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Why Do Funeral Homes Take Fingerprints of the Deceased?

By Amanda Dvorak

November 4, 2022


While it’s not a universal practice amongst all funeral homes, many take fingerprints of the deceased before a funeral service.

But why do funeral homes take fingerprints of the deceased? Funeral homes take fingerprints of the deceased to allow surviving family members to create keepsakes or other types of memorials. For example, a surviving spouse may wish to have a pendant made with an engraving of their deceased partner’s fingerprint.

Losing a family member is hard, but one way funeral homes try to make it easier is to provide you with the fingerprints of your deceased relative. Being able to wear or carry an item with a deceased loved one’s fingerprints can help you feel like they’re always with you in spirit.

In this article, I will discuss:

  • Why funeral homes take fingerprints of the deceased

  • Whether or not funeral homes are legally required to take fingerprints of the deceased

  • How long funeral homes keep fingerprints on file

  • Other ways to get copies of a deceased relative’s fingerprints

Fingerprinting At Funeral Homes: An Overview

The main reason funeral homes take fingerprints of the deceased is for surviving family members to have access to them so they can create keepsakes or memorials with them.

For example, someone may wish to create a piece of keepsake jewelry, a keychain, or an ornament with the deceased person’s fingerprints engraved on it. This is a tangible and unique way for that person to remember a loved one who is no longer with them.

Surviving relatives may also want to create scrapbooks or frame things from the deceased relative to serve as a memorial. A copy of the deceased’s fingerprints or a token with the fingerprints engraved on it can be an excellent addition to a memorial.

Are Funeral Homes Required To Take Fingerprints of the Deceased?

No laws require funeral homes to take fingerprints of the deceased. Similarly, no laws require funeral homes to get your permission before taking your deceased relative's fingerprints.

However, some grieving family members may consider this a violation of trust and privacy. They may also believe it's in poor taste for the funeral home to capitalize on their grief by selling expensive keepsake jewelry.

Most funeral homes don’t have ill intentions when they take the deceased's fingerprints. But to protect themselves and show respect for the grieving families, more and more funeral homes now request written permission before taking fingerprints of a deceased individual.

Don’t be afraid to ask if you’re unsure whether the funeral home handling your deceased relative’s funeral will take their fingerprints. Whether you want to protect your deceased loved one’s sensitive information or would like a copy of the fingerprints to create a keepsake, you deserve to know how the funeral home will handle your deceased relative’s fingerprints.

If you do want a copy of your deceased relative’s fingerprints, ensure you request them before the funeral service. Once the casket is sealed, opening it is not easy and is usually only done in extreme situations. Getting accurate fingerprints also becomes more difficult once a body starts decomposing.

How Long Do Funeral Homes Keep Fingerprints On File?

Funeral homes that take deceased individuals’ fingerprints usually keep the prints on file indefinitely. There is little cost involved for them to do so, and they generally don’t have issues keeping the fingerprints on file for a long time.

That said, every funeral home is different and may have limits on how long they keep fingerprints on file. It’s hard to make decisions when you’re in grief, but if a funeral director asks if you want them to take your deceased relative’s fingerprints, think about how you may feel in the future.

Looking at the fingerprints of someone who’s no longer with you immediately after their death may not be a pleasant experience. 

However, you may be grateful that you have them in the future and can create a keepsake with them. It also ensures you don’t have to risk the funeral home no longer having them on file if you ask for them months or years later.

Other Ways To Get Copies of a Deceased Relative’s Fingerprints

There are several ways you can get copies of your deceased loved one’s fingerprints if the funeral home did not take them or no longer has them on file.

1. Forms of Identification

Birth certificates, passports, and driver's licenses are all excellent starting points when trying to track down a deceased relative’s fingerprints.

However, depending on factors like where and when your relative was born, what country their passport was issued in, and what state they live in, these forms of ID may not have their fingerprints.

Also, many hospitals take a newborn baby’s footprint rather than a fingerprint since the footprint is more fully developed at birth. It’s common for hospitals to take the parents’ fingerprints and put them next to the baby’s footprints on a birth certificate, however. 

So while your deceased relative’s birth certificate may not have their fingerprints, their children’s birth certificates may. If you’re a sibling of the deceased, for example, and want a copy of their fingerprints, you can ask your nieces or nephews to check their birth certificates.

2. Military Records

Military branches are required to take the fingerprints of every individual who serves. If your relative was a veteran, their military papers may contain their fingerprints.

You can also check with the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), which keeps files of all active and retired military members. It’s generally free to request access to a family member’s military records. You can either submit a request online or by mail.

3. Government Records

The NPRC also keeps all government employees’ fingerprints on file. You can request the fingerprints of your deceased relative from the NPRC if they ever worked for a government agency or department.

4. Previous Places of Employment

Like government employees, individuals in professions like teaching and healthcare must provide fingerprints. If your deceased relative worked in one of these fields, you can check with their old employers to see if they have their fingerprints on file.

5. Fingerprint Cards

Many people have fingerprint cards, so they can keep their fingerprints handy for situations requiring physical copies of them.

If you know your deceased relative had to submit their fingerprints for any reason (such as applying for a job or a license to own a firearm), they may have had a fingerprint card created and stored it with their other important documents.

6. Police Records

If your deceased relative ever had a run-in with the law, their fingerprints may be on file with the jurisdiction where they were detained. You can call the police station and ask if they will provide you with a copy of the fingerprints.

Keep Your Relatives’ Fingerprints Secure With Trustworthy

Protecting documents with sensitive information, including your fingerprints, is crucial. Trustworthy is a secure digital storage platform that can help ensure this sensitive information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. It’s also a great way to keep your files organized and in one place.

You can even use Trustworthy’s secure collaboration tools to provide access to specific individuals. This way, your family members can easily locate important documents if they need them after you pass away.

See if Trustworthy is right for you with a free 2-week trial.

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