20 May 2008

Seeking London burials?

Having recently resolved the long standing question of what happened to my g-g-grandfather, and now that I've obtained a photo of his barely legible gravestone, I've been looking at my family genealogy database for the next challenge. Prompted by a day on London genealogy being organized in Toronto for next November I wondered whether I could find the cemeteries which received the last remains of my London ancestors.

Mark Herber puts it succinctly in his book Ancestral Trails: "It can be very difficult to locate an ancestor's place of burial in London ...". The London Cemeteries website states "There is no central register showing places of burial for those who died in London, so be prepared to contact several locations close to where your loved one died. In addition, there are very few burial registers available online, so you should be prepared to visit offices in person to examine the registers, or to pay a (usually small) fee to have this done for you."

Most of my ancestors were not in London prior to 1850 and the closure of churchyard burial grounds. There should be a civil death registration for each of them giving the death location. Let's hope they had a local cemetery as their final resting place.

London Cemeteries has a convenient list of 140 cemeteries with the year of opening and a link to Multi-map showing the location. Multi-map has two versions of a conventional map, plus an aerial view and a birds-eye view looking from the four cardinal directions. The resolution is fine enough that you can make out some individual graves. Complete addresses for the cemetery office are not usually given but can be found, along with other information, by googling the cemetery name.

A few indexes are online and the number is growing. This blog previously had an item about a database for Abney Park Cemetery.

There is a database with details of all reused graves in West Norwood Cemetery. Search from the main database page, or click through to the grave owners list and find all burials in one plot. For example:

Grave Owners Result Page Grave number: 956-37
Grave Owner: James Albers
Address: 13, Harleyford Place, Kennington
Original Burial: 1844
Last Burial: 1863
Caroline Abertine Albers buried in 1844
James Albers buried in 1856
James Albers buried in 1863
Mary Dennis Albers buried in 1852

Supposedly there is a database of burials from 24 June 1856 to 2 June 1861 at the City of London Cemetery available for viewing online. That information is here, but the search form did not appear when I tried.

Richmond Cemetery Services offers a database for the East Sheen, Hampton, Old Mortlake Burial Ground, Richmond, Teddington and Twickenham.

Moving upstream on the Thames, Kingston University has a database for Bonner Hill Cemetery Burial Registers - 1855 to 1911, and Kingston Parish Burial Registers - 1850 to 1901. Careful, the database also contains census and marriage entries.

Also worth knowing about are 30 microfilm reels of the General register of burials, 1854-1976, for Brookwood Cemetery, near Woking in Surrey, which is the final resting place of 235,000 people, mostly Londoners. These are in the LDS Family History Library. Wouldn't this make a nice database to have online!

There is also information online on earlier burials.

Findmypast.com has the City of London burials database, 349,373 entries, and burials at a few area cemeteries in the National Burial Index, mostly before the second half of the 19th century. British Origins has "Boyd's London Burials, an index completed by Percival Boyd in 1934 to "a few of the burials in the London area" (in fact over 240,000) and Cliff Webb's London City Burials (over 35,000)."

One of the references you come across in researching the topic is Frederick Teague Cansick's 1875 book A Collection of Curious and Interesting Epitaphs copied from the existing monuments of distinguished and noted characters in the churches and churchyards of Hornsey, Tottenham, Edmonton, Enfield, Friern Barnet and Hadley, Middlesex. It's now available in full view through Google Books. However distinguished and notable, my London-area ancestors weren't there early enough to be included.

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