I have just recently discovered a family member of mine has the ashes of three relatives in their possession. Why would someone "collect" dead relatives I wondered? Rather than cast stones, I decided to look into the laws and moral standings on the cremation process.
Well, it seems to be pretty cut and dried. (bad pun, sorry) I find that the cremation itself, is the final disposition according to law. from that point on, the family may do as they wish with the ashes. And, ashes they are not. In fact, they more closely resemble crushed sea shells, and weigh anywhere from 3-9 pounds depending on the size of the person cremated.
From a genealogists point of view, personal possesion of ashes is an undocumentable final resting place. Visitation? Forget it. A bit tacky to say, but true none the less... Death certificates do not state where or to whom the ashes were released. If no burial information can be found, you can best guess that the remains were kept by a family member.
I only have to think that one would want these remains at home to keep a loved one close. And I can completely understand that. But, what happens when the owner of said ashes dies? Are they passed on to the next of kin? Does one keep these ashes to avoid complete closure on the death of a loved one? Or is it simply a case of never letting go?
I will never be able to answer these questions. It is, of course, a very personal matter for each individual family.
I would love to hear from my genealogy family on your experiences you may have had regarding cremation and the possession of the remains. I find this to be a fascinating subject. Any questions you may have concerning the process of cremation can be found at the site shown below.