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July 29, 2019 Beyond The Dash

What is a Funeral Register Book?

Funeral registers and obituary guestbooks, explained

What is a Funeral Register Book?
Sign the guestbook when you arrive at a memorial to let the hosting family know you attended, and that they're in your thoughts. (Getty Images)

If you've ever noticed an open book of signed names at a funeral or wedding, you've seen a register book. A funeral register book may also be called a funeral guestbook, book of condolence, memory book, or funeral registry. These names are used interchangeably, but all share the same purpose: To keep track of the people who attended a funeral service. 

Usually these guestbooks are bound hardcover, and include lined paper for guests to sign their names. As a formal record of those who attended the funeral, the person or family closest to the deceased usually keeps the book as a memento of the funeral afterwards. 

The purpose of keeping event records

Historically, guestbooks have served as formal records for all manner of events. From the mundane to the memorable, these volumes track those who traveled, visited, celebrated and mourned.

You might find a register book in private venues that are publicly accessible, such as hotels, churches, museums, government offices, clinics, schools and work sites. These are often a security measure, as a register book keeps a detailed record of those who visited a particular location.

Funerals aren't the only milestones events that have guestbooks. Most weddings have a version of a guestbook, with space for guests to sign their name and write a congratulatory message. Because weddings and funerals are milestone events that most people experience in the course of life, wedding and funeral guestbooks are now some of the most enduring forms of guest registry. 

What to write in a guestbook

Traditionally, a register is signed with only a name as a record of attendance only. At a funeral, guests who are not personally acquainted with the hosting family can also note their relationship to the deceased person. However, some funerals and wedding registers have additional space for personal messages, condolences and memories.

For more detailed examples of what to write in a guestbook, check out our article, What to Write in an Obituary Guestbook

Where to buy a funeral guestbook

The funeral register book is among the many funeral-related plans many families don't realize they need to arrange. It's a final detail that is included in most funeral and memorial services out of tradition.

That's why most funeral homes will have guestbooks for purchase, or included in a funeral plan. Before buying a guestbook on your own, check with your funeral director to see if one is included in the funeral services.

If a register book is not included in your funeral package, or if your family would like a more personalized album for signing, you can find them in some brick and mortar bookstores. However, funeral guestbooks more easily available online. Amazon, Etsy and online book dealers offer wide selections of funeral guestbooks.

Your local book or stationary shop might have a register book, but oftentimes these books are geared toward celebrations, especially weddings. It's best to choose a funeral register book that is intended for mourning. 

A digital future

Many modern-day grievers may consider a physical version of an event guestbook to be obsolete. In the past, these registers were reliable tools for keeping track of events, and remembering who attended. Today, a hardcover book with a list of names may be seen as either a family treasure, or a dust collector, depending on the family.

However, there are merits to having a funeral memory book at a memorial service. Grieving people, especially close family and friends of the deceased, can have issues recalling events that happened in the aftermath of the death. They may find that some memories are vivid, surreal and detailed. Other memories can be completely wiped away when emotions are running high, as in the case of a funeral. Keeping a record of the people who offered condolences may help the grieving recall the day of the funeral. Some people rely on the register book to remember to whom to send a thank-you card.

This tradition does not have to go by the wayside. Today, many life stories and memorial records are moving online. A digital obituary offers many advantages, as it is a lasting and centralized location for family and friends to 'meet' online and share memories.

Create an Obituary

Most online obituaries include a digital guestbook for loved ones to sign, offer condolences, tell stories and pay tribute to the life of the person who has passed. Because these records exist online, they are more accessible to people who live far away. They are also not subject to physical damage or being misplaced. An online memorial can ensure that the life story of a special person can live on. 

Keeping track of milestones 

Whether or not you opt for a physical funeral register book or a digital guestbook, it's important to have a record of those who were involved in a mourning ritual. While the significance of such a guestbook might seem unimportant when you're planning a funeral, having a record may be of emotional and practical value to your family in the future. 

Consider creating a space for guests to offer a condolence. No matter the format, you or others in your family will appreciate the messages condolences from those who knew your loved one. 

Beyond the Dash obituaries are free to post online. Guests can share memories, condolences and photos in any digital guestbook on a Beyond the Dash obituary. It's free to post, and our guestbooks never expire. No matter how long it has been since the death of your loved one, it's never too late to publish a life story in their honor. To get started, click here.

Your loved one had a remarkable life. Tell their story, and we’ll publish it online for free.

After creating an online memorial, you can also publish in print in any of over 6,000 newspapers across North America.

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