Researching family history is extremely satisfying when each ancestor can be successfully “hatched, matched and dispatched”. But it is not always possible to “dispatch” all ancestors. General Registration after 1837 means that searches of registered deaths can be made of the entire country, in case a family member died far from their home. But before 1837, researchers are reliant on church burial records. If an ancestor is not found in the parish in which they married or produced children, searches for burials records can be rather open ended.
It could be that an accident or misadventure occurred far from home, which means that no burial record will ever be found, particularly if those burying an individual had no idea who he or she was. Two examples found this week by our beedy-eye researchers illustrate this scenario well.
In 1811, an explosion in a gunpowder mill killed one Thomas Wiltshire, who was buried on 16th December. The clergyman helpfully recorded that “the names of the others are inserted from memory as no proper account was hand written”. This listing is reliant on the clergyman’s memory, and no forenames are given.
In the same parish in 1820 “a man unknown” was found floating in the local River. He was estimated as being 45 years old, and was wearing a green jacket and leather waistcoat with a blue and white striped shirt. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we’d ever know exactly what our ancestors were wearing on the day of their death to establish whether this man could be relevant to any search!
Both these notes in the burial register are good examples of how the burial records of our ancestors can be lost to time, and how despite exhaustive searches not all genealogy can be neatly tied up!