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Who you gonna call?

It's not an uncommon problem. Someone is found dead, but nobody knows anything about them. They possibly lived alone and had few social contacts. Who is going to arrange the funeral? Who is going to deal with the disposal of their property? This is where the local authority's Funeral Officer steps in.

The Funeral Officer will arrange for the removal of the body and try to identify surviving family or close friends who might wish to (or at least be prepared to) organise a funeral for the deceased. Their investigations might typically involve searches through personal papers, if such can be found, enquiries of neighbours (did they have any visitors, speak of family etc.?) or to local clubs or churches to which they might have belonged. If they are unable to identify any suitable parties to take responsibility, they will arrange a basic funeral, which will be paid for by the local authority.

I had not heard of the Funeral Officer until a neighbour asked me if i could find out what had become of one of their family who was believed to have died unknown in London. Enquiries of the local council where the death had been registered put me in contact with the Funeral Officer who proved very helpful and not only filled me in on the circumstances of the death, but also pointed me in the direction of the crematorium where the funeral had taken place, not one I would have expected from the place where the death was registered.

So, if you find yourself researching someone who you find had died unrecognised, remember the Funeral Officer.

You can learn a lot about the Funeral Officer's work by reading the book "Ashes to Admin" by Evie King (Mirror Books, 2023). Evie (not the author's real name) describes the job by recounting a dozen of her cases. What could be a very sad read is lifted by Evie's determination to discover something of the real person whose case she is investigating. Not every case has a satisfactory ending, but for a number a link is established back to a long-estranged family. Perhaps not every Funeral Officer would pursue every case as doggedly as Evie, but they perform a vital function in a society where family ties have become much looser than in the past.

Ashfield Distrrict Council has published a very comprehensive guide to the subject. CLICK TO READ.


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