Examining Burial Entries
and Death Certificates
Death certificates were introduced into Britain along with birth and marriage certificates in 1837, when National Registration began.
Before that the only official records of births, marriages or deaths, were in the local church registers, and the amount of information recorded, was pretty much up to the vicar. In 1813, the register books became officially formatted, and although expected, it wasn’t a legal requirement to register births or deaths. In the case of marriage, people may perhaps have claimed what suited them.
As I research my ancestors, I get a feel for them and the kind of lives they led. I have only recently been applying for their death certificates, and in many cases, have been surprised by their causes of death. For some it was of disease, others had accidents and others just of ‘old age’.
We also get a glimpse of how the authorities understood death and disease, and I have been surprised at their scientific and medical knowledge at the time. And that accidental or unexpected death were looked into by a Coroner from an early time, even in the cases of the extremely poor, whose deaths we may consider would have been of no significance to the authorities.
This page is not supposed to be morbid, but an examination of the death certificates of my ancestors, and how each death may have affected the family, before and after the event.
As death certificates were introduced in 1837, if for the sake of argument, we had an ancestor aged 90 and dying in 1837, we could have the record of a person born in 1747!
I am including all certificates received, in chronological order of death, and from all branches of the family. Also included, are unrelated certificates, if they have been ordered in error, which may be of interest to others.
Each birth, marriage or death is recorded by the local registrar, (in his Registration District), he sends the returns to the national registrar.
Entries are recorded by year, then each year divided into Quarters (Janary to March), (April to June), (July to September) and (October to December).
The returns are recorded into books of indexes by surname and given name, and can be searched by ‘Surname,’ ‘Given Name,’ ‘Registration District’, ‘Year’, ‘Quarter,’ ‘Volume’ and ‘Page’.
Information recorded on a death certificate – Date of death, name, age, place of death, cause of death, person present at the death, and date of registration.
The earliest death certificate we have, is for William Dawson who died 8th August 1837 in Stradbroke Suffolk. The certificate doesn’t give a great deal of information, but it does allow me to confirm the identity of my ancestor. Follow the link above for more information of his life.
- That he was aged 50 in 1837 (born 1787)
- That he lived in Stradbroke at the time of death. (Where he was born).
- That he had been a soldier, (infact a Chelsea Pensioner). As this occupation was entered on his death certificate, it was obviously more important to him than his more recent one of Workhouse master at Stradbroke, which was entered on his children’s baptism records, a job he apparently took up having been retired from the army with ‘a diseased leg’.
- He died of a ‘Fit’ (stroke?)
- Rebecca Threadall a nurse ( unknown), was present at the death.
- His wife Eleanor appears to have already died, no record of her death found as yet, leaving three young children as inmates at Hoxne Union Workhouse and older children to make their own way in the world. (Updated December 2021).
Hannah Paginton died 1839
Hannah (born Weare), was the wife of John Paginton. She was born c1800, and died 26th August 1839 in Luckington, Wiltshire, from ‘Inflammation of the Bowels’. Her husband John, a labourer, was present at the death.
George Furness died 1840
On 22nd March 1840, George Furness died at Stannington. He was 67 years of age (born c1778), and a cutler. He died of Fever (likely Typhus Fever, a common disease of poverty, and cause of death of a number of my other ancestors). Present at the death was Thomas Plats (described as an ‘inmate’, but unsure what this would mean, was George Furness in the workhouse, or was this just a description of a cutlers apprentice?).
At this time the local workhouse was located in Bradfield, several miles away, and there is no reference to George being in the workhouse on the certificate.
It is also unusual, that ‘inmate’ would be the informant of a death, and that the death was registered on the same day as the death.
Elizabeth (? ) (Furness) died 1840
On 7th December 1840 at Town End Stannington, Elizabeth Furness died. She was stated to be the widow of George Furness, a cutler. This tells us that her husband had already died by December 1840 (which indeed he had, see above). She was aged 62 (and three quarters), this is an unusual figure, particularly bearing in mind her advanced age, but would suggest her age is correct and precise ( ie born 1777). She died of Consumption (tuberculosis), with her daughter Elizabeth, present at the death. Five years later, daughter Amelia (Dyson), also died of consumption (had she caught it from her mother?).
Jane Shepherd died 1844, wife of Samuel Shepherd.
I do not believe this to be an ancestor, but have been unable to identify her as yet.
Amelia Dyson ( born Furness), died on 19th April 1845, at Townend, Stannington (Sheffield), Yorkshire. She was aged 27, and died of Consumption (tuberculosis), leaving a husband, George and 3 year old daughter, Elizabeth.
Her death certainly appears to have had a profound effect on family members left behind.
Joseph Rogers death 1845
Mary Shepherd death 1846
Mary Shepherd (born Orford c1765), death 1846.
Martha Sanderson (born Ibbotson ) died 8th April 1847 at Low Bradfield, wife of George Sanderson, who was presentat the death. Died of Typhus Fever (5 weeks certified), a disease of close and insanitary living conditions.
George Sanderson death 1850
George Sanderson was the husband of Martha Sanderson above. They had a large family, it appears following the death of George, the family was forced to split, losing their home in the process.
Daniel Shepherd death 1856
Daniel Shepherd death 1856.
Joseph Lovell death 1857
Also known as Joseph Lovell Raine 1825 – 1857.
He married Elizabeth Betsy Rogers in 1846. They had 7 children, although at least one perhaps two had died before Joseph. He died 28th May 1857 at St Marys Place, Potteries, Kensington, a notorious slum, from pneumonia (7 days certified), aged 33 years. His wife’s cousin, Jane Cole, was present at the death.
Elizabeth Shepherd – Rogers – Harris death 1858
Robert Lovell death 1858
Sarah Ann Ayliffe (born Paginton) death 1865
2nd August 1869 at Wortley Union Workhouse (Ecclesfield).
Joseph Lovell death 1892
Stephen Harvey death 1901
Jane Harvey death 1903
Norah Gillott death 1921
The death of a child is always sad. In the past it was commonplace, and we may consider that other family members just accepted it and carried on.
Norah Gillott, was the third child of George, an Electric Tram Driver, and Alice Gillott (older siblings Doris aged 12 and George, 10). Baby sister, (Esme – my Grandma was 9 months old). George sr. had recently returned from service in WW1.
Norah died 30th May 1921 at Winter Street Hospital of Miliary Tuberculosis, aged 5 years. By this age, she would have made her mark and place in the family. The death certificate says her father was present at her death, and so likely also her mother, she was not alone in death. She was a much remembered child in the family, and I have been aware of her existence and sad death, since I first took an interest in family history. A book belonging to her, was passed onto Grandma, and then my father.
George Gillott death 1968
Alice Gillott death 1969
William Arthur Sanderson death 1996