Friday, March 7, 2008

Funeral Cards

[This post was written for the 5th Edition of the Cabinet of Curiosities.]

I have been working with a large group of funeral cards (also known as holy cards) that I discovered recently in The Box. I've scanned many of them (usually during Scanfest)and then labeled them properly. My next step is to figure out how to incorporate them with my genealogy and family history journey.

I grew up seeing these small (4 inches tall, 2 inches wide) cards printed in color, or black and white, at funeral homes or in the purses of my female relatives. They were distributed by funeral homes, especially those that specialized in services for Roman Catholics.

On one side, there would be a beautiful but sad scene of Jesus's crucifixion or some other Bible episode. On the reverse would be the name of the person who died, their birth date and death date, a prayer or novena, and then the name of the funeral home at the very bottom. They not only served as a way of remembering the person who had passed, but also as advertising for the undertaker.

My collection contains quite a variety of these cards, some with more information than others. When researching my family history, these cards have really helped me identify exact dates of birth and death, where they died, etc. and given me a jump start on the next step in acquiring source information such as obituaries or death certificates.

I have to say that some cards are better than others. I have a few that actually display the cemetery name and even the plot number! The example above includes a small snapshot of the person who died. Some, of course, contain errors which have led me on a wild goose chase.

I remember encountering these cards all over the house growing up: my mother would use them as bookmarks; one aunt would place one or two in the corner of a mirror or picture on the wall; and many of my aunts would pull them out of their purse in church when saying the rosary (since it was difficult to remember the text of all the Mysteries).

Now that I've culled most of the data from these cards, it only seems fitting to either place them in an album (which might ruin the effect of being able to see both sides) or better yet to use them in some digital scrapbooking project.

I'm curious as to how helpful these cards have been to other genea-bloggers and whether or not they exist as part of the funerary customs in other faiths.


Jasia said...

I have a whole slew of these too T. I've scanned them in and reference the scanned versions when necessary leaving the originals untouched as much as possible. They are such great historical pieces. For many relatives, they are all I have to remember them.

Laura said...

I have only two, from the Lutheran Cemetery in Queens. I will scan them and use them in a post sometime, they are wonderful to have. Thanks for sharing some of your collection!

Jewelgirl said...

These are fabulous, thank you
for showing us. Great topic!

Apple said...

I've kept funeral cards all of my adult life. I haven't found any that other family members have kept. The cards are available at every funeral home I've been to. The prayer changes with the family's religion. Mine are in an envelope with all of the graduation and wedding announcements that I've saved over the years. Another scanning project for the future.