Sunday, January 20, 2013

Parish Burial Registers.


In 2012 the question arose as to where family historians should go in Cornwall to obtain details of burials of family members. Historically, of course, most burials had taken place in the graveyard attached to the Parish Church, and would have been recorded in the Parish Burial Register. But as local populations increased and graveyards became full, alternative arrangements had to be found. In the main those cemetery sites were acquired and administered by the local authorities which existed at the time – the Councils of Urban Districts, Rural Districts and Parishes.  In time the UDC’s and RDC’s ceased to exist, and their responsibilities were taken on by the 6 District Councils, which in turn were recently disbanded and replaced by the Unitary Authority – Cornwall Council. The cemeteries which they administer are detailed on their website.

As far as the other authorities were concerned, I emailed all the town and parish councils in the county, asking whether they had a cemetery. Predictably a number never replied; one replied in a very arrogant and rude manner; one amusingly asked why I was asking the “real” parish clerk rather than the online variety; but the majority were pleasant and helpful. Again, as one might expect, most parish councils said that they  had no cemetery, and that burials were still taking place in the graveyards attached to the Parish Church.

Those who administered cemeteries were then asked whether they would give permission for their burial records to be copied. Bude Town Council and Falmouth Town Council said that, although they had no objection in principle, they were in the process of putting their records online, and there was little purpose in duplicating effort. Of the remainder, most said that they had no objection, and I spent several enjoyable days visiting the homes or offices of welcoming parish or town clerks and was usually liberally plied with refreshments while photographing their Registers!

Some of the authorities had only acquired their cemeteries after 1937 (in 2012 the “cut-off” date for the OPC database) so although I photographed their records and transcribed them, they will not form part of the database for many years. But some – notably St Stephen in Brannel, St Dennis and St Enoder – have records which either have contributed or will contribute (when I can complete the transcribing!) significantly to the database, not merely in numbers but in the detail provided.
Unlike the Parish Registers, the Cemetery Registers always give a grave location, very often give date of death as well as of burial, and frequently give occupation or family information such as “wife of” or “son of” etc.

So far I have recorded the Registers of Gorran, Luxulyan, Mullion, Cury, Wendron, St Dennis, St Stephen in Brannel, Probus and St Enoder. My quest will continue in 2013!

Written by the photographer, John Evans.