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Family historians may be able to learn more about the untimely deaths of some of their more unfortunate ancestors thanks to new research exploring coroners’ reports from Tudor England
Genealogists may be able to learn more about the untimely deaths of some of their less fortunate ancestors thanks to new research exploring coroners’ reports from Tudor England.
The study, being carried out by Dr Steven Gunn and Dr Tomasz Gromelski from the University of Oxford and funded by the ESRC, will focus on the details recorded in thousands of coroners’ reports that were drawn up around the country in the 16th century. As well as revealing what may now appear to be rather curious causes of death, the researchers hope to use the records to provide new insights into our ancestors’ lives more than 400 years ago.
Available to view at The National Archives in Kew, the set of coroners’ reports (record series KB9) features a range of information including name, age, occupation and cause of death.
Some of the more unusual fates may have been one-off cases: John Hypper, for example, “was ‘playinge Christenmas games’ on Boxing Day 1563,” when he “involuntarily crushed himself and injured his testicles so that by reason of his old bodily infirmity he became ill and languished until about 3am on 28 December, when he died.” Many others, however, offer a revealing picture of the ways in which people lived, worked and cared for their families.
“Coroners’ reports of fatal accidents can reveal much about Tudor England, because the fact that the people involved were caught unawares means that they were very often in the middle of their normal, everyday lives,” Dr Gunn told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. “This means that we can find learn much about the situations in which they would typically find themselves – as well, of course, as the often poignant ways in which they died.”
There are also some intriguing links for researchers exploring particular families and places: for instance, Edmund Fenwyke, a boy killed by a gun chamber that exploded during a street performance in Newcastle, shares his surname with a chain of department stores founded in the city 300 years later. Although the study’s completion in 2016 will not produce a single comprehensive database, genealogists will be able to search through the data files online.