Nearly 700 burials added for Bradfield, Essex, from 1564 to 1695.
Nearly 1,000 baptisms for Toppesfield, Essex, from 1813-March 1844 now online.
Have you heard “The Reclusive Skeleton of Fingringhoe” episode of Punt PI? In this Radio 4 series, comedian Steve Punt puzzles his way around cases of high strangeness, such as the Mull Air Mystery and The Crying Boy Paintings. It’s like Fortean Times on the radio. You’ll hear my dulcet tones chiming in, to talk about some of the research I did into the mystery of the skeleton. When a skeleton turns up, as they sometimes do – the image at the top of the page is from the 1857 Waterloo Bridge Mystery1)It wasn’t strictly a skeleton as there was some flesh accompanying the bones – although not very much. – they exert fascination. How can we identify a person just from bones? Without the flesh, can we find out how they died?
The skeleton in the Fingringhoe case was found in 1949, in the apparently abandoned cottage of an actress called Ada Constance Kent, who hadn’t been seen since March 1939. She was reclusive and rather eccentric, so was the skeleton hers? But what about the children who had got inside her house and played there? I’ll leave you to listen to the programme, and if you’re interested in reading about what happened in the 1940s, then see the chapter in Patrick Denney’s Foul Deeds & Suspicious Deaths in Colchester (Patrick pops up on the radio programme too!).
I looked into Ada’s family background, tracing her in the censuses. I went off-piste a little and traced her mother, aunt and grandmother. These bits weren’t used on the programme, but it helped me to see Ada in context, as an ordinary girl from a riverside village in north-east Essex, who apparently came to an extraordinary end.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||It wasn’t strictly a skeleton as there was some flesh accompanying the bones – although not very much.|
Part two of my 1939 Register guest blog for Find My Past: An intrepid cocoa-buyer, and Uncle Bill’s fate.
Check out Find My Past for my guest blog about family tree brick walls I demolished with The 1939 Register. Without it, I would’ve struggled to trace Uncle Bill and Cousin Madge.
I’ve mentioned Grandma’s photo album before, when it turned out that the unnamed WW1 soldier posing in a Brighton studio was in fact her Uncle Bill. The photo above, of Grandma on a family seaside outing, interested me as it showed two of her cousins, and aunts of hers who I knew nothing about. She had written on the back identifying the people in the photo as:
- back row: left to right – Aunt Rose, Aunt Elsie, Mum
- front row: left to right – Eileen, Amy (my grandma), Jack, Les, Ron
I knew I would come across the burial of Matthew Hopkins, “witchfinder general”, when I came to transcribe Mistley‘s earliest parish register. It was still a strange feeling, to add his name to the database along with all the other residents. But along with Matthew, there was one other Hopkins in the register, and his burial seems to explain just what Hopkins was doing in Mistley in the first place, and perhaps how his campaign took hold.
Well this is a very odd thing… a plan for the ground floor of a house, from Manningtree‘s register covering 1695-1775. It looks bizarrely like a board from the game “Cluedo”, not least because it even includes a billiard room. From the top, there’s the drawing room, something-or-other room, Ante? room, breakfast room and dining room. Some hastily added stairs, and bay windows.
But who sketched this? A vicar dreaming of his perfect house? Is there a house somewhere in Manningtree which was built to this plan?
Along with the notes in Weeley’s register showing that people having civil marriages during the Commonwealth were sometimes backing it up with a church wedding afterwards, there’s something else intriguing about the register at that period.
We’re used to seeing marital statuses for women such as single woman, spinster, widow or maiden (How sure they were of that…? Ahem), but Weeley’s earliest register throws a new one into the mix: the double woman.
It’s time for some parish register finds which show black people living in Essex hundreds of years ago. Last year, it was coincidentally in October that I spotted William Essex, “a black native of Madagascar” in Wivenhoe’s baptism register – so these are the people I’ve found since, in Harwich and Boreham.