Here’s a frequent question fielded by funeral directors: Do funeral homes keep fingerprints on file?
After all, law enforcement agencies aren’t the only ones interested in fingerprints. But if not for identity purposes or required by state law, why would anyone want a fingerprint of their loved one?
Are funeral homes required to take fingerprints? If it isn’t required by law to take fingerprints of the deceased, why do it?
To some, these might seem like strange questions to ask, but rest assured, they aren’t.
Let’s talk about fingerprints and why they may or may not be taken — and why anyone would want a copy of a fingerprint anyway.
How to Obtain Fingerprints of a Deceased Loved One
You may want to create a fingerprint pendant or some other memorial keepsake. Or perhaps you want a copy for scrapbooking, your own personal records, or for posterity’s sake.
You can ask the funeral director to obtain a fingerprint for you. It is an easy procedure. The entire process will only take a matter of minutes.
The director will use a fingerprint kit with fingerprint cards or a fingerprint scanner. If they use the ink kit, your loved one’s thumb will be placed on the ink pad to get it coated.
Then the thumb will be placed on the fingerprint card and rolled. This process creates a very good print. If the print isn’t clear, the process can be repeated.
Most funeral homes will also take an electronic print. This is faster and cleaner than using the ink print kit. Once the print has been taken it will be transferred to a database. This database will have a copy of the print forever.
Here are some other ways to find fingerprints of your loved one. Consider checking:
- Your loved one’s old passports or driver’s licenses
- The police department, mainly if they had any criminal history or even just visited on a tour
- Any private or government agency that requires a background check may include fingerprinting
- Immigration and border control
- Security clearance agencies
- Adoption agencies
- Banks and other financial institutions
How Funeral Homes Identify Your Loved One
When the funeral home arrives to take a deceased person into their care, they verify the identity with the hospital staff or family members.
Upon verification, the transfer team will place an ankle or wristband with the name and date of death on the decedent. This identification is always kept with your loved one.
If the decedent is a John Doe, they will end up at the county coroner’s office. It will be up to the coroner’s office to have the body identified.
Often, fingerprints will come into play at this point, as will dog tags, tattoos, dental records, and other forms of ID.
Under normal circumstances, fingerprints are not a part of the identification process for the funeral home.
However, it is becoming a standard practice for funeral homes to include fingerprinting services. Typically there will be a written release that the family signs to give permission.
If the time has passed since the funeral arrangements and you don’t recall if fingerprints were taken, and you’re considering getting custom fingerprint keepsakes, call up the funeral home and ask.
It was a difficult time and it is perfectly understandable if you do not remember signing any forms.
Do Funeral Homes Keep Fingerprints on File?
Yes. If the funeral home takes a copy of the fingerprint, it will be in your loved one’s file and/or saved digitally.
You can call the funeral home months or years down the road and they should be able to produce a copy of it for you.
How Long Do Funeral Homes Keep Fingerprints?
Funeral homes will typically keep records for as long as the company is in operation. And those records may include fingerprints.
In other words, a funeral home will keep records of the fingerprints indefinitely.
Do crematoriums take fingerprints?
Like funeral homes, some crematoriums take fingerprints and keep them on file, some do not.
It’s always wise to ask the crematory staff if fingerprints are taken, just to be safe. If you want a copy, you can ask them to provide it to you.
Do pet crematoriums, cemeteries, or funeral homes take paw prints?
If you would like a paw print from your deceased pet, ask the veterinarian, crematorium, or pet funeral home to take prints.
There is no standardized practice among pet funeral providers. Some facilities and services may do so, but most probably will not unless it is part of a product they offer at an additional charge.
Most of the time you will have to ask for your pet’s paw print or nose print.
Do autopsy reports have fingerprints?
Fingerprints may be taken at the time of autopsy if the police are performing an investigation. Autopsies vary from case to case, but some may involve taking fingerprints.
You may be able to obtain copies of the original prints from these reports. You’ll need to contact and get the medical examiner’s office permission.
Do death certificates have fingerprints?
No, certified copies of a death certificate do not have fingerprints on them.
The death certificate contains some personal information (birth date, death date, social security number, and much more) and the cause of death.
How long after death can you take fingerprints?
You can have a fingerprint taken right up until the funeral service is over and the casket is closed or until the cremation process takes place.
After either of these events is completed, then it is too late.
What Can You Do with a Loved One’s Fingerprints?
There are so many wonderful options of memorials or mementos that can be created with a loved one’s fingerprints.
Below is a short list of memorial keepsakes and cremation jewelry that can be made with a fingerprint.
Fingerprint Jewelry. Pendants, charms, rings, bracelets, keychains, and more can be decorated with a loved one’s fingerprint.
You can even get cremation jewelry that holds a small amount of cremated remains.
Memory Glass Touchstone Keepsakes. Touchstones are unique, small glass memorials that fit perfectly in the palm of your hand.
You can have your loved one’s fingerprint embedded on the stone along with a small amount of cremated remains (if you would like).
These memorials are also referred to as rubbing stones, or memory stones, even though they are made from glass.
Tattoo. Have your loved one’s fingerprint tattooed onto yourself.
Memory Book. Many families like to include their loved one’s prints in a scrapbook or memory book.
It’s not a law that funeral homes or crematoriums take fingerprints. If you want to have them taken, make sure to have your wishes known.
The funeral home is sure to honor your desire to obtain a fingerprint, so be sure to speak to them directly for additional information.
Karen Roldan has been in the funeral industry since 2006, and a licensed funeral director and embalmer since 2008. She is currently licensed in the states of Indiana and Pennsylvania.
She attended Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Wheeling, IL, and graduated with an associate degree in Mortuary Science.
Karen enjoys wring about the funeral industry because her passion is helping families in their deepest time of need. She feels being a funeral director is a calling and she is proud to fulfill this role.
Karen is a wife and the mother of four sons. She, her husband and their youngest son call Pennsylvania home.