In 2005 and 2007 Diuguid Funeral Service & Crematory of Lynchburg permanently loaned its extraordinary collection of undertaking records to the Southern Memorial Association. The scope of the collection is wide-ranging:
- 42 general burial record ledgers, covering 1820-1950
- 14 plot books for four local cemeteries
- 25 index books for the burial and plot ledgers
- 8 miscellaneous ledgers, mostly containing furniture records
- 6 rare maps of Presbyterian and White Rock Cemeteries of Lynchburg
- Several boxes of assorted loose papers, including receipts, advertising artwork, “first call sheets,” corpse transit permits, and customers’ bankruptcy notices
The material available online today includes the 42 general burial ledgers and 14 cemetery plot books. The database contains over 20,000 images and over 57,000 individual entries. As a whole the Diuguid Collection presents a remarkable demographic portrait of the Lynchburg community between 1820 and 1920.
The general burial ledgers contain records of every person for whom Diuguid provided mortuary services. These services were not limited to interment; Diuguid was often only needed for hearse service, casket equipment, burial robes, or removal of graves.
Because the Diuguids were originally carpenters, the earliest “burial” records are actually coffin orders. The earliest entry in Diuguid’s records is an order for a coffin for a child of John Victor, dated 14 January 1820. Victor, a well-known silversmith in Lynchburg, paid Diuguid’s $6 bill with a set of spoons. Gradually by 1830 most entries were for “burial services,” which could include digging the grave, hearse service, burial shroud and cap, winding sheet, and gloves for pallbearers.
Beginning in 1868 the Diuguid undertakers indicated the gravedigger or cemetery sexton in the margin of most individual ledger entries. Because each cemetery had its own gravedigger, this seemingly insignificant scribble (often crossed-out in pencil) is an invaluable clue to a person’s place of interment. It is especially important for burials in Old City Cemetery, whose official records before 1914 have been lost.
The Diuguids made another monumental improvement in their recordkeeping in 1896. Beginning on 1 May 1896, they started using a new pre-printed ledger form that included the residence, date of death, cause of death, age, cemetery, and plot of every person handled by the funeral home. At a time when the Commonwealth of Virginia did not keep official death certificates, Diuguid provides a priceless, alternate vital record for genealogists and researchers.
By 1924 Diuguid’s burial records are essentially duplicates of state death certificates, since it was the undertaker who usually filled-out the official form and submitted it to the Bureau of Vital Statistics.
The last record in the Diuguid Collection is dated 28 April 1951. Although records exist after 1951, the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibits the release of death certificates until 50 years after the death has occurred (Code of Virginia § 32.1-271). This moratorium protects an individual’s privacy and identity.