesday 29 November 2017 at the Forest Heights Branch at 7pm for Marion’s talk on “Uncovering Waterloo County’s Undertakers”.  Marion will highlight the searches that she’s done in area archives and libraries, including the Grace Schmidt Room and Cambridge City Archives. She’ll also look at the undertakers and their different places or work/business throughout the Region.

Curious to know where was the only coffin factory in Waterloo County located?

Wonder if there were there really two different undertakers named Robert James Kerr?

Puzzled why would a barber have an undertakers’ licence for many years – and not have an undertaking business?

Dying to know? Well then, you will have to join us!

Marion’s talk, in support of the GSR’s Obituary Indexing Project, is free, but registration is required. Register online here or call InfoLink (519-743-7502) or the branch directly (519-743-0644), during library hours, and staff can sign you up.

The Forest Heights Library is located at 251 Fischer-Hallman Road, Kitchener. Parking is free.

See you there!

Cheers, Karen

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Guest Posts

Funerals, Furniture and Finds

George Rosenblatt

Studio portrait of George Rosenblatt of St. Clements. Used with permission of owner.

I am pleased to welcome Waterloo Historical Society Past-President, Marion Roes, as a guest blogger to Historically Speaking. Marion’s particular passion is the study of local undertakers.  She is the recipient of the 2014 Edna Staebler Research Fellowship at the Joseph Schneider Haus. Marion will be presenting her research findings at Schneider Haus in February 2015 during Heritage Week. I am honoured to call her a friend and colleague. Although most of our conversations end up talking about death for some strange reason…

Cheers, Karen.

Researching Waterloo Region funeral businesses and practices for the Edna Staebler Research Fellowship has led me to an unexpected business in St. Clements.  I discovered that George Rosenblatt, a furniture maker in St. Clements, was licensed by the Board of Funeral Services, Toronto, from 1914 to 1923. Nancy Maitland, archivist for the Wellesley Township Heritage and Historical Society, pointed me to photos and a contact for a Rosenblatt descendent.  Through the family member, I learned that the Rosenblatt Furniture Factory, later named Rosenblatt Artworks, was started with George’s father, John, about 1864. The business operated until 1932, when it burned down.

As the Rosenblatt records had been donated to the Grace Schmidt Room, I eagerly awaited the return of the archival collection.  Among the many photos, an Artworks catalogue, correspondence and orders in the Rosenblatt archives, I came across a 1917 Income Tax Return giving George’s occupation as “Wooden Artwork and Undertaking.” That one-line mention of George in the records has grown to several paragraphs in my research report.  If my research focus was broader than just undertaking, I could write a mini-history about a company in the rural village of St. Clements which shipped its manufactured products across Canada – and to the nearby St. Clement Roman Catholic Church.

Why did George Rosenblatt have a license? Perhaps, it was because the nearest funeral businesses in the early 1900s were in Waterloo, Elmira, Wellesley and Linwood. He did make coffins but a license wasn’t needed to do that. While I may not get all the answers that I’m seeking, I’ve been finding lots of information about local funeral businesses and practices – in the GSR, City of Cambridge Archives, Wellesley, Waterloo Region Museum Curatorial Centre, interviews and from helpful colleagues.  There just might be enough for a book!

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