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Funeral Notices Collection

The Lexington Public Library’s Kentucky Room holds a collection of six hundred and seventy-six funeral notices printed in Lexington between 1806-1887.

From the preface to Funeral Notices: Lexington, KY 1806-1887 by Linda Ramsey Ashley and Elizabeth Tapp Wills:


Before daily newspapers, telephones, and other means of easy communication, the funeral notice or invitation was the accepted means of advising friends that an individual had died and when and where the funeral services would be held. This custom began before 1800 and was continued well into the twentieth century...

Cyrus Parker Jones, an African-American, appears in the Lexington City Directories as a "Huckster." Hucksters sold vegetables and fruits and such from a cart or stand. Apparently Jones’s headquarters were in the Lexington Market and his location and occupation made him a likely person to distribute funeral invitations. Through the years, he saved copies of those notices. Perhaps others, learning of his collection, added to it, since it is not likely that he was actually a huckster for such a long span of years.

Mr. Jones bequeathed his collection to James M. Duff, a Lexington banker and trustee of the Lexington Public Library. On January 1, 1900, Mr. Duff presented the collection to the library. A few later cards were added, and someone kindly typed a similar card for Mr. Duff at his death in 1911...

The years from 1830-1860 are best represented, except for 1833 and 1849 when deaths from cholera were so frequent that most funeral customs were suspended. Also, the Civil War years saw fewer printed notices...

The cards contain a wealth of information about family relationships, church memberships, burial sites, and lodge memberships as well as death dates. The Funeral Notices Collection Contains many names which do not appear in Cliff’s Kentucky Obituaries or the Lexington Public Library’s Local History Index, since both of those sources are derived from the Lexington newspapers and many obituaries did not appear there. This makes the Lexington Funeral Notices Collection a valuable resource for genealogists and historians.

The Funeral Notices Collection has been transcribed and published in book format by Linda Ramsey Ashley and Elizabeth Tapp Wills. It is available in The Kentucky Room of the Central Public Library.

Kentucky Room Call Number: R976.947 As35f KY 1980

The original funeral notices are also available on microfilm in the Kentucky Room.

The Kentuckiana Digital Library, a project of the Kentucky Virtual Library, has digitized the entire collection, and it can now be searched and viewed online at Duff’s Funeral Notices.