A Better Place Book Review

A Better Place:  Death and burial in nineteenth-century Ontario

Susan Smart

Copyright 2011

Published for the Ontario Genealogical Society by Dundurn Press, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


ISBN 978-1-55488-899-3

The focus of this book is on the physical aftermath of death during the nineteenth century in Ontario, Canada.  It is not on the physical or spiritual aspects of dying.  It covers deaths and burials from the establishment of Upper Canada to the beginning of the funeral industry in the early twentieth century.

Part one deals with deaths and burials.  The author explains the attitudes that surrounded death and the physical handling of the body from death to burial.  She explains where the customs and terms we use today originated, and how some customs have changed over time.  The reader learns about the beginning of the coffin, hearse, death notices, cemeteries, tombstones, and tombstone inscriptions.

Part two covers the death and burial records that are available for the genealogist today and how to find them.  The author discusses the importance of history to the family historian.  Studying about the places and times our ancestor’s lived in gives background to the family story and helps bring our ancestors to life.  She also explains the importance of religion in finding death and burial records, and lists sources to help you find death and burial records both in print and online.

The author cites her sources for each chapter in the notes at the end of the book.  She included a bibliography of other books and Internet sources on the subject.  Though out the book there are pictures of churches, cemeteries, tombstones and other items of interest.

I read this book with interest because I have ancestors from Ontario, Canada.  I felt that it gave me a better understanding of their lives, customs, and religion.  I found it interesting how deaths and burials were handled back then, and it helped me to understand where and how the customs we use today originated.  I would recommend this book to anyone with ancestors from Ontario, Canada and to those who have an interest in funeral and burial customs from the nineteenth century.

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