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With a long tradition both in the United States and Europe dating back to the 1800's, funeral cards (also sometimes called mass, mourning or remembrance cards) are an excellent source of information for genealogists. While not a traditional "vital record", they often provide great clues like death and birth dates, name of the cemetery where the deceased was interred, name of the funeral home, and sometimes even a photo of the ancestor.
In her article, Funeral Cards, Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens explained that, "funeral 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."
At a recent paper show, we stumbled across a bunch of funeral cards in a box labelled "all items ten cents each." It's hard to imagine that a potentially critical piece of your genealogical puzzle could be reduced to just ten cents, so we bought all 17 of them, scanned each one, and posted them online with the hopes of reconnecting the information with their descendants.
Since that "ten cent encounter", we've been stumbling across funeral cards all over the place, and decided to compile an index and help researchers locate these gems on web sites across the Internet. Much to our surprise, in just one weekend we discovered 4,312 funeral cards listed online among hundreds of different sites. Many sites just had one or two cards listed. This database index now includes over 23,900 listings.
Effective March 2010, all user contributed document images and transcriptions will be posted to our Family History Wiki upon receipt, and then indexed by the appropriate database project. You are welcome to email us scanned images and/or mail the original documents. Please refer to "Contributing to the Family History Wiki" for instructions.
Looking for funeral cards in the United Kingdom? We've setup a page listing the in memoriam cards from the United Kingdom that are in the collection.
The definition of ephemera is, "something short lived or transitory" especially all types of paper documents both printed or handwritten produced for a specific purpose and normally intended for disposal.
We plan to index all sorts of items into this new database, including family bible pages, marriage announcements, driver's licenses, military items (e.g. war ration books), and even old business cards. Check out some of the ephemera items with family history we've found (and purchased) at recent shows.
The following web sites have articles and offer services for handling the planning of funeral arrangements: The Funeral Directory.com, Dealing with Death, Memorial Print, Funeral Arrangements (AARP), Tribute For You, Remembrance Cards, Memorial Master, My Religious Items, UK Funeral Guide, If I Should Die (also UK).