I is for Inquest

I can’t remember whether I’ve told this tale before, or whether it’s all I’m my head because I was blog-planning in the middle of the night…..

Continuing through my A-Z of genealogy posts, I’ve got as far as I.  For this one I’m going to use Inquest.

It’s easy to pick up the wrong idea about family stories when relying on birth, marriage and death certificates to put the jigsaw pieces together.  We read the circumstances of a milestone in our ancestor’s life, and often miss the back story behind it.

The example I chose to use to illustrate this is my great grandfather. He died at Christmas time 1916.I bought a copy of his death certificate, which showed that he had drowned in a dyke, probably late evening.  It sounded for all of the world that he had taken the opportunity for a Christmas celebration and had maybe fallen in an inebriated state.

A bit more investigation showed how wrong I was. Thanks to the British Newspaper Archives, I was able to read an article from the Lancashire Evening Post dated Saturday 30 December 1916 which assured the reader that he had been ‘…quite sober, and in his usual health.’

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 13.13.16

There was similar article in the Blackpool Gazette & News and an obituary in the Manchester Evening News dated 5th January 1917. The charges for announcements were then 1/- for the first 2 lines, and 6d a line thereafter. This would have been no mean sum for the widow of a man with a humble, low paid job.

This is just one small example – what initially seemed like an accident resulting from overindulging was actually caused by a combination of poor visibility (the inquest heard that it was a foggy night) and lack of fencing to prevent by-passers falling into the dyke.

Moral of the story – reading inquest reports might sound like an odd thing to do, but it can certainly give a more complete picture to many circumstances that we encounter in our family history research.


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