For a long time mortuary cards (aka memorial cards, remembrance cards) have been in use in Ireland (and elsewhere, of course) as a means of letting people know that someone has died. For those who are not familiar with them, they are little folded cards about 2 x 2.5 inches in size with the name of the dead person, often a photo, date of death and age, sometimes the date of birth, and place of residence. In houses in rural Ireland they are often to be found lying at the bottom of long-forgotten drawers, on mantlepieces, in missals and other books (presumably used as bookmarks), in kitchen jars of knicknacks, etc. They are a valuable source of recent genealogical information. County Clare is full of these mortuary cards but unfortunately when their collectors die the cards end up in a rubbish skip on their way to an incinerator and all that information is lost. So in 2009 the Clare Roots Society set up a project in collaboration with a group of Clare schools, the Clare Education Centre and members of the Clare diaspora in Australia and the USA to collect and transcribe Clare mortuary cards and hand over the data to the Clare County Library.
The first phase of the Clare Memorial Card Collection School Project came to conclusion on Thursday night the 19th May 2011 with the handing over of 14,000 records to Clare County Library for on line access and the presentation of prizes to Primary Schools and their students. Over 200 people attended the prize giving ceremony which followed on from the project launch in November 2010. Jointly sponsored by Clare Roots Society, Clare Education Centre, Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport & Clare County Library the project was a pilot for this type and method of collection of records for Genealogy and Family History research.
Throughout the project there was a great sense of enthusiasm and enjoyment from all the young people who took part, from teachers, principals and indeed from all those participating. The project generated a high level of interaction between children, parents, grandparents, extended family and members of the Community, School Principals and Staff. The project provided the unique opportunity for older people to share their memorable stories with Primary School children thus introducing them to the joys of Genealogy and Family History ‘a gift for life’. Teachers were happy that all aspects of this project integrated appropriately with the Primary School Curriculum subjects of History, English and Art, and with the programme for R.Ed.
The people of Clare owe a great debt of gratitude to the many pupils who with their families and communities collected approx 18,000 memorial cards and to the schools who undertook the enormous task of photocopying and scanning these cards. Phase 1 consisting of 14,000 cards which were collated, recorded and transcribed by Clare Roots Society Diaspora members world wide under the direction of Chris Goopy in Australia & Kate Welch in the U.S.A.
Along with the collection of the memorial cards a number of competitions were introduced for the schools. Design a Memorial Card allowed the young people to use their creative and artistic talents. There was a great variety evident in the entries including the use of I.T. Significantly this part of the project also encouraged participation by pupils who did not have access to memorial cards relating to people from County Clare.
Another element of the Project was the writing of Essays on the Importance of Memorial Cards.
A report on the project has been published in the Clare Champion ("Success for Schools Card Collection Project ") and on 30-May-2011 two key drivers of the Memorial Card Schools Project, Phyllis Malone and Nuala Kennedy, were interviewed about the project on ClareFM. A recording of the ClareFM interview can be heard on the Clare Roots Society website.