June 25, 2005

History of Coffin Plates

img src="http://olivetreegenealogy.com/blogphotos/ada-l-baker.jpg" align="right" alt="Free Genealogy Death Record on the Coffin Plate of Ada L Baker 1842~1865" /> The history of Coffin Plates or casket plates is a long but not very well documented one. Generally made of a soft metal like lead, pewter, silver, brass, copper or tin, coffin plates are decorative adornments attached to the coffin that contain free genealogical information like the name and death date of the deceased. The oldest ones that I have seen date from the 17th century (1600~1699) and were reserved for people of some stature, in other words people who had money. As time went on more people were able to afford the luxury of a Coffin Plate and with the coming of the industrial revolution the cost of the plates went down so much that by the middle of the 19th century almost every family could afford to have one put on the coffin of there loved one.

At the same time that coffin plates were increasing in popularity the practice of removing the plates from the coffin before burial increased. The coffin plates were often removed to be kept as mementos by the loved ones of the deceased. This practice peaked in the late 19th century (1880~1899).

In some more rare cases the plates are removed when the grave is disturbed for some reason like cemetery relocation. This is more common in Europe were space for graves is at a premium.

These plates are an overlooked free genealogical resource. They often contain the Birth Record and Death Record and can be used as a substitute for vital records. In some rare cases the plates can contain even more information like place of birth or the occupation of the deceased.

There has not been a single repository for this valuable free genealogy resource until now. Brian has createed a coffin plate database and a home for the unwanted plates themselves on his site AncestorsAtRest.

© copyright AncestorsAtRest.com published with permission. See the coffin plates on this site.

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