A while ago I compiled all the unfortunate causes of death to be found in the parish registers for Beaumont-cum-Moze – perhaps the most unfortunate was William Taylor, who was killed by the bell falling out of the belfry. Burial registers aren’t really supposed to include cause of death, so they appear infrequently. But when they do, they give us a view into the lives lived (and the deaths died) in the past. Drowning and burning seems to have been more common than it is now, with people relying on well-water (and with all those rivers and creeks along the coast) and open fires. Of course, these are the deaths which have been described in the register – so they might be unusual, hence why they warrant a mention. And many causes of death not recorded may have been stranger still – it entirely depends on the whim of the minister or clerk entering the burials in the register. “Shall I mention that this poor chap was struck by lightning while harvesting turnips? Hmmm… nope.” It’s worth searching for your ancestors in newspaper databases in case they did have an unfortunate death which required an inquest.
Here’s some more, this time from Brightlingsea and Elmstead. The date is the burial date.
15 Apr 1698: Arabella, daughter of William Whitehouse, “shipwrackt people & bound for Ireland.”
3 Aug 1710: Robert Cole, “felo de se. Buried without the solemnitee of Christian burieing by pmissione in a remote corner of the churchyard.”
26 July 1717: Edward Rouland, “from Little Bentley strayed in the rage of his fever, & dieing in a feild”
24 Aug 1730: “A sailor. A Scotchman made affidavit.” Might we suppose the unnamed sailor to be Scottish too? The affidavit was to swear that the deceased’s burial clothes consisted of nothing but wool.
1 Dec 1766: Moses Brown, “drowned by accident.”
5 Aug 1769: Edward Keable, “drowned in the creek.”
23 Apr 1777: Nathaniel, son of Nathaniel & Dorothy Barber, “drowned.”
31 Jan 1780: Samuel Clark, “drowned.”
24 Jan 1788: William Bawtree, “was killed by a fall from his horse.”
15 Dec 1700: John Downs, “who was slain by the fall of a tree.”
1 June 1802: Hannah Rand, aged 3, “died by accidentally falling into a tub of boiling Beer.”
17 Mar 1803: Thomas Baker, aged 64, “droped down at the Church Door & died instantly.”
25 Dec 1804: William Carter, aged 2, “burnt to Death by his cloaths catching fire.”