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To try and assist resolution of Interpreting where Informant was when 1908 Death on NSW Certificate occurred? I am wondering whether the funeral arrangement records of the undertakers may have survived.

The death certificate of my 2nd great grandfather Robert John Steven Sellers includes:

When and where buried; name of undertaker
20th January 1908 
Presbyterian Cemetery, Rookwood 
P.Kirby & Son, Syd

How can I determine whether P.Kirby & Son are still in business, and if not, whether there is a successor business or archive who may have inherited their records?

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In the USA, when funeral homes were sold, sometimes the records were passed along to the newer company, so tracing the company's history can be a pointer to the records.

Another approach is to contact local historical associations and archives, to see if business records of defunct companies or older records of continuing companies have been donated.

For Sydney, consider contacting:

You could also look for the Cemetery records e.g. on CoraWeb.

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Australia’s equivalent of Companies House May be worth a search http://asic.gov.au/online-services/search-asics-registers/ I don’t know if any statutory business records go to National Archives of Australia

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It seems from a court case reported in the papers in 1904 that the company proprietors of P. Kirby and Son seem to have been Mrs Elizabeth Kirby and her son William Henry Kirby. There is also a description of the company from a newspaper in 1908.

The company went through a re-structure in 1920. Researching the directors named in the article might give a clue about what happened to the company and its records.


It looks like Elizabeth Kirby died in 1934, but that she really didn't get on with her daughter-in-law. As a result, her will - and the court challenge to that will - became news.

Unfortunately, fascinating as all this is, there is no further mention of the company or its records. We do have the address in Elizabeth street, and it is certainly worth checking the city directories in the early 1930s to see if the business changes its name.

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  • W.H.Kirby was one of the witnesses to the burial, the other was A.G.Thomas. Not sure whether any family at the burial would normally be witnesses. – PolyGeo Jan 19 '18 at 2:48
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    Interesting that in 1908 a Kirby funeral could be arranged with a phone call. If that was an uncommon service at that time then it may have been convenient for Robert's immediate family if they were all in Adelaide and Melbourne when he died in Sydney. – PolyGeo Jan 19 '18 at 2:56

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