Funeral Customs of Appalachia


Rites of passage help a person pass from one stage of life to another. One of these rites is the funeral which symbolizes the passing from life to death. This pathfinder provides information about funeral rites and ceremonies, along with superstitions related to funerals and death in Appalachia. Although information about Native American and African American funeral practices is located in the various encyclopedias cited in the pathfinder, the information is generally about white Protestant funerary customs.

Introductory Text: 

Crissman, James K. “Death Lore” in Encyclopedia of Appalachia . Edited by Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006: 855-57. F106.E53 (Appalachian Collection)

Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Study of American Folklore: An Introduction. 4th ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1998: 382, 387, 417. GR105.B7 (Appalachian Collection)

Thursby, Jacqueline and Simon J. Bronner. “Death and Funerals” in Bronner, Simon J., ed. Encyclopedia of American Folklife. Vol. 1. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2006: 279-285. GR105.E53 (Appalachian Collection)

Wilson, Charles Reagan. “Funerals,” in Encyclopedia of Southern Culture edited by Charles Reagan Wilson and William Ferris. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989: 478-479. F209.E53 (Appalachian Collection oversized)

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 

Highly Relevant:

  • Funeral rites and ceremonies -- Appalachian Region
  • Funeral rites and ceremonies -- Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Funeral rites and ceremonies -- Kentucky
  • Funeral rites and ceremonies -- North Carolina
  • Funeral rites and ceremonies -- Tennessee, East
  • Funeral rites and ceremonies -- United States -- Kentucky

Also Relevant:

  • Funeral customs and rites -- Appalachians People
  • Funeral rites and ceremonies -- United States

More General:

  • Appalachian Region -- social life and customs
  • Death -- religious aspects


  • Mountain people -- Kentucky
  • Mountain people -- North Carolina
  • Mountain people -- Southern States -- social life and customs
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Folklore
  • Religion - Appalachia
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 

Highly Relevant:

  • GR110.K4 M66
  • GR110.N8 D8
  • GT3206.S55
  • GT3207.5.C75
  • GT3210.N8 V36

More General:

  • GN473.G513 (main)
  • GT3203.C63
  • GT3203.M5 (main)
  • GT3203.P37 (main)
  • GT3203.T48 (main)
  • GT3250.P8
  • HD9999.U53.U554 (main)


  • BR525.L25 (main)
  • E169.1.F539
  • F210.C2
  • F210.W43
  • F217.A65 K46
  • F291.2.F6
  • HC107.K4 C3

Coffin, Margaret M. Death in Early America: The History and Folklore of Customs and Superstitions of Early Medicine, Funerals, Burials, and Mourning . Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers, 1976. GT3203. C63 (Appalachian Collection)

Crissman, James K. Death and Dying in Central Appalachia: Changing Attitudes and Practices. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994. GT3206.5.C75 (Appalachian Collection)

Mitford, Jessica. The American Way of Death. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963. GT3203.M5 (ASU main stacks)

Montell, William Lynwood. Ghosts along the Cumberland: Deathlore in the Kentucky Foothills. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1975. GR110.K4 M66 (Appalachian Collection)

Thursby, Jacqueline S. Funeral Festivals in America: Rituals for the Living. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2006. GT3203.T48 (ASU main stacks)

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Abramson, Rudy and Jean Haskell, eds. Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006. F106.E53 (Appalachian Collection)

Bronner, Simon J., ed. Encyclopedia of American Folklife. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2006. GR105.E53 (Appalachian Collection)

Bryant, Clifton D., ed. Handbook of Death & Dying: Volume Two: The Response to Death. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 2003. HQ1073.H36 (ASU reference)

Cassell, Dana K. et. al., eds. The Encyclopedia of Death and Dying. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2005. HQ1073.C374 (ASU reference)

Green, Thomas A., ed. Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art. Vol. 2. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 1997. GR35.F63 (ASU reference)

Tallman, Marjorie. Dictionary of American Folklore. New York: Philosophical Library, 1960. GR105.T3 (Appalachian Collection)

Wilson, Charles Reagan and William Ferris, eds. Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989: 478-479. F209.E53 (Appalachian Collection oversized)


Appalachian Bibliography . Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Library, 1972. Z1251.A7 A6 1972 (Appalachian Collection)

*look under “folk customs” in the subject index

Appalachian Bibliography . Morgantown, WV: West Virginia University Library, 1980. Z1251.A7 A6 1980 (Appalachian Collection)

*look under “funeral rites and customs,” “funeral rites and customs - Kentucky” in the subject index

Fulton, Robert and Jerry Carlson, et. al. Death, Grief, and Bereavement: A Bibliography, 1845-1975 . New York: Arno Press, 1977. Z5725.F855 (ASU main stacks)

*look under “Anthropology - mourning customs,” “Burial,” “Funerals,” “Mourning” in the subject index

Harrah, Barbara K. and David F. Funeral Service: A Bibliography of Literature on its Past, Present, and Future, The Various Means of Disposition, and Memorialization . Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1976. Z5994.H3 (ASU main stacks)

*look under “Analysis of the contemporary American Funeral,” “Funeral, meaning of,” “Funeral customs,” “Funeral service” in the subject index

Kustcher, Austin H., Jr., and Austin H. Kutscher. A Bibliography of Books on Death, Bereavement, Loss and Grief 1935-1968 . New York: Health Sciences Publishing Corp., 1969. Z5725.K88 (ASU main stacks)

*look under “burial,” “funeral rites and ceremonies,” “mourning customs” in the subject index

Miller, Albert Jay and Michael James Acri. Death: A Bibliographical Guide . Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1977. Z5725.M54 (ASU main stacks)

*look under “burial customs,” “burial rites,” “funeral customs,” “funerals, American,” “historical views of death,” “mourning rites and customs” in the subject index

Abstracts and Indices: 

ATLA Religion: provides materials from three print indexes on subjects within religious and theological literature, including anthropology, history, sociology, etc. Dates from 1949 to present and is updated bi-annually.

America History and Life: lists citations and abstracts to journals, book reviews, and dissertations on United States and Canadian history and culture. Updated monthly, covers materials published from 1964 to present.

MLA: covers subjects such as folklore and literature. Indexes books, journals, serials, bibliographies, dissertations, and essays from 1963 to present. Updated ten times per year.

Sociological Abstracts: provides indices from 1963 and abstracts from 1974 to present. Information covers all subjects related to sociology found in journals, serials, books, and dissertations. Updated six times per year.

Social Sciences Citation Index: dates from 1956 to present.


Appalachian Heritage . Pippa Passes, KY: Alice Lloyd College. Vol. 1-, 1973- . Quarterly. F106.A137 A6 (Appalachian Collection)

Mountain Life and Work. Berea, KY: Berea College. Vols. 1-64, 1925-1988. Quarterly. GR103.M5 (Appalachian Collection)

Mountain Memories: An Occasional Newsletter Published by the Appalachian Oral History Project at Alice Lloyd College. Pippa Passes, KY: The Project, Alice Lloyd College. Vol. 1-, 1971- . Irregular 1971-1980, Annual 1981- . F106.M55 (Appalachian Collection)

Now and Then. Johnson City, TN: Center for Appalachian Studies and Services. Vol. 1- , 1984-. Three times a year. F217.A65 N68 (Appalachian Collection)

Sherrod, Stanley Marc. Asleep in Jesus: Death Rituals in Southern Appalachia: A Thesis. Boone: Appalachian State University, 1990. GT3206.S55 (Appalachian Collection)

Stansberry, Donna W. Burial Practices in Southern Appalachia: A Thesis. Johnson City: East Tennessee State University, 2004. available online at:

VanHoy, Dwight David. The Evolution of Funeral Practices in Ashe and Grayson Counties: A Thesis . Boone: Appalachian State University, 1996. GT3210.N8 V36 (Appalachian Collection)

Audio and Video Sources: 

Carson, Margaret Estep. Margaret Estep Carson Audiocassettes. 1987. Appalachian Collection Archives. Collection 201, cassette numbers 111, 124, 211.

Hamilton, Emmet, Shannon Collins, and Sharon Saylor. A Dying Tradition by Appalachian Media Institute. Whitesburg, KY: Appalshop, 1994. VC410 (Appalachian Collection)

Other Sources: 

Human Area Relations Files

• 763 - Dying

• 764 - Funeral

• 765 - Mourning

• 766 - Deviant Mortuary Practices

Compiled by: 

Compiler: Amanda Hedrick, 2 November 2006