April 20, 2009
SAINT JOHN (CNB) - More than 70 years of funeral home records are now available online at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick website.
The records of Brenan's Funeral Home of Saint John have been preserved and transformed into a searchable database that may be used by amateur and professional researchers, students, genealogists and other members of the public interested in history. The website generates more than 1.5 million visitors, from more than 80 countries, each month.
"Not only will this new feature be a helpful research tool, it provides a unique link to the history of Irish immigrants in Saint John in the mid-19th and 20th centuries," said Supply and Services Minister Ed Doherty, who is also minister responsible for the provincial archives of New Brunswick.
Brenan's is one of the oldest funeral homes operating in New Brunswick. Established by Nathaniel W. Brenan in 1872, the firm became synonymous with the funeral service business in Saint John, and eventually grew to incorporate other established funeral homes in the province.
Brenan was one of the first professional embalmers in the Maritimes. His son, N. Louis Brenan, was among the first Maritimers to graduate from the Reounard School of Embalming in Boston. He would later be called to assist with services for victims of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.
Four generations of Brenans entered the funeral profession and operated the firm for almost 100 years before another Saint John family, the MacMackins, took over in 1970. The MacMackins continue to operate the business today.
The N.W. Brenan Funeral Home Records (MC793) cover the period of 1901-71. From 1904-71, the records consist of account books in which someone from the funeral home entered the name of the deceased, the date of death, the goods and services provided, the charges for those goods and services, the name of the person who ordered the goods and services, and 4" x 6" cards on which the funeral director entered information about the deceased. Only account book entries for 1901 and 1902 are available.
In accordance with the Protection of Personal Information Act, a 50-year restriction applies to these records. As of 2009, only records from 1959 or earlier are available. On Jan. 1 each year, an additional year in the series will be made available online.
"We are honoured to present this valuable information on our website, "said provincial archivist Marion Beyea. "It is a unique vital statistics project, and is the first phase of a larger initiative that will provide a deeper understanding of the presence of Irish immigrants in New Brunswick, since many of their deaths are recorded in the Brenan records."
Financial assistance was provided by the Archival Community Digitization Program, under the Canadian Culture Online Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Marion Beyea, Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, 506-444-4021; Chrystiane Mallaley, Department of Supply and Services, 506-457-7903.