Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

21/12/2004

Burial Records Records of burials in England and Wales

Burial Records Records of burials in England and Wales can be extremely difficult to trace. Registers are held in various record offices, churches and town halls around the country and there is no comprehensive index to them.

Before the 1850’s the vast majority of burials were recorded in the registers of the relevant Anglican parish church although a large number of nonconformist chapels also had their own burial grounds. After that, the situation becomes much more complex, with the advent of private and civic cemeteries. The Family Records Centre (FRC) holds very few burial records. National Burial Index (NBI) In May 2001, the first edition of a new computerised index to burials, the National Burial Index (NBI), was produced by the Federation of Family History Societies. This index is by no means comprehensive but it does include the records of 5.4 million entries, extracted from over 4,000 burial registers. Like the International Genealogical Index (IGI) which it complements, the NBI is at its most useful for the early part of the nineteenth century (i.e. about 1800-1840). Although the covering dates are given as 1538 to 2000, there are very few entries from the twentieth century. The extent of its coverage also varies greatly from county to county, with some counties very well covered (e.g. Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Suffolk) and some not covered at all (e.g. Cornwall, Devon, Sussex, Nottinghamshire and Cumberland). The index can be consulted at the FRC and at the National Archives, Kew. It is also available for sale. What information do I need to carry out a search? If you cannot find the burial you are looking for in the NBI, you will need to carry out a search in the original parish or cemetery registers. In order to do this you need to have a good idea of where and when the person died. If this was before 1850 the most likely place of burial would be the parish churchyard. Later burials may be much harder to trace since there may have been several churchyards and cemeteries in a relatively small area. However, if you can find out when and where they died, or perhaps more importantly, where they were living at the time of their death, then your search should be that much easier. Registration of deaths in England and Wales began on 1 July 1837. From this date onwards it should, therefore, be possible to obtain a copy of the death certificate for the person you’re interested in. The certificate will not tell you where the person was buried, but it will tell you when and where they died and where they were living at the time which will help you to carry out a search for a burial record. Copies of death certificates can be ordered at the FRC or by post from the General Register Office in Southport (phone 0870 243 7788 for more details). How do I start a search? If the death took place before the mid-1850’s, you should start by looking in the relevant parish burial registers. Most Anglican burial registers are held by the relevant county record office although later ones may still be at the church itself. Staff at the FRC will be able to tell you where the relevant registers are held. An Act of Parliament in 1853, enabled local authorities to purchase and use land for the purpose of burial. So although many burials continued to take place in local parish churchyards (particularly in rural areas) the situation in large towns and cities became much more complicated. You will need to consult maps of the area to find out which cemeteries and churchyards were situated closest to the person’s home address. Burial records are generally held and maintained by local authorities and the relevant addresses can usually be found in local phone books. If your ancestor lived and died in the Greater London area there is a very useful reference book which should help you with your search: Clifford Webb, Greater London Cemeteries and Crematoria (6th edn, Society of Genealogists, 1999). This lists the cemeteries and crematoria of London with their addresses and the location of their records. Other sources Different religious denominations often have their own burial grounds, in particular Jews and Roman Catholics. The records of these cemeteries are normally kept at the cemetery itself. The FRC has a good collection of non-conformist burial registers, mainly dating from the period before general registration (1837). These can be found in the record series RG4 and RG8 and are available on microfilm. Later registers of non-conformist burials are likely to be found in the relevant county record office or may still be held by the church or chapel in question. Records of Quaker burials are available on microfilm at the FRC and Kew. In addition to the registers of local non-conformist burial grounds, the FRC also holds records of the following cemeteries: Cemetery Dates covered Microfilm Reference Indexes available? Bethnal Green Protestant Dissenters’ Burying Ground (Gibraltar Row) 1793-1837 RG8/305-314 Yes – at FRC Bunhill Fields Burial Ground 1713-1854 RG4/3974-4001 RG4/4288-4291 RG4/4633 Yes – see RG4/4652-4657 Golden Lane Cemetery (Bunhill Burial Ground) 1833-1853 RG8/35-38 In preparation Victoria Park Cemetery, Hackney 1853-1876 RG8/42-51 No – but the registers are arranged alphabetically South London Burial Ground, East Street, Walworth 1819-1837 RG4/4362 No Southwark New Burial Ground, London 1821-1854 RG8/73-74 No Spa Fields, Clerkenwell 1778-1849 RG4/4316-4322 RG4/4366-4367 In preparation Necropolis Burial Ground, Everton, Liverpool 1825-1837 RG4/3121 Some years indexed by the Friends of the PRO Royal Hospital Cemetery, Greenwich 1705-1864 RG4/1669-1676 RG8/16-18 No Royal Hospital Chelsea, Burial Ground 1692-1856 RG4/4330-4332 RG4/4387 No Finally, many Family History Societies have indexed the information from the gravestones in churchyards and cemeteries in their areas. The Society of Genealogists has a significant collection of these indexes to Monumental Inscriptions (MIs).

Source-National Archives

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