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Pre-Census Documents

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Pre-Census Documents

Postby familyhistorynut » Sun Aug 11, 2019 9:37 am

Hi All
I have just had a real shock in my family history research by finding that my 3 x Gt. Grandfather committed suicide by hanging himself. He died intestate and left a wife and 6 children.

What I would like to do is find out what happened to his wife and children but it happened in 1798, well before the census so how do I find out where his wife moved to, if she moved at all. They lived on a farm and she did put livestock and furniture up for sale during the following months. There was also a call for creditors/debtors in the local newspaper over the next year.

The youngest child was 2 years and the eldest was 12 years when their father died. She had family in the vicinity so she could have moved in with them but how can I find out? She didn't re-marry and died in 1836, just before the census again.

I've had a look in the poll books for her sons - nothing, she didn't leave a will that I can find. I would also like to know why he decided to kill himself, I suspect debt but could be wrong. There was a coroners verdict but I don't know if the reason he did it would be in the report and I don't think I want to know the gruesome details anyway.

Any help would be very much appreciated. Thank you.
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Re: Pre-Census Documents

Postby MoVidger » Sun Aug 11, 2019 1:24 pm

It's important to remember that taking one's life was considered a crime in England Wales until 1961. However, the English criminal justice system had largely abandoned a punitive approach before 1811.

As such, the coroner's verdict is likely to reflect a felo-de-se verdict or a non-compos-mentis verdict.
Coroner's verdicts of suicide are based on legal guidance surrounding the weight of evidence that a person intended to take their life beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore, the verdict could also include depositions from witnesses as to your ancestor's mental health at the time.

A felo-de-se verdict was treated severely. Coroners' juries were able to impose the refusal of a Christian burial and the application of rites of desecration up until 1823. Also, the familial forfeiture of a suicide victim’s property was not removed from the statute book until 1870.
Last edited by MoVidger on Sun Aug 11, 2019 4:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pre-Census Documents

Postby peter kent » Sun Aug 11, 2019 4:15 pm

How did you find it out?

Do you have his burial record?
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Re: Pre-Census Documents

Postby familyhistorynut » Sun Aug 11, 2019 6:54 pm

Hi Mo, thanks for the advice. I should have said the Coroner's verdict was Lunacy.

Hi Peter, I found an item in the local paper in the British Newspaper Archives and yes, his burial is recorded in the Parish Register.
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Re: Pre-Census Documents

Postby MoVidger » Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:31 pm

If the coroner's verdict is available to you, I would suggest reading it to ascertain background on his situation, particularly if it contains witness depositions. I have a family member who was sadly successful on his second suicide attempt within a month. His death cert states a coroner's verdict of "not of sound mind". But it was known within my family that he was suffering from acute grief, due to the loss of his wife and mother the previous year.

Hopefully the report of the coroner's verdict for your ancestor will offer something more philosophical than just "lunacy".
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Re: Pre-Census Documents

Postby mbford222 » Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:33 pm

I'm sorry for your sad news. Have you looked for parish chest records? Depending on their availability, you should find a record in the local County archives. I was lucky to find, in the Devon Archives, a record of my 4th gt grandmother who was left a widow in 1822 with 4 young boys. The poor law records named the boys and the settlement record informed me that she moved to another parish to be closer to family. You might even find apprentice records for the children. I would start with the county archive and look for Parish chest records.
Hope this helps,
Margaret in Ottawa.
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