Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Review: A Better Place

I was excited to recently be given an opportunity to review A Better Place: Death and Burial in Nineteenth-Century Ontario by Susan Smart. Ontario is an ancestral location for at least half a dozen of my family lines and I looked forward to learning more about how death and burial practices probably took place in their lives. I was not disappointed.

The first part of the book, "Death and Burial," explains in nine chapters the attitudes toward death and the evolution of burial customs over time from the pioneer days through the Victorian age. How cemeteries and funeral homes were established is detailed. Also explained are different practices according to religion and origins of modern funeral customs. Excerpts from local histories, etiquette books and letters of the period, and photographs and advertisements from local newspapers are all used to enhance and illustrate each chapter.

In "Part II: Genealogical Implications," each of the nine chapters from Part I is revisited, with a listing of resources (hard copy and electronic) which correspond. For example, the first chapter in both parts is titled "Death and Attitudes." In Part I, this chapter explains the attitudes nineteenth-century people in Ontario had toward death as found in local histories. In Part II, this chapter lists where to find local histories and other related sources in libraries and on the Internet. Smart describes when resources may be difficult to find and offers tips and suggestions. She states when record keeping began for various sources and gives pointers for alternatives before record keeping was required.

All notes are cited and a helpful fourteen-page bibliography is also provided. This title is an excellent reference work that is beneficial for any genealogist with Ontario roots. A Better Place: Death and Burial in Nineteenth-Century Ontario by Susan Smart was published in 2011 by the Ontario Genealogical Society/Dundurn Press and is 235 pages. It is available in for $14.82 (US) at Amazon.

Disclosure: I received a free book from Dundurn Press for review.  As an Amazon Associate, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price when readers purchase a title through the Amazon link above, although this title is available at other websites and various bookstores.

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