Genealogists and family historians know how important funeral programs are for putting the pieces of family history together.
At one time African Americans couldn’t publish the death of their deceased loved one in the death notices of the local newspapers. In the late 1960s, the families of the deceased started creating funeral programs to be disseminated at the funeral of their loved one.
The funeral program provided a written record of services, birth and death dates, the maiden names of women if they were married, the parents’ names, and other relatives. Oftentimes their occupation and where they attended school can be found as well.
Today’s funeral programs also have pictures and stories of the deceased.
Genealogists, family historians and others researching historical topics can find these records to be a treasure of information.
Many libraries across the United States are starting to digitize African American funeral programs.
The Digital Library of Georgia recently debuted a freely accessible collection of more than 3,300 programs printed for services in Atlanta and across the Southeast according to Kenneth H. Thomas, Jr. a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Staff of Richardson Funeral Home Inc., Amite, consulted with genealogist Dr. Antoinette Harrell about their collection of programs. She immediately offered her expertise and started organizing the collection and creating an index to make it easily searchable.
Dr. Harrell also advised them to consider donating the collection to the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies.
Dr. Samuel Hyde, director of the center, gladly received the collection and discussed starting a collection in Richardson’s name. The funeral home will continue to add on yearly to the collection.
Many of the funeral programs are from Tangipahoa, St. Helena, Washington, Livingston, East Feliciana Louisiana parishes.
In organizing and indexing the collection, Harrell found that the oldest person in the collection was born in 1879.
Vast information can be gleaned from reading about people’s lives.
For example, in reading the obituary of Mrs. Janie Bell Williams, Harrell found confirmation of something she had already suspected. The obituary stated Mrs. Williams was a teacher at the Amite Colored School, a Julius Rosenwald school.
“I knew about the Amite Colored School, but I didn’t know it was a Rosenwald school until I found this confirmation,” she said.
Julius Rosenwald, part owner of Sears, Roebuck and Company and a good friend of Booker T. Washington, built over 5,000 schools for African Americans in the South during the early 1900s, she said.
“I always suspected there was a Rosenwald school in our area, and her obituary confirmed it,” Harrell said.
The index to the collection will be available online in the next couple of weeks. Well over 200 funeral programs were donated.
Harrell has started two collections at the Center for Southeastern Studies, the Richardson collection and one in her own name, to which she contributes yearly.
Credit: Source link