A Better Place


A Better Place describes the practices around death and burial in 19th-century Ontario. Funeral rituals, strong religious beliefs, and a firm conviction that death was a beginning not an end helped the bereaved through their times of loss in a century where death was always close at hand.

The book describes the pioneer funeral in detail as well as the factors that changed this simple funeral into the elaborate etiquette-driven Victorian funeral at the end of the century. It includes the sources of various funeral customs, including the origins of embalming that gave rise to the modern-day funeral parlour. The evolution of cemeteries is explained with the beginnings of cemeteries in specific towns given as examples.

An understanding of these changing burial rites, many of which might seem strange to us today, is invaluable for the family historian. In addition, the book includes practical suggestions for finding death and burial records throughout the century.


Even if you dont have Ontario ancestors, this book can provide you with a better understanding of ever-changing funeral customs.

Gen Wish List

Canadian researchers will find many useful sources in this book [and] will more fully understand why their ancestors did things a certain way in regards to death and burial. Non-Canadian researchers will see many parallels between Canadian and U.S. burials and customs. Much can be gained for genealogical researchers by reading this book and exploring new record sources.


recommended to anyone with ancestors from Ontario, Canada, and to those who have an interest in funeral and burial customs from the nineteenth century.

Gail Grunst Genealogy

Smart, an active genealogist, adds a helpful section with practical advice.

OHS Bulletin (October, 2011)

This title is an excellent reference work that is beneficial for any genealogist with Ontario roots.

AnceStories (May, 2011)

About the Author

Susan Smart

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014

Susan Smart

Susan Smart worked for many years as a project manager in the information technology field. She is an active volunteer with the Ontario Genealogical Society, was project coordinator and editor of Index to the Upper Canada Land Books, and is the co-author of Using Forms for Canadian Genealogical Research. Susan lives in Markham, Ontario.