To flesh out the concepts introduced in Building a Case, we'll first use this scanned image from my maternal grandmother's funeral card.
Funeral cards are often the first family-held document encountered by beginning genealogists. From this we can begin to flesh out essential elements of an ancestor's life. More importantly, this funeral card suggests additional documents that mention, in this case, my grandmother.
FROM THIS DOCUMENT, WHAT CAN BE TYPED IN MY GENEALOGY PROGRAM?
HER NAME? Well, yes, partially. In our genealogy management programs, women are known by their maiden names. From this funeral card, do we know this woman was even married, had children, etc? No we don't. But her maiden name is not indicated on the funeral card. So from this document, we type is "Frances I" (without quote marks) in the first name field in our genealogy management program, and then McDonnell in the surname (or last name) field. At this point, this is all we know about France's name. Unfortunately, if McDonnell isn't her maiden name, we would be looking for her father by the name of McDonnell.
The notation of "Frances I. McDonnell" will also appear in the word-for-word transcription of the funeral card with is an available field when attaching the scanned image of the funeral card my grandmother in my genealogy program.
BUT I TOLD YOU MORE ABOUT HER NAME, DIDN'T I?
From "family tradition" I know my mom's mom as Frances Irene (Goering) Froman McDonnell.
Goering is my grandmother's maiden name, indicated in paragraph and photo labeling format by the parentheses. However, when we type names into our genealogy programs, we don't use them.
Froman is my grandmother's first married name, which will be evident when we type information about her marriage into my genealogy management program.
McDonnell is my grandmother's second married name.
But from the funeral card itself, we know nothing more than Frances I. McDonnell.
We can type the birth date of 22 Aug 1908. We have no listed locality, so that is as far as we can go. Note that genealogy programs default to the DD MON YEAR date format, rather than August 22, 1908.
We use all four digits for the year because
could be 2009, 1909, 1809, etc. Believe me, this will make a difference when you find repeating family names on your family tree. Birth dates are one of the distinguishing items.
We separate the numerals for the day from those of the year otherwise the handwritten
May 18 08
could be construed to be May 1808.
We also avoid the use of the slashes, because this can be problematic with other dates such as:
is it 5 Feb 1900
2 May 1900?
In the US we think of it as 5 Feb, but in Europe, the use of slashes would have researchers believe the date is 2 May.
We can type in the death date 12 Jan 1974. Clearly we have a death date, but the place is up for grabs. Why? Because the death place is not stated. No jumping to conclusions that the death place is in Renton, Washington. For all we know, my grandmother could have died while away on vacation, and was transported home for the funeral service and subsequent cremation.
Funeral cards seem like official documents, but they aren't. They are simply a program for the funeral itself, listing a few short bits of info on the deceased. Even if the funeral card was created by the church, it is not the same as an official parish book entry of burial, which would be considered more reliable. Funeral cards are not official government documents and are not as reliable for the death date as a death certificate signed by the attending physician.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE?
The following items come to mind:
- Obituary (newspaper online or on micofilm)
- Family bible records
- Social Security Death Index (online)
- Census records
Stay tuned for additional installments on this research process.Happy family tree climbing!
Your friend in genealogy.