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June 19, 2019

Have You Found an Ancestor's Coffin Plate?

May 15, 1790 Coffin Plate Manufacturer's Ad

The history of Coffin Plates or casket plates is a long but not very well documented one. Coffin plates are decorative adornments attached to the coffin that contain free genealogical information like the name and death date of the deceased.

Coffin Plate Thomas Dalton 1829
Generally made of a soft metal like lead, pewter, silver, brass, copper, zinc or tin. The different metals reflect the different functions of the plates, or the status and wealth of the deceased. For a basic funeral, a simple lead plate would be lettered with the name, date of death and often the age of the departed, and nailed to the lid of a wooden coffin. But high status people could afford a plate of a more expensive metal and elaborate design.

The oldest coffin plates that I have seen date from the 17th century (1600~1699) and were at that time reserved for people of some stature. As time went on more people were able to afford the luxury of a Coffin Plate and with the coming of the industrial revolution the cost of the plates went down so much that by the middle of the 19th century almost every family could afford to have one put on the coffin of their loved one. FN1

Some of Brian L. Massey's private collection of Coffin Plates
These are just the start of the over 150 coffin plates that are online on Ancestors At Rest.

Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestGeo W Abbott 1860~1879 Found in U.S.A.
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestHenry M Adams 1838~1900 Found in U.S.A.
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestSarah A Adams 1824~1877 Found in U.S.A.
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestSophia Jane Aitcheson 1862~1904 Wellington County Ontario.
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestSamual Adam 1799~1874
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestLucy Andrews 1790~1869
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestRobert Andrews 1786~1870
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestLauuelina Jane Armand 1841~1866 Massachusetts.
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestMary M Atherton Found in New England
Find Death Records on Ancestors at RestWilbert Avery 1860~1890 Found in Massachusetts.

Continue searching for your ancestor at Index to Coffin Plates

FN1Important Note: Brian L. Massey wrote this article and more, all of which is published on his AncestorsAtRest.com website. It was taken without permission and posted verbatim on Wikipedia. Trying to get it taken down has been unsuccessful.

June 17, 2019

Genealogy Tip: Do the Basics Before Asking for Help

Peter posted this query in a group I am in. He didn't get any responses so I thought I'd take a look.
I  looking for any information about my fourth great grand parents who immigrated around 1820 to the Cavin, Peterborough area of Ontario from Ireland and were in the Orange Lodge. their names are Joseph Burns and Ann Madill. Their son John Thomas Burns was born 1838 in Cavin died 1931 in Toronto. I don't know how many other children they had. As for John I don't know his wife's name or how many children they had.
It surprised me that Peter didn't have any census record information for his family. Since the son John Thomas Burns was born ca 1838 in Ontario and died 1931 in Toronto Ontario, he should be found on the census records which were taken every 10 years - 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, and 1921 (the last publicly available census for Ontario). Many of these are free on Library and Archives Canada. Researchers can also find them on Ancestry, and some are available on FamilySearch.

So while I love a good challenging brick wall to break down, genealogists should always do basic research before asking for help. The family unit can usually be put together by getting those census records. In fact a 5 minute search of census records gave me John's wife's first name and one child.

Searching for Vital Records such as marriages and deaths after 1869 can also help determine family groups.  Another 2 minutes and I found two marriage records giving the full name of John's wife and the names of two other children.

I realize that Peter might be new to Canadian research, specifically Ontario, so I hope this blog post will lead him in the right direction to get the answers to those questions he posed. 

June 14, 2019

Autographs of Passengers on Board M.S. Batory to New York

List of Passengers M.S. Batory from Gdynia Tuesday, July 25th 1950 Copenhagen, Wednesday, July 26th Southampton, Friday, July 28th to New York

Several years ago Deborah Wade provided Olive Tree Genealogy with a transcribed list of the passengers on board MS Batory from Gdnynia.

Deborah wrote "Off and on, I collect old menus and ephemera connected with trains, cruises, airplanes/airports, etc. The passenger list I'm about to transcribe is one such item. Maybe one of the passengers will be significant to a fellow genealogist. Although this voyage was in 1950, I believe there is some history behind the Batory: I have read that it was the last Polish passenger ship to leave Poland before the Nazis gained control in the late 1930's."
Recently Kelli Phoenix sent photos of an autographed Passenger List booklet from the MS Batory.  Although the ships sailed on different days, this kind of ephemera can be very helpful.  Perhaps you will find an ancestor name or address in Kelli's photos.

June 12, 2019

A Death Too Young: Pt4 Elsie Cousins Hayword

This is the last post in the story A Death Too Young. Part 1 and any other parts of this story of the Cousins family can be found by clicking on the tag Alfred R Cousins at the bottom of this post.

Although this story was to be about Alfred R. Cousins, the young soldier killed at Gallipoli, I was curious if there might be descendants of his brother or sister who might find the finding of the photo and clipping of interest. It appears his brother Arthur may have had an illegitimate son Ronald Cousins Abrahams born 1921 in Luton, but that he had no other offspring.

But what about Alfred's older sister Elsie, the one who was to be given Alfred's cap badge after his death. Local newspapers indicate that on April 11, 1917 she married Edwin Claridge Hayward. This confirms her to be the Mrs. Elsie Hayward named in Arthur Cousin's will.

Luton News and Bedfordshire Chronicle - Thursday 12 April 1917

I then found Edwin and Elsie living in Luton in the 1939 UK Registers. He is recorded as born 25 September 1893, she in 1891. He is a licenced victualler and Elsie is an assistant victualler. 


Because I was searching for either Edwin or Elsie in the online records, to my surprise I found Edwin enlisting in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in Kenora Ontario in 21 December 1914. It surprised me that he didn't enlist in the UK military instead of the Canadian! But it is confirmed to be the same man as he is recorded as Edwin Claridge Hayward born 25 September 1893 in Luton. One difference is that when he enlisted he gave his occupation as "moving picture operator"

Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), 
RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 4196 - 32  

Edwin's full service file (78 pages) has been digitized and is available on Library and Archives Canada. From itwe learn he saw action in France, and suffered from the deadly Spanish Influenza in 1916. There are numerous medical records for Edwin including details of hospitalization for broken glass from an engine striking his left eye and rupturing it. 



Edwin's left eye was removed and a glass eye inserted.


 After being sent to England in 1916 he received permission from the military to marry in 1917. 

Edwin's death is recorded in his service records as January 3, 1964. His will was probated on 30 April that year. Since the person named in his will was his brother Noel Stephen Hayward, we might theorize that Edwin and Elsie had no children.


 His wife Elsie died 8 April 1961 and her will was probated on 12 June that same year.


As much as it saddens me, it seems the only descendant of Alfred Cousin's parents was the illegitimate son Ronald Cousins Abrahams born 1921. Why does that sadden me? Because it does not appear he was ever recognized by his father Alfred's brother Arthur. But perhaps Ronald had descendants and with luck, one of them will find this series of blog posts with the story of the family.

As for who tucked the clipping and photo into that book, we can only guess. My intuition is that either the father, mother or sister saved such a precious memento. Over time the book likely moved from generation to generation before turning up in a local bookstore. 

If you found my research or the process I used to find information helpful, please consider a donation to support my continuing to bring free genealogy online for all. 

June 10, 2019

A Death Too Young: Pt3 Arthur Cousins

This is the continuing story of A Death Too Young. Part 1 and any other parts of this story of the Cousins family can be found by clicking on the tag Alfred R Cousins at the bottom of this post.

We learned in Part 2 that Alfred's brother Arthur almost certainly had an illegitimate son by Violet Rose Abrahams. This son was born in 1921 in Luton and named Ronald Cousins Abrahams.  He is followed in Part 2 of this story, as is the fate of his mother Violet.

I then moved on to Arthur, who originally agreed to pay for the support of his son but a year later stopped paying, and denied that he was the father. So what happened with Arthur? The last we saw of him ws 1923 when he was in court for non-payment.

We know he was in the 1891 and 1901 census of Toddington with his parents. In July 1907 at age 18 Arthur enlisted in the military in a Bedfordshire Regiment.  (Regimental Number 9107) The 1911 UK census on Ancestry indicates he was in Barracks in Aldershot, Surray with other soldiers from the 1st Battalion Infantry.

In 1912 he was promoted to Corporal and sent to France in 1914, where he remained until September 29,1915 when he was wounded. In 1916 he was discharged from the army as "no longer physically fit for war service" having suffered a gunshot wound in his right shoulder.

Page 1 of 11 pages of Arthur's service files

Moving on to the 1939 UK Register we find Arthur John Cousins with birth date of 28 February 1889 living on Chapel Street in Luton. He is single and states his occupation as a master builder.


His death date is found in England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995 as 24 October 1959 and his probated will was registered in London England on 4 December that year. He names his married sister Elsie in his will. Since no record of marriage was found, we might  theorize that he never married. Also from this probate it might also be theorized that he never acknowledged Ronald Cousins Abrahams as his son. 


There's one more blog post on this story. Check back in a few days to read the final post.

June 7, 2019

A Death Too Young: Pt 2 Arthur & Violet

This is the continuing story of A Death Too Young. Part 1 and any other parts of this story of the Cousins family can be found by clicking on the tag Alfred R Cousins at the bottom of this post.

Although this story was to be about Alfred R. Cousins, the young soldier killed at Gallipoli, I was curious if there might be descendants of his brother or sister who might find the finding of the photo and clipping of interest. Further research revealed that his older brother Arthur was the subject of a complaint filed in 1922 stating that he was not paying support money owed for his child by one Violet R. Abrahams.

Violet claimed that Arthur, age 34, was spending the agreed on money of 7s 6d weekly on movies and another woman. 

 Luton Reporter 12 September 1922

 The Luton Reporter also had this to report about Arthur and Violet. Arthur denied the child was his; Violet insisted it was. Arthur stated he was out of work so could not continue to pay the money as he had since the previous year. (As an observer reading this I have to wonder why Arthur would agree to pay in the first place if he didn't know the child was his.....)


The case was far from over, for in September 1923 Arthur was in court and we learn that he began paying the money for this child in August 1921.

Luton Reporter 24 August 1923

But who was the child? A search of FreeBMD revealed that a Ronald C. Abrahams born in Luton to a mother whose surname was Abrahams, was registered in September 1921. What happened to Ronald? Did he live to marry and have children? It would certainly be interesting if anyone descended from Ronald took a DNA Test to see if they matched to the Cousins family.

Further searches revealed a Ronald Cousins Abrahams born 24 June 1921 dying November 1989 in Luton. A search of the 1939 U.K. Register also found Ronald C. Abrahams age 21 living with his maternal grandparents. Recall that in one of her complaints, Violet stated that her parents had to look after her child. Violet had previously married in 1926 so possibly her son Ronald was sent to live with his grandparents at that time.


In 1952 Ronald C. Abrahams married Edith whose surname is given as both Bates and Parker. There may have been children of this marriage but privacy restrictions make it difficult to find more information from this year forward. Did Ronald know his birth father? Was Arthur Cousins the father? It certainly seems so, but let's do more research and find out what happened to Arthur.

But first, what about Violet? Violet Rose Abrahams was born in Luton in the fall of 1896. The 1901 census finds 5 year old Violet with her parents Arthur and Pollie (Mary) Abrahams and siblings Nellie age 10 , Lillie age 6, and Harry age 6 months. Also living with the family was Violet's maternal grandmother Hannah Mitchell.

1911 finds the family still in Luton with two more children, Arthur age 5 and Hilda 1 1/2 years old. Here Violet Rose is recorded by name Rose Isabella.

Further research found Violet marrying James Young in Luton in late 1926. The next record is the 1939 U.K. Register where we see the family consists of James, Violet, and their son Gordon Alexander who was born in June 1832 and is 8 years old.


It appears that Violet died in Luton in 1962. More on the family in Part 3 so be sure to check in a few days for the continuation.

June 5, 2019

The Mystery of Hilda's Foot

My friend and fellow genealogist, Katherine R. Willson posted this intriguing burial card on her Facebook page.

The burial of Hilda's foot apparently took place in Union Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1919. 

Katherine wanted to know if any of us in the genealogy community had ever seen anything like this. We had not. But of course, being avid genealogists, several of us went on a hunt for Hilda, hoping to find out what the story was behind this odd burial.

As you can probably imagine, we had a lot of guesses as to how Hilda lost her foot and perhaps more importantly, why she had it buried. Was her body destroyed in an accident and only the foot remained? Was the foot amputated for health reasons and her religious beliefs required that she bury the foot until she died and could be buried with it?

Then I found the following story in the Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wisconsin) 04 Aug 1920, Wed Page 10 which explained what happened to Hilda and her foot.



 
Hilda died April 15, 1950 and her obituary reveals she was 66 years old. 

Milwaukee Journal Monday, Apr 17, 1950 Milwaukee, WI Page: 37

It remains a mystery as to why Hilda had her foot buried in one cemetery and her body in another.