Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In Memoriam Cards: Remembering those who have gone before us

'In Memoriam' cards, memorial cards, memory cards, mortuary cards: All of these names have been used as descriptors for the small cards produced within a few days, or even a few weeks, after the death of a loved one. They are usually given to members of the family and to friends of the departed. These cards have been a part of Irish mourning practice for well over one hundred years.

When I was a child, my mother's prayer missal was filled with these little cards, and she would offer prayers in memory of the family member named on the card. The cards sometimes include an image of the loved one, although over time some of the photographs have gone missing on the ones my mother had. On the front of the card, and often on the back as well, images of religious figures may be featured.

All of the cards include invocations for prayers on behalf of the deceased. Some mention indulgences and quarantines, in numbers ranging from 100 to 300 days, and in some cases, a period of years. A quarantine is the term used to describe an indulgence period of forty days. These indulgences and quarantines are exhortations to God, which the holder of the card must make, for the forgiveness of sins the loved one may have committed on earth. Committed prayer is intended to ensure the release of his/her soul from Purgatory. The holder of the card is to pray for the deceased each day for the prescribed number of days/years in order to ensure eternal rest for the loved one.

In terms of family history and genealogy, the cards are interesting because they offer confirmation of the date of death, the age of the individual, and may include other details such as their last known address.

In Memoriam Card for my paternal great-grandmother, Mary Dunne Magee.
Outside cover of Mary Dunne Magee's card.

In Memoriam Card, single piece, for my paternal grandmother Anne Magee Geraghty.
Flip side of card for Anne Magee Geraghty.

In Memoriam Card for Alice Fitzpatrick Ward, sister to my maternal great-grandfather.
Alice is the woman who helped my grandfather raise my mother and her siblings after the death of their mother.
Outside cover of Alice Fitzpatrick Ward's card.

In Memoriam Card for Teresa Fitzpatrick, again a single piece. Teresa was the sister of Alice (above)
and of my maternal great-grandfather Thomas Fitzpatrick.
Flip side of Teresa Fitzpatrick's card.

Copyright©irisheyesjg2012.
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7 comments:

  1. The In Memoriam cards can be gold for family historians, can't they? I acquired a lot from a distant cousin, previously unknown, including ones for my 2xgreat grandparents. Treasures! I don't recall the use of "Quarantine" but can't dredge up what term we used instead.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Pauleen,

      Thanks for your comments. I concur with you, they are gold. The 1929 card for my great-grandfather's sister has the first instance of the use of 'quarantine' that I had ever seen. I wonder why they didn't just say 280 days. Maybe it was to retain a bit of mystery.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  2. We have a few of these in our family, too. Thanks for clearing up one little mystery for me - the prayer invocations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Maggie,

      Thanks for your comments. Glad I could help a little.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

      Delete
  3. I don't believe I have seen any memorial cards this old, they are fascinating! Man's family we have a few cards, much more recent. I don't believe in my family we have any. Yours are truly wonderful family artifacts.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Carol,

      Thanks for your comments. I find the cards fascinating as well; it was all such serious business. With these particular cards the oldest one is actually is the best condition. It's hard to believe it's from 1929. I feel very fortunate to have them.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  4. Got quite a few of those at home myself.

    ReplyDelete

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