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Funeral Cards

by Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, CGRS

Uncovering death information about an ancestor can frequently reveal details about his or her life and family that would be difficult to find in any other source. Obituaries frequently include birth, marriage, and death dates and places of the deceased, the maiden name of a wife, children’s names, parents’ names, occupations, places of residence, and highlights of his/her life.

Unfortunately, not every ancestor had an obituary published revealing these details for the benefit of descendants. Instead, some people discover printed memorial or funeral cards in collections of their parents or relatives. While these cards don’t give the range of detail often found in obituaries, they can still be of great value in furthering research.

Funeral cards have a long history–with social customs attached. These cards were to be distributed to family members, friends, and the surrounding community in a timely manner to alert invitees to the date and time of the funeral. Recipients of a funeral card were expected to attend the funeral or risk offending family members. Conversely, those who did not receive an invitation would have been insulted, whether it was intentional or an oversight.

The funeral card for Emma Cartlidge is a typical example of its time period. The card is die cut, although in its current condition some of the external design has been lost. To the left of the text is an embossed grieving figure of a woman with sheaves of wheat behind her. Wheat was a classic Victorian mourning symbol, along with weeping willows, cypress, and religious symbols such as crosses. The text of Emma’s card reads:

In Memory of the Late Emma Cartlidge, of Anchor Terrace, Longton, Who died Feb. 18th, 1873, Aged 27 Years. You are respectfully requested to attend the funeral on Sunday, the 23rd, at 10 o’clock. Interment at St. James’s Church, at half-past 12 o’clock.

Read the rest of this Funeral Cards article.

Funeral Cards

by Brian

Funeral cards are an overlooked genealogical resource. They often contain both the Birth date and Death date and can be used as a substitute for vital records. (Well technically they are not a substitute for vital records as the person giving the info might not have known for sure when the deceased was born or died. But it's a good place to start.) If you want to know more about what things qualify as a true Vital Records there is a good article at the Olive Tree.

Unfortunately these valuable resources are scattered and there has not been a single repository for this valuable resource until now. It is my intention to create a funeral card database and a home for the unwanted cards themselves.

Funeral Cards are now on Ancestors At Rest Website

This Data Base is an ongoing project and I have many more funeral cards to add so check back often.

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