Funeral Prayer Cards

I tend to think of funeral prayer cards as a Catholic thing, though this assumption may be a function of my own, somewhat limited experience: the vast majority of funerals I have attended have been Catholic (at the moment, I can think of only two that were not, though that can’t be accurate, surely?).

In any case, the two examples below are most certainly Catholic, and baroquely Catholic at that.

Funeral card for Francis Joseph McGlade (1908-1961)

Francis Joseph McGlade, son of Arthur Joseph McGlade and Catherine Honora McCarthy, was a younger brother of my maternal grandfather Jack McGlade.

Funeral card for Rose May Derouin (1895-1971)

Poor scan on my part for the funeral card of Rosemay St. Jean: I somehow managed to lop off the bottom half of “Blessed be the name of Mary!” (and yes, I should redo this at some point, but just now I don’t feel like searching through files for the original).

Rose May (or Rosemay) Derouin, daughter of Joseph Derouin and Mathilde Dubeau and wife of Louis St. Jean, was an older sister of my maternal grandmother Delia Lucie Derouin (wife of Jack McGlade, cited above).

Interesting to note that both of the above cards, for Canadians who lived and died and were buried in Canada, were printed in the United States.

Funeral prayer cards are the kind of source that you’re most likely to find in that old shoebox that your mother kept stashed away on the top shelf of the linen cupboard, or, well, you know, some place like that (a box in the basement; or the attic; or etc.). And if you’re lucky enough to find one, you can’t expect to have uncovered a wealth of genealogical information. Indeed, the genealogical detail can be rather scant.

In the case of my grandmother’s sister, for example, we have the married name and death date of Rosemay St. Jean, but no mention of her birth date, nor of her maiden/family name of Derouin. But just about everyone who attended her wake and funeral would have known that she was a Derouin, of course, no need to cite that name on a card, and almost everyone would have had an approximate idea of the year of her birth, as well.

The funeral prayer card will no doubt tell you something about the religio-cultural background and spiritual aspirations of the subject and his or her family, and may also provide a useful fact or two about birth or death.

Remember: Most of the sources upon which you rely for the pursuit of your family’s genealogy were not created with you, the later genealogist, in mind. They were created for other people, and for other purposes, and at other times and places entirely. The challenge (and the excitement) of genealogy is to find and interpret those sources in accordance with the framework of your family’s history.