View Full Version : Photos of deceased in coffins?

02-11-03, 04:05
I was told recently that it was a custom for the Swedish and Finnish to take photos of the deceased in their coffin before burial.

I'm inclined to believe it as I have recently come across a few photos of my husband's ancestors in their coffins.

Is this a fact? And if so is it still done? Is there a story behind it?

I know some people do take photos of their family in the coffin but had thought it was just a token of remembrance. I had not thought it actually a custom.

03-11-03, 03:11
dear heather,
i know exactly of what you speak.
and it isnt only the finns who took pictues of the dead
in there coffins or in a chair.
often the potmortem pictures
were taken of children.
if the family didnt have much money
it may have cost them several months wages..
but to the family it often would be the only
lasting image of the deceased loved one.
and to them it was important.
often the pictures would be taken with the eyes
open. the artist or photographer would try to
take the image with the person in a natural
looking "living" pose, or even taken previous to death
if they knew it was inevitable.
common was a picture taken of a child
or older in the coffin propped up on a couch
perhaps on the front porch, or in the living room of the family house.
you may see pictures of parents holding the child,
they had funeral gloves on and were surrounded
by flowers.
so you see it isnt really gruesome,
its just wanting to capture the last of what they
knew, and how they could hold the memory of
the dear loved one in time.

Tracy Boeldt
05-11-03, 02:44
This discussion was very interesting because going through my grandmother's things I found some pictures of a great uncle in his coffin and found this kind of disturbing--so now I have a better understand on why this was done. Thanks!

Mark V. Hillman
04-01-04, 21:52
Coffin photos were also very valuable to the relatives who had left Finland. My grandparents never returned and they showed us the photos so we could see their relatives. We not only have photos of the deceased in their coffins, but also locks of their hair. The hair was cut and sent, again, as a token of rembrance.

Interesting customs, from when the world was a lot bigger,

Tracy Boeldt
05-01-04, 00:27
Hi Mark!
After talking with my grandmother about the pictures--I figured out that this is what the relatives in Sweden were doing, but my grandmother still gets spooked when she sees them. I noticed that you are in forensic investigating--I love anything to do with forensics myself! Maybe some day I will go back to school in that field.

Margaret Rader
05-01-04, 19:18
I believe this custom was observed in the USA in the last century in some places. I have a picture of a young man, an ancestor of my husband, who died in an accident in the 1870's in Indiana, and I am certain it was taken in his coffin.