Showing posts with label Goddard (Kent and Somerset). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Goddard (Kent and Somerset). Show all posts

Monday, 3 February 2014

When the waves turn the minutes to hours: the tragic end of a master hairdresser

On June 11th, 2011, I gave my very first presentation to the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa. It was one of the "Great Moments in Genealogy", our highly popular semi-annual event in which the monthly meeting becomes a showcase for four to six fifteen-minute presentations at Library and Archives Canada. It's so popular that we have a "Great Moments" meeting in June and in December.  This past year, we also had Remembrance-Day-themed Great Moments in November. For many BIFHSGO members, this is the first step towards making an hour-long presentation. It certainly was for me.

What follows is an adaptation (with a few updates) of my talk, which was advertised in the newsletter and on the web site as follows:

When the Waves Turn the Minutes to Hours: The Tragic End of John Goddard, Master Hairdresser 

What Gail Roger keeps learning as a family historian, over and over again, is that the most insignificant details lead to the biggest breakthroughs. This is the story of how the appearance of a distant uncle in the probate notice of an even more distant cousin eventually led her to the horrific details of the final months of her husband's great-great-great-grandfather's life.

About the Speaker
Unlike most BIFHSGO presenters, Gail Roger says she is an absolute nobody. She does have a graduate degree which she has failed to use for monetary gain; she used to teach English as a Second Language, but no more. She has been pursuing family history seriously (that is, online and taking courses) for the past eight years and for the sake of her daughters --- who aren't that interested.

Note: Remember, you can click on any picture to see more detail.

William Day Goddard ca. 1890s
Is a great moment in family research still great when you make a discovery that knocks down three brick walls like dominoes and there behind them is a long-lost family tragedy?  You tell me.

This story concerns my husband’s great-great-great-grandfather John Goddard, a master hairdresser in the town of Strood in Rochester, Kent.

This is not him.  This is John’s grandson and my husband’s great-grandfather William Day Goddard, a railway official in Folkestone, Kent and, judging from this picture, a Freemason.

My first brick wall in this tale is the “Day” in “William Day Goddard”.  The next brother Frederick, a master mariner, also had the “Day” in the middle.

(Frederick’s legacy to my husband’s family, by the way, is a photograph of decapitated pirates somewhere in China. It's a sepia photograph, thank goodness.)

I have discovered, since the 2011 presentation, that William and Mary Goddard had two more children who died young.
You’ll notice I’ve used high tech to circle the name of their brother Philip.  He’ll be key in a bit.

My late mother-in-law declared, very confidently: “Oh, ‘Day’ was William Day Goddard’s mother’s maiden name.”

Only it wasn’t. 

Over the years, I kept pushing back the family tree a few more generations, always keeping an eye out for that elusive “Day".


1849 parish record of the marriage of my husband's great-great-grandparents, St Mary and St Eanswythe Folkestone

These are the parents of William Day Goddard. Now, I don’t need to tell you how important it is to check the other names on a certificate.  (Do I?)  I was overjoyed to note the name of one of the witnesses. (Edmund Kingsford, by the way, was a brother-in-law to Mary Upton, being married to her eldest sister Caroline.  He was a solicitor and executed most of the family wills.)

Wow! I thought.  Now, all I have to do is find out who Ann Day was!

No dice.

No matter what I tried, the brick wall stood firm, and I got tired of banging my head so I went off to bash other brick walls. Like this one:
1841 census, High Street, Strood, Kent

I knew William, our bridegroom in that marriage certificate, was born in Strood, the fourth child of John Goddard, master hairdresser.  Here’s William in the census, eight years before he married Mary Upton in Folkestone, living in Strood with his dad and his stepmother, with one of his sisters and three of his four-soon-to-be five half-siblings.  How do I know all this?  I'm a family researcher, and if you're a family researcher too, you know I tracked the family back and forth through the censuses and parish records. 

Now, here’s Brick Wall Number Two:  The 1841 census, as many of you know, rounds the ages to the nearest five, which means I didn’t have an exact year of birth for John and all it tells me is that he is a hairdresser and that he was not born in Kent.
A John Goddard born between 1787 and 1792.  
In anywhere but Kent.
That narrows it down, doesn’t it?

But wait, I said William Goddard was living with three of his four-soon-to-be-five half-siblings. His eldest half-sibling Harriet Goddard is missing from this document.  She was born in Strood in 1827 which means that if she survived to the time of the 1841 census, she would be….

Oh, look:
1841 census, Butcher Row, Hughes Fields, Deptford, Kent

Here’s a James Goddard living in Deptford.  He’s a dairyman, he has an estimated age of 85 years, born outside of Kent, same as John Goddard.  There’s a Harriet Goddard, born in Kent, about the right age to be John Goddard’s Harriet and there’s an Ann Weeks.  I found a record of an Ann Goddard marrying a William Weeks in Woolwich and a christening record for an Ann Goddard, daughter of James and Elizabeth, in --- Strood.

Nice, huh?  Too bad it doesn’t prove a thing.  Brick wall Number Three.

On February 7th, 2011, out of the blue, I got a message through Ancestry from a lady in San Diego:  “Hello,” she said.  “I see from your family tree that you have a Philip John Goddard.”

(Remember, that guy I circled?  William Day Goddard’s younger brother?)

“He was named an executor in the will of my great-grandmother Ann Elizabeth Turner Day Noon.  Her mother was born Elizabeth Goddard and she married George Day….”

Well, I couldn’t answer that for a while, because I had to run around the living room for a few laps, then do a couple of rounds of the Hokey-Pokey, followed by a spirited rendition of “Hail the Conquering Hero”. 

I finally calmed down enough to tell her what I knew about Philip John Goddard, then I told her the whole saga of John Goddard not being born in Kent and James the dairyman who may or may not be the paterfamilias.  To her credit, my lady of San Diego didn’t block me. 

She did give me two more things to work with:

  1) her great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Day née Goddard had three (3) birth places.  That is, she reported a different birth place in each census:
Exeter, Devon;
Monkwood, Dorset;
and Crewkerne, Somerset.
  2) At one point, Elizabeth’s daughter Ann Elizabeth Turner Day had an aunt named Ann Palin living with her.

Back to Elizabeth with her three birthplaces. Now, for years, I’d been unraveling a mystery about another ancestor who had three maiden names.  It turns out she was hiding something.  I suspected Elizabeth Goddard Day was hiding something too, so I got out her christening record (which I’d had for years, but hadn’t paid that much attention).
Register of 1805 christenings, St Nicholas of Myra Strood, Kent

Elizabeth was born on Valentine’s Day 1788, but not christened until 1805 in Strood, Kent. Hmmmn.

So I looked at Google Maps where you can work out the distance between two given places.  I do this a lot in family research and I always choose the walking option because, prior to the twentieth century, there was a global shortage of cars…
In the days before railways, walking distance needs to be considered.  Fewer people than you'd think had horses.

Crewkerne (B) and Monkwood (A) are very close together – about 9 miles, or a three-hour hike.  Exeter (C), not so much, you could walk the the 38 miles to Crewkerne in 12 hours, but there is a direct road.

 I tried entering “John Goddard” and “Somerset” into Family Search:
These were the results I got in 2011.  FamilySearch will deliver quite different results now.

Here, I found a John Goddard being born in Chard, Somerset to James Goddard and Betty Turner .  (Remember Ann Elizabeth Turner Day????)

Just to be clear, 18 miles is the distance if you travel from Monkwood to Crewkerne via Chard!

Chard (B) is about eight miles from Crewkerne, Somerset (C), and about twelve miles from Monkwood, Dorset (A).

However, the FamilySearch christening entry that I found in 2011 is one of their member-submitted records which means it could be true, but there are no sources backing it up.

So I said to myself:  “I’ll try FreeREG.”

FreeREG, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is a sister-site of FreeBMD.  Over the past few years, volunteers have been transcribing church registers. So not only is it continually being updated – it’s free! 

Mind you, FamilySearch is also free, but they don't always transcribe the full parish entries.  However, FamilySearch isn't nearly so picky as FreeReg is about exact spelling and counties, so it's worthwhile to try both.
And I have reasonable evidence for John Goddard being born in Somerset in 1792 with the added bonus of a full date and the church for the christening.

Then, at FreeReg, I found this marriage.

Remember the birthdate on Elizabeth's Goddard's christening record seventeen years later in Strood, Kent?

February 14th, 1788 - more than a year before this wedding.  

Perhaps her mother Betty went away to Monkwood or Exeter or Crewkerne to have her baby before getting quietly hitched in Chard.

Using the FreeReg information as a starting point, I found other siblings for Elizabeth and John, and their christenings indicate that James Goddard brought his family to Strood from Somerset some time between 1794 and 1800.

Now, my lady in San Diego also said that Elizabeth’s daughter Ann Elizabeth Turner Noon née Day had an aunt living with her at one point -- an Ann Palin.

So who was living with James Goddard the dairyman in 1841? 

Ann Weeks.

I decided to try FreeBMD.

I sent away for the marriage certificate et voilà!
This certificate confirms that Ann Weeks was a widow, and that her father was James Goddard.  I wondered if Harriet Chopping was Ann's niece Harriet Goddard, but have found nothing to confirm this.

(I think I grabbed a couple of cushions and did a quick tango for that one.)

I was so excited, I emailed a lady from the Goddard Association of Europe with whom I’ve been corresponding, and she said:  “Somerset is very close to Wiltshire and the Wiltshire Goddards were la crème de la crème!”

Well.  James Goddard was a dairyman, after all…

So the lady in San Diego was delighted to have her connection and to know who Ann Palin was, and I was delighted to have John Goddard’s birth family, birthplace and birth year,  but -- family research is like crack cocaine, isn’t it?  You get that high and you want another one so bad…

For the record,  I haven’t tried crack cocaine. I’m a family researcher.  I don’t need to.

John Goddard and his second wife Mary disappear after the 1841 census.

I’d searched the parish registers at Medway Ancestors (fabulous web site!); I’d sent away for a likely death certificate which turned out to be for a seven-year-old.  And every time I logged on to, there’d be that list of “new records”.

Including, at that time, the England and Wales Criminal Registers

“Naaaaaah…” I said to my computer. I talk to my computer a lot.  It's a bit sad, really.

Nevertheless, I entered “John Goddard, 1792”.
March 14th 1842 Kent Assizes in Maidstone

And I found a John Goddard appearing in the Kent Assizes and convicted for “Forgery of an order for the payment of money”, sentenced to transportation, fifteen years.

I still said, “Naaaaaah…”
There must be hundreds of John Goddards -- well, at least scores.
In Kent. 
Born in 1792.

And there on my Ancestry home page, were the registers for prison hulks.  You’ve heard of prison hulks. Decommissioned ships, usually used as holding tanks for about-to-be transported convicts?  Great Expectations?
I think this is one of the hulks at Chatham.


The occupation of hairdresser and the number of children, plus the age, confirms that this is our John Goddard.
Again, you can click this image to enlarge it.

This is a page from the register of the prison hulk Fortitude, anchored in Chatham Harbour.  The jailer reports:  “"No. 7689 - John Goddard - (age) 50 - (Crime) Forging and uttering a payment of £50 - (Convicted where) Maidstone - (Convicted when) 14 March 1842 - (Sentence) 15 years - Married; 9 children -  Hairdresser - (Gaoler's Report) Not Known" 

I didn’t dance or sing for this one. This record breaks my heart.  Here’s John Goddard fifty years old in 1842, when being 50 was being quite an old man.  (£50, by the way, was a great deal of money in 1842 -- well over £2000 in today's money or about $4000 Canadian --  and forgery had, until recently, been a capital offence in Britain.)

“Gaoler’s Report:  Not Known." 

The gaoler had plenty to say about the other prisoners. He has about half a dozen guys in for rape, and reports that they are “honest and industrious”.  Well, I guess if you’re going to have rapists in your hulk, that’s the kind to have.  Then there’s a whole bunch of fellows for various kinds of stealing; the gaoler thinks they’re “dishonest”.

John, along with several other prisoners, was transferred to the convict ship Waterloo on May 23rd, 1842.

Feeling a bit shaken, I reported my findings to my pal in the Goddard Association, and she emailed back:  “Well, what happened?”
I said, “He was fifty years old, being transported for fifteen years.  That’s as good as a death sentence.”

Fatal words.

The convict ship Waterloo sailed out of Sheerness, Kent on June 1st, 1842, so John spent two months locked up in the prison hulk before being locked up on this convict ship embarking on the six-month journey to Van Diemen’s Land Tasmania.

What’s wrong with that record?
Does that say “drowned”?
I checked the rest of the page.   Most, but not all of them drowned.

Mystified, I showed this to my husband.
“Have you googled it?” he asked.
This painting hangs in the Tasmanian Museum in Australia. I haven't found the name of the artist.

Merciful heaven.  The ship in the centre is the Abercrombie Robinson, a troop ship.  All 500 aboard were saved and a simply dreadful poem was written about it.  Off to your left is the Waterloo which was a third of the tonnage of the Abercrombie Robinson. And in rather more distress, wouldn’t you say?
 "Wreck of the Waterloo", image by the lithographer, Charles Hutchins, after a sketch by Lieut Hext of The King's Own Regiment

Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?*

This editorial report appeared in The South African Commercial Advertiser:

“Cape Town, August 31 1842

“On the forenoon of Sunday last two large vessels, the Abercrombie Robinson and the Waterloo went on shore on the South Eastern beach at the bottom of Table Bay. . . .

“The Waterloo . . . had on board, besides her crew, two hundred and nineteen male convicts, thirty men of HM 99th Regiment,** five women and thirteen children. She took the ground . . . and in fifteen or twenty minutes became a mass of rubbish. . . . In about two hours and a half, amidst the crumbling heaps of their perfidious prison – of men, women and children, one hundred and ninety four were crushed, disabled and drowned. . . . We stood amongst thousands on the beach within a hundred and fifty yards of the dissolving fabric, looking on the agonised faces of our fellow creatures, as they sunk in dozens, battered and bruised . . . .As corpse after corpse floated to our feet . . . .”

Well, you get the idea.  One of those corpses was fifty-year-old John Goddard, master hairdresser, father of nine, my husband’s great-great-great-grandfather.  His youngest daughter was thirteen months old on the day he drowned – or was crushed to death.

Does a man convicted of forgery deserve to die this way? ***

Do "honest and industrious' rapists deserve this?

The past really is another country, isn’t it?

South African Commercial Advertiser, 31 August 1842, the same day the editorial report quoted above was published
What happened next? 

Life went on, but not for John Goddard.

Haven’t yet found out what became of John’s second wife.  Still searching Medway Ancestors. She’s not in the 1851 census (unless she became a housekeeper in Maidstone), but her children are recorded, living with their half brother, also named John, also a master hairdresser.  

William, my husband’s great-great-grandfather, moved to Folkestone some time between 1841 and his marriage in 1849. Was this family tragedy the reason behind his move?  Did he tell his wife what had happened to his father?  Did he tell his children?  My guess is that he didn’t. He was ambitious -- not only was he a hairdresser and perfumer, but he had a toyshop at one point and sold insurance and retired a “gentleman”.
Folkestone, Kent, circa 1905 - my husband's grandfather Ralph
Philip Hyde Goddard is the second young man on the left.

William’s eldest son William Day Goddard, with whom we started this story, lived a comfortable middle-class life, with three sons going to university, one to Oxford, one to Cambridge, and a daughter decorated during the First World War for her nursing in Mesopotamia.  I suspect a grandfather dying in the wreck of a convict ship thousands of miles from home didn’t quite fit in with all that. I’ll never know for sure.

However, after more than a century and a half, I think it’s safe to bring John Goddard home from the sea. Does that make this a great moment?

*Gordon Lightfoot, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald".

**The perils of making a presentation to a family history society include fielding questions from the military and naval buffs in the audience.  One gentleman "just didn't see how the 99th regiment could have been involved. . . ."  The link is for him.

***Was John Goddard guilty?  This is probably impossible to know, even if I had the transcript of the trial.  However,  according to page 37 of The Law Advertiser (Volume 8), John Goddard's petition, with other insolvent debtors, was scheduled to be heard on February 2nd, 1830 "at the Court, in Portugal-street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, Middlesex" at 9 (presumably in the morning).  He's listed as "Goddard, John, late of Strood, Kent, hair-dresser and perfumer".  John was evidently in serious financial trouble a dozen years before he came to trial for forgery.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

But did he speak Cree?

This year's Remembrance Day has already faded from memory; over the past three weeks, the poppies disappeared from chests and collars across the city like melting snow.  My poppy disappeared more quickly than usual this year.  This was not because I lost it.  I had anchored it very carefully with Scotch tape -- on the wrong side of my coat.  I spent the week before November 11th worrying about being accosted by irate veterans and berated for not placing the poppy over my heart.  It doesn't seem to take much to set veterans off:  this year it was the old red-poppies-vs-white-poppies controversy . Last year, they were getting irked at the Premier of Québec for putting a fleur de lis in the centre of her poppy.

Now, I have no problems with those who wear white poppies, so long as they don't label me a war-mongerer for wearing my red poppy.  And I stick a Canadian flag or maple leaf in the centre of my poppy, so I don't see why Pauline Marois, who identifies as Québecoise, shouldn't anchor hers with her own choice of pin to keep it from dropping to the street and getting lost and trampled.  (A swastika pin would be a problem…)

Remembrance Day is for remembering.  We family historians are heavily into remembering, and the result of our labours, sadly enough, is a long list of people to remember on November 11th.

I thought I'd focus on just one person and, if I keep this blog up, someone else next year, and the next.  And the next....
The Goddard family, Folkestone, Kent, circa 1905
The young man on the left, towering over my husband's maternal grandfather, is Archibald Spencer Goddard.  He was the youngest and tallest of the surviving five Goddard children (three children didn't make it to adulthood) and I have only learned recently that he was a twin - his sister Dorothy Grace was hastily christened on the day she died, eighteen days after she and Archibald had been born.

While the detail about his being a twin had escaped family lore, some other sparse but intriguing items made it into AS Goddard's brief history.  It was said that he had worked for the Hudson Bay Company and could speak Cree.  I've found no concrete evidence of this yet, although my husband claims to have once had ASG's journals, which have failed to materialize.  What I did find was his entry for the manifest of the ship that brought him to Canada in 1909 when he came out to visit his brother's farm to the north-east of Edmonton in Alberta (his next elder brother Ralph, my husband's grandfather -- the short one).  He described himself as a "missionary" and under the section asking if he planned to stay in Canada, wrote: "Perhaps."

We know that he taught at King Edward School in Edmonton, and that he was a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge.  We know this because the information appears in The Canadian Virtual War Memorial and at the section at Kent Fallen commemorating the alumni of Harvey Grammar School in Folkestone who died in the Great War. If you examine the latter, you'll find Archibald's second cousin Philip Charles Upton (DCM) who predeceased Archibald by a few weeks.

Archibald signed up for the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a lieutenant  in Calgary on November 4th, 1915.  He noted that he already belonged to the militia (CSCI - which I presume was the Canadian Signalling Corps). He was a captain when he died less than eleven months later on September 26th, 1916.  His entry in the CEF Burial Registry reads:
"Captain. - Goddard. - Archibald Spencer. - 5th Battalion. - 26/0/16 - (H.Q. File No.) 381/6/9 - Church of England
'Killed in Action.'
"During an attack near Courcelette he was badly wounded just before the First Objective had been reached and succumbed to his wounds soon after being carried back to the old front line

His administration notice reads:    "Goddard Archibald Spencer of Hillside 335 Fourth-street Edmonton Alberta Canada captain 5th battalion Canadian Infantry died 26 September 1916 in France Administration (with Will) London 5 December to the reverend (sic) Frederick George Goddard clerk. Effects £137, 0 s., 5 d." (That was his eldest brother, the fellow with a dog collar looking rather pleased with himself in the family photo, above.)

Archibald's name appears three more times.
on the Vimy Memorial, France;

in the Book of Remembrance, Peace Tower, Ottawa;

and, in 2008, projected with the names of thousands of other Canadian soldiers, in London, England, in Ottawa on the War Memorial, and on provincial legislatures across Canada.

 I still would love to know if he spoke Cree.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Eve of All Hallows

So it's Hallowe'en and people are dressing up as dead and/or rotting people, so this seems as good a time as any to share some death certificates that arrived in the mail recently. When I first started ordering certificates early in the onset beginnings of my research, I stuck to marriage and birth certificates. Mostly the ones for marriage, because they give so much information: the name and occupations of the groom and bride (although there is often no occupation listed for the bride prior to the twentieth century -- working women were so......working-class); residences, marital status; the names and occupations of both fathers. I mean, you need to treat all this with a grain of salt, but there seems to be more bang for your buck with a marriage certificate.

Death certificates, I was warned, tend to be suspect because the person in question is unable to fill it out -- for obvious reasons. However, in the past year or so, I've developed a whole new respect for death certificates. How a life ends, it turns out, can give an idea of how a life was lived. A death certificate places someone in time (and helps you not to look for that person after that time); it tells you where s/he was and who else may have been there. This is also as good a time as any to introduce you to some of the branches of both my family and that of my husband.
The 1893 death of my husband's great-uncle Herbert William Goddard in Folkestone, Kent

Let's start with a relatively lateral, uh, relative. This is my husband's great-uncle. Until I started doing family research seriously, my husband thought his maternal grandfather had two brothers and two sisters. I've since managed to unearth - if you'll pardon the expression - three more siblings. Two little girls died as newborns, bless 'em, but Herbert here died, as you see, at age 13. As far as I can tell, no one in the family ever mentioned him again. Certainly none of the family living in 1981 (when I first began research) seemed to be aware of his existence. I suppose that's why I couldn't resist ordering his death certificate, because if there's one thing I can't stand, it's someone being lost to memory because no one wanted to talk about them.

What do I learn from this certificate? I have further confirmation that Herbert existed (in addition to two censuses and his christening record) and that his father was William Day Goddard, my husband's great-grandfather. I deduce this from the initials "WD" and the address - 98 Guildhall Street in Folkestone - which was the family home for at least fifteen years between 1886 and 1901. I know this was one of a heart-breaking list of deaths for which W.D. Goddard was the informant. According to Rudy's List of Archaic Medical Terms (a fabulous resource), "Acute Rheumatism" means rheumatic fever, a big killer and disabler of children in those days before antibiotics (still a problem in developing countries today). Herbert may have sickened suddenly, or he may have been frail for a number of years, finally being finished by pneumonia.

 Three years before the death of his son, William Day Goddard registered the death of his mother-in-law, also at his home at 98 Guildhall.
The 1890 death of my husband's great-great-great-grandmother Mary Hyde née Reddington in Folkestone, Kent
This is another indicator of the challenges the household had been facing. In 1886, WD's wife Mary Monica had given birth to twins, a boy who lived --only to perish at the Somme thirty years later -- and a girl who died at 18 days of age. That same year, WD's father-in-law died, probably at the house as well. I've yet to order that death certificate.

All I really know about Mary Hyde (née Reddington), my husband's great-great-grandmother, is that she was born somewhere near Beauchamp Roding in Essex between 1805 and 1810. Death certificates are really poor documents for confirming ages; the informant is unlikely to know exactly unless he or she is the parent - I doubt Mary herself knew for sure. "Senile Decay", according to Rudy's List of Archaic Medical Terms, is the progressive loss of mental capacity that leads to dementia and personal helplessness. The majority of the cases recorded were most likely Alzheimer's disease. So, happy times at the Goddard household....
The 1890 death of my great-great-grandmother Mary Hales née Rose in Haringey, Middlesex
This certificate represents a victory of sorts.  For years, I've been trying to figure out when and where my great-great-grandmother Mary Hales née Rose died. (Mary is the paternal grandmother of my paternal grandmother.) After years of mis-orders, I found her probate notice which named a distant Hales cousin as executor, and was finally able to get my hands on this, which tells me that she died at 5 Harringay Villas of uterine cancer which she had had for at least three years and resulting in swelling of her body tissues and blood poisoning. Although two of her surviving daughters lived quite nearby (judging from the 1891 census), her death was reported by an Eliza Neaves who was living with her. I'm assuming Eliza was either a nurse or servant because a) I haven't found her anywhere else, and b) she reports my great-great-grandfather William King Hales (then dead for four years) as being a newspaper editor when he was the publisher of The Daily News. I think a family member would have known the difference. That's another reason why you have to take the information on a document with a grain of salt, particularly a death certificate.

Now, off to Wales, where my relatives were also dropping like flies.
The 1872 death of my great-great-great-great-uncle Samuel Edwards in Ceidio Fawr, Caernarvonshire, Wales
I'm working on pulling together a presentation about my maternal grandfather Edward Aneurin Lewis, a noted entomologist (noted among entomologists at least*) and his uncle, my great-great-uncle Thomas Lewis, a noted Baptist missionary (noted among Baptist missionaries, at least). One of Thomas' uncles, mentioned in his autobiography though not, frustratingly, by name, is Samuel Edwards. Their nephew Thomas tells us that his mother's father (my great-great-great-grandfather David Edwards) and two of her uncles were "preachers" with the Methodists and the Independents. I remember as a lad being present at the funeral of one of them at the churchyard at Glandwr.

Actually of the seven Edwards brothers, I would be hard-pressed to say which of them didn't preach, at least on the side.  My ggg-grandfather David Edwards was a farm labourer, but preached on occasion at the Ramoth Baptist Chapel at Cwmfelin Mynach, according to my very helpful distant cousin Jim Edwards.

I had hoped that this death certificate would help me pin down whose funeral great-great-Uncle Thomas attended.  I'm pretty sure it was either Samuel or Jonah Edwards -- although it could also have been Warriote, who is listed, along with Samuel, in the Surman Index at the Centre for Dissenting Studies.  Samuel - the Independent Minister, as you can see in his death certificate - died in Ceidio Fawr, Jonah (the Calvinistic Methodist minister, according to censuses) in Llanwinio in 1871, and Warriote (a bookbinder who also preached and is named, according to cousin Jim, for a family for whom the Edwards family worked over the generations) in Llanboidy in 1872.  Since the likeliest Glandwr for the burial of that Edwards uncle is the Glandwr about four miles to the northwest of Llanwinio and four miles to the north of Llanboidy, I guess this certificate has ruled Samuel out.  Thomas would have been about twelve or thirteen when these uncles died.
The 1900 death of my great-great-great-grandfather William Lewis in Llanboidy, Carmarthenshire, Wales

Nearly thirty years later, Thomas Lewis' father died -- my great-great-grandfather William Lewis, grandfather to my maternal grandfather Aneurin Lewis.  William's father and grandfather were master blacksmiths, as were his sons Benjamin (my great-grandfather) and David (the son who was the informant for this death).

 I ordered this mainly to confirm I had the correct death year, but this certificate gives me two bonuses:  1) confirmation that, in 1901, my great-great-uncle David was alive and living at "Pont-y-Fenni", the name of the house and forge where the Lewis family lived for at least between 1851 and 1900 -- although my great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Lewis (another master blacksmith who was also the son of a blacksmith) was living next door to "Pont-y-Fenni"  at the time of the 1841 census; 2) The note from the registrar in the margin on the far left indicates that my great-great-grandfather William died on the 24th and not on the 23rd -- a mistake that also appears in the probate calendar.

 I'm also rather grimly amused to see that the registrar had to take a second run (sorry about that) at the spelling of "Diarrhoea".
The 1879 death of my great-great-great-grandmother Matilda Grattidge née Clewlow in Stafford, Staffordshire

Finally, more often than you'd think, a certificate delivers a shock to the solar plexus, even when it concerns a death that took place over a century and a third ago.  I knew my great-great-great-grandmother Matilda Grattidge née Clewlow had been running The Castle Inn in Stafford after her husband's death -- my great-great-great-grandfather Daniel Grattidge, great-grandfather to my maternal grandmother Kathleen Griffiths -- in 1863 and that by 1881, it had been taken over by their son Daniel.  However, I had no idea that Matilda had committed suicide.

Why did she hang herself? Well, there is a familial tendency to depression on that branch of the family.  Also she had, within a very short time just before this, lost her daughter Matilda Rowley and her grand-daughter Emmeline, daughter of the same Daniel who took over the inn.  We'll never really know, will we?  My heart goes out to her eldest daughter Anne who was in Wolverhampton in the midst of having ten children.  This news must have been a heavy blow to a mother of young ones, to say nothing of Matilda Grattidge's other children and several brothers and sisters.

I've said it before and I'll say it again and often:  Family research isn't for wimps.  And death certificates, treated with due caution, can be a wealth of information.

Wait.  Is that another sheaf of envelopes from the General Register Office in my mailbox?

*At a Yale reunion dinner (my maternal aunt's husband was an alumnus), two entomologists who happened to be sitting at their table had a conniption fit when they learned who my aunt's dad was: "This is EA Lewis's daughter!"