Death in the Family

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.

British BMD certificates can be ordered from the GRO (General Record Office)


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).
William Dawson Death certificate 1837

1839 26th August

Hannah Paginton

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.

1840 22nd March

George Furness

On 22nd March 1840, George Furness died at Stannington. He was 67 years of age (born c1773), 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.

The father of Amelia Furness – Dyson

1840 7th December

Elizabeth (Priest) Furness

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?).

Mother of Amelia Furness – Dyson

1841 15th July

Samuel Barker

Death of Samuel Barker at 3 West Bar, Sheffield. Boot maker. Death from liver disease aged 61, on 15th July 1841, (born 1780). Present at the death was James Pilkington also of 3 West Bar.

This was husband of Mary and father of Samuel Barker c1805, (also bootmaker of Sheffield).

1843 6th October

Mark Wild

Mark Wild died 6th October 1843 at Daisy Walk Sheffield. He was 85 years and a Table Knife Manufacturer. He died of ‘ Palsy’, and James Hallam of Edward Street was present at the death. (Connection unknown).

(Considered Father of Sarah Wilde, wife of John Dyson).

1844 5th December

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.

It is possible it should actually read ‘wife of Daniel Shepherd’, as my research has an unaccounted Daniel, but no Samuel.

1845 19th April

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.

Amelia Dyson Death Certificate 1845

1845 before 15th August

Joseph Rogers

Date of death not clear, perhaps 7th or 16th, but the death was registered on 15th August by Jane Cole, the sister of Elizabeth Rogers, Joseph’s wife.

He died aged 44 from bronchitis at the Potteries, Kensington, and had been a labourer.

1846 March 21st

Mary Shepherd (born Orford).

Mary Shepherd (born Orford, died aged 81, making year of birth c1765), death 1846 at Old Brentford. Cause of death, ‘decay of nature’.

Wife of Daniel Shepherd, labourer.

Sarah Lester was present at the death.

1847 21st February

Sarah Tranter (born Sears)

Died 21st February 1847 at Studderige Lewknor Uphill. Wife of Richard Tranter, Woodman. Aged 65 years. Due to ‘Decay of Nature’. Present at the death, was Jane Bird, of Hall Bottom. Jane married Sarah’s husband Richard Tranter in 1851, following the birth of three children (fathered by Richard).

1847 24th March

Rebecca Hinchcliffe (born Jackson)

Died aged 34 at home, Farnley Tyas near Almondbury, Huddersfield. Cause of death unknown, as attended by a ‘non medical’ person (husband Henry Hinchcliffe). This seems an unusual thing to put on a death certificate. Husband Henry Hinchcliffe died 6 months later. They had 5 children at home, George 1834, Ann 1836, Joseph 1838, Allen 1840, William 1842.

1847 8th April

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.

Martha Sanderson death 1847

1847 13th September

Henry Hinchcliffe aged 38, found dead at work. The coroner recorded the cause as ‘Visitation by God’. This was 6 months after the death of his wife Rebecca, were the two deaths linked?

They left 5 children – George 1834, Ann 1836, Joseph 1838, Allen 1840, William 1842. Who were split up amongst the various families to be cared for.

1848 30th April

Mary Anne Thompson (born presumed Henderson) died at Hill Bridge, Sheffield aged 63, wife of David Thompson, a Fender Grinder. Cause of death Dropsy. Attended by her daughter Ann.

1850 4th April

George Sanderson

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.

1853 22nd March – Alfred Sanderson

The fourth child of Joel and Eliza Sanderson. Born at Hollindale Cottage, Bradfield Dale. He died at 3 minutes old, from Debility. He was given a birth certificate too. In the majority of births within my ancestry, it is the mother who registers the birth, often within a matter of days, in this case, it was the father, Joel. Perhaps it had been a difficult birth and Eliza was incapacitated, or too upset to attend the registers office.

1856 24th October

Daniel Shepherd

Daniel Shepherd died at Isleworth Workhouse aged 80. (Year of birth 1776). A Carter, death from Natural decay.

1857 28th May

Joseph Lovell

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.

1858 27th October

Elizabeth Shepherd – Rogers – Harris

Elizabeth died at Notting Hill aged 52, due to the result of a fall from a cart. She married Joseph Rogers who had died 1845, later she married Thomas Harris.

1858 June 1st

Robert Lovell

Robert Lovell died in Kensington Workhouse aged 88 years (born 1770), from ‘Age and Debility’.

He was the father of Joseph Lovell and wife of Elizabeth Veven.

1864 February 2nd

Richard Tranter born 1791

Died 2nd February 1864 at Stokenchurch. Of Prostatic Disease Exhaustion. Aged 72. Jane Tranter (Richards second wife – Jane present at the death – formerly Bird). They had five children.

The father of Eleanor Tranter, by Sarah (Sears) his first wife.

1865 24th July

Ann Ayliffe (born Paginton) died at Sherston Magna, Wiltshire aged 44 years. She was found dead on a road, and died from heart disease.

Post mortem held 27 July 1865 – Coroner.


George Dyson

2nd August 1869 at Wortley Union Workhouse (Ecclesfield).

George Dyson Death

1870 15 January

Susannah Tranter (born Rixon)

Susannah died January 15 January 1870, from ‘decay of nature’ at Stokenchurch aged 72. She was the wife of Thomas Tranter, TAILOR. And present at the death, was Ellen Newall.

Ellen Tranter (daughter of Thomas and Susannah), had married Alfred Newall 13 September 1845 at Stokenchurch.


Eleanor Dawson (born Briton)

On 7th June 1870, Eleanor Dawson aged 80 (born c1790), died at 24 Dartmoor Street Kensington. She was the wife of William Dawson a soldier, and died from ‘decay of nature’. Present at the death was Dinah Frost, of 33 Dartmoor Street, her daughter, and my direct ancestor.

1871 9th February

Thomas Tranter

Thomas Tranter died 9th February 1871, aged 73 at Stokenchurch from ‘decay of nature – paralysis’.

1873 July – date unclear

John Moorhouse

The first husband of Mary Ann Hinchcliffe. Following his death, she married Charles Gillott in 1876. John died at 156 Bernard Street, Sheffield, aged 30, from pneumonia. He was a Steel furnaceman. Henry Collingwood of 146 Bernard Street, was present at the death. John and Mary Ann, had one son, John William a few months old.


Samuel Barker Unrelated ( born c1830)

1875 4th January

Samuel Barker born 1805

Samuel Barker Death (1805) 1875

Samuel Barker died aged 70, 4th January 1875 at 5 North Street, he was a Shoemaker and died from Gangrene, caused by a compound fracture. Present at the death was son Albert of 14 Court, Mowbray Street, Ecclesall Bierlow.

1876 14th February

Joel Sanderson

Joel Sanderson was the 6th child of Albert and Elizabeth. He was 4 months old and died from broncho-pneumonia. His father was present at the death, and registered it on 18th February.

1884 10th November

Dyson Sanderson

Dyson Sanderson was the 10th child of Albert and Elizabeth. It is likely his name was given from his mother’s maiden name. He died aged 14 months from Scarlet Fever, and was buried in Stannington Christ Church yard the next day. The family lived at Knowle Top Stannington, and father Albert registered the death on the day of death.

1888 13th June

Eliza Sanderson (born Sanderson)

Wife of Joel Sanderson and daughter of Thomas Sanderson.

1890 7th June

Joel Sanderson

1892 31st March

Joseph Lovell

1901 8th March

Stephen Harvey

Stephen Harvey death 1901

1903 25th August

Jane Harvey born Cowdrey

Jane Harvey (born Cowdrey) death 1903.

1921 13th May

Norah Gillott

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.

1957 16th July

Norah Sanderson (born Thompson) was wife of Vincent Sanderson, and had been a widow for 24 years when she died at the age of 80.

1968 11th July

George Gillott

George Gillott death 1968

1969 16th July

Alice Gillott born Darlow

Alice Gillott (born Darlow) died 1969

1996 7th July

William Arthur Sanderson

William Arthur Sanderson death 1996.