News and Blog

The latest news and information from the Achievements team.

  1. Causes of death in genealogical records

    Until General Registration began in 1837, it was up the clergyman recording a burial as to whether a cause of death was provided (it rarely was noted in the register, and never after 1813 when pre-printed burial registers were introduced). One of our genealogists working on a case this week came across a parish register where causes of death were being recorded however, and they make fascinating reading.

    The most common causes of death given were: fever, decay, and decline,  Other causes of death given on just two parish registers pages included: convulsions, abscess, inflammation, whooping cough, jaundice, dropsy, as well as being burnt, drowned and killed by a fall from a horse.  Some of these were specific, recognisable conditions (or accidents) to us today, although some were a little more unspecific, including the cause of death shown here of a “stoppage”.

    This poor lady died aged forty-four, of a “stoppage”, and modern minds can only wince at what this might have meant for her. Genealogy is a fascinating pursuit, but it can also highlight the benefits of living in the twenty-first century!

  2. Hepzibah . . . or Hepperabath?

    We all know that our ancestors could not spell.  Anyone who has looked at a parish register will have found variants of even the, to us, easiest of names to spell. One of our genealogists today was researching a family in Somerset, with the mother named Hepzibah.  On one of her childrens’ baptisms, in 1751, the clergyman recording the event clearly had trouble with the spelling of Hepzibah’s forename, and recorded it as “Hepperabath”.

    It was unlikely that Hepzibah was able to correct the clergyman when he recorded this in the parish register, if she was illiterate, which was one reason that some many spelling variants appear.

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