Monday 2 January 2012

"In Memoriam" - Victorian and Early 20th Century In Memoriam Cards

Mary Duncan (née Peat) of Whitehill
by  Stonehouse, Scotland.
Died 21st Dec 1874, aged 59 years.

Queen Victoria obsessively plunged herself and her country into mourning after the death of her beloved Prince Albert in 1861. From this point the etiquette and conventions of mourning increased exponentially, being adhered to with strict social formality. In Memoriam cards very aptly illustrate one aspect of the Victorian 'cult' of mourning.

Alex Fleming of Knowetop, Hamilton, Scotland.
Died 13th Nov 1875.

In Memoriam cards were used to advise of the death of a loved one or to acknowledge the expressions of sympathy of relatives and friends while at the same creating a tangible and lasting reminder of the deceased. Such cards, as can be seen here, were usually sombre and illustrated with symbolism expressing death along with relevant uplifting biblical verses or sentimental verses of loving remembrance. "Mourning" black is a predominant colour although often, by the turn of the century, attractively lined with gold and / or delicate filigree edging. Otherwise black or silver borders and black bordered envelopes were the normal custom. Earlier cards, as illustrated here, include images such as tombstones covered in drapery or angels, all skilfully printed in embossed relief.

Nelly Baxter, of Blackwood Saw Mills [Hallhill], Lesmahagow, Scotland,
Died 19th September 1876. 

Cards and notices of death could obviously be printed with some considerable speed - apparently even the same day - as they were also used to advise the recipient of the date and place of the funeral or request their attendance at the place of interment. One would have had to be careful to not forget a name and thus cause great offence. This could equally apply to a recipient who did not attend an interment without good reason.

Gavin Watson of Burnhead Farm,
 Dalserf, Scotland.
Died 14th Feb 1879, aged 66 years.

The use of In Memoriam cards seems to be a social custom that has now more or less fallen out of favour. The primary reason is probably the now excessive cost of having cards custom printed and the ease, where desired, to easily and inexpensively print letters of acknowledgement using home computers and printers.

Robert Mossen Frame of Charlestone,
 Lanarkshire, Scotland.
Died 24th Feb 1879 aged 3 months & 11 days

This page includes illustrative examples from my personal collection which range in date order from 1874 to 1918 during "The Great War". Included are verses or references printed inside the cards or from another source relevant to the deceased, each quote taken from or referring to the card above it. A later gallery will look at further examples illustrating the conventions of Victorian to early 20th century era mourning.

Thomas Watson, of Muirhead Farm, Dalserf, Scotland.
Died 16th Oct 1881 aged 70 years.

A printed letter inviting the recipient to attend the
interment of Thomas Watson in Dalserf Churchyard
 on the 19th October 1881 at 12 noon. 

Allan Struthers of Broomfield, Lanarkshire, Scotland.
Died 8th Dec 1884, in his 62nd year. 

"Not lost, but gone before;
The Pilgrim is at rest,
His warfare now is o'er -
He sits a welcome guest,
Where prophets and apostles sing
The triumphs of their saviour King.

Not lost, but gone before;
The Wanderer is home;
He dwells upon that shore
Where sorrow cannot come,
Yet still remembers kindred dear,
And loved ones who are lingering here."

Margaret Lohoar (née Thomson) of Lochhead, Dalserf, Scotland.
Died 21st Aug 1892, aged 69 years.

"We see no more her beauteous face,
Her smile so sweet and dear;
An angel's missing from the place
Since she's no longer here.

We called her ours, and thought her so,
Till, from beyond the sky,
The Master beckoned her to go
To join the choir on high." 

Marion Craig of East Watston, Stonehouse, Scotland.
Died 8th March 1893, aged 62 years

"A Few more years shall roll,
A few more seasons come,
And we shall be with those at rest.
Asleep within the tomb."

Janet Templeton of Dalpatrick, Dalserf, Scotland.
Died 18th May 1896


The favour of your company here on Saturday, 23rd May, at One o-clock., to attend the Funeral of my Sister, Janet Templeton, to the place of Interment in Dalserf Churchyard, will much oblige.

Your obedient servant,

Daniel Templeton"

Thomas Watson of Meadow Bank, Heddon Bush, Southland, New Zealand.
Died 27th Feb 1899, aged 47 years.

"Tis hard to break the tender cord
When love has bound the heart;
'Tis hard, so hard to speak the words;
We for a time must part.

Dearest loved one, we have laid thee
In the peaceful grave's embrace,
But thy memory will be cherished,
Till we see thy heavenly face."

Janet Hamilton, née Jack of Crumhaugh, Stonehouse, Scotland.
Died 30th October 1900, aged 86 years.

Janet Hamilton, née Jack of Crumhaugh, Stonehouse, Scotland.
Died 30th October 1900, aged 86 years.

"My flesh and my heart faileth :
but God is the strength of my heart,
and my portion for ever." 
Psalm 1xxiii, 26

Christina Ballantine (née Wiseman) late of Greenburn, Stonehouse, Scotland.
Died 13th April 1902, aged 92 years.

"Her last words were - 

'Lord do Thou take me to Thyself that I may be with Thee and behold Thy Glory.' "

Mary Fleming (née Lambie) of Wellburn, Lesmahagow, Scotland.
Died 13th June 1902, in her 60th year.

"Bitter the cup, the stroke severe,
To part with her we loved so dear;
Through great our loss, we'll murmur not,
But breath the prayer divinely taught -
'Thy will be done' "

Catherine Wilson, née Thomson, of Bank House, Stonehouse, Scotland.
Died 16th June 1902, aged 55 years.

"O, for a closer walk with God !
A calm and heavenly frame ;
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb !"

Thomas Dougall of Victoria Australia.
Died 28th May 1907, aged 84 years.

"A precious one from us is gone,
A voice we loved is stilled -
A place is vacant in our home,
Which never can be filled.

God in His wisdom has recalled
The boon His love had given,
And though the body slumbers here,
The soul is safe in Heaven."

James Cook of Westlinbank, Strathaven, Scotland.
Died 26th Jan 1910, aged 27 years

"...His father was wired for, on the Monday and given a bed beside Jamie’s in the infirmary and he stayed day and night with him till he died on Wed. Jamie was quite conscious all the time until about 2 hours before he died, but knew all along that there was no hope of his recovery. He had very sore trouble but passed away peacefully at the end...... Monday 31st Jan. was the funeral day and though he had few relatives it was the biggest funeral of the kind ever our folks had seen...."

Margaret Frame of Watchknowe, Crossford, Scotland.
Died 4th January 1913, aged 68 years.

"We loved what God has taken,
We loved, but could not keep;
We strove but death was stronger,
So we must cease to weep." 

Rifleman Edwin Shaw, 23rd New Zealand Reinforcements.
Died of wounds in France, 12th October 1917, aged 42 years.

Nationality:New Zealand
Regiment/Service:Canterbury Regiment, N.Z.E.F.
Unit Text:1st Bn.
Date of Death:12/10/1917
Service No:41114
Additional information:Son of Mr. and Mrs. F. Shaw, of Pomana St., Gore, New Zealand.
Casualty Type:Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference:VII. D. 5.
Cemetery:Passchendaele New British Cemetery, Belgium

Private James Clark, 18th New Zealand Reinforcements.
Died in action at Meteren [gassed], 16th April 1918,
aged 23 years

Nationality:New Zealand
Regiment/Service:Otago Regiment, N.Z.E.F.
Unit Text:8th Coy. 3rd Bn.
Date of Death:16/04/1918
Service No:29746
Additional information:Son of David Fraser Clark and Sophia Clark, of Invercargill, New Zealand.
Casualty Type:Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference:II. M. 321.
Cemetery:Meteren Military Cemetery, France

Black bordered envelope used to post In Memoriam cards for
deceased New Zealand military personnel during World War One.

All images are from my own collection of In Memoriam cards.

I am currently preparing another blog of pre 1900 In Memorian Cards (May 2012)


  1. Re the In Memoriam card for Janet Jack: I believe she is an ancestor of mine. You also have one for her son Daniel Hamilton including his photo. I'm wondering where you got these from and if there is other material you have about my family. Maurice Crichton, York

    1. Hi, Interesting! I am related to Janet Jack and her husband Daniel Hamilton (born 1804) through Daniel's sister Jean Hamilton (born 1792) who married my forebear John Watson of Burnhead Farm, Parish of Dalserf, Lanarkshire. Email me at em66nz [at] and I can send you that part of my family tree. I have got the Hamilton's of Crumhaugh back to about 1669. Regards, Donald, Dunedin, New Zealand

    2. That's amazing Donald. I will be in touch! Maurice