Recently I read in Family Tree Magazine that the GRO are currently running a pilot scheme whereby you can order a pdf copy of birth and death records for certain periods. When an actual ‘certificate’ is not needed – just the information contained on it – then the vastly reduced price of £6 is quite an inducement to buy when normally a certificate costs £9.25. Currently the records available in this format are births 1837 – 1916 and deaths 1837 – 1957.
I was aware of a couple of events on my George tree where the GRO information would be very useful: the actual death date of my Great Great Grandfather John George in 1901 and the birth of a William George who is recorded in censuses living with John’s parents David and Elizabeth and apparently a grandson. I have not been able to place him properly, so information on his parentage would be very useful.
Finding the GRO references for both was very easy using the search facility on the ordering site https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/ and cross-checking with the Freebmd site for good measure. Having set up an account I placed my order and exactly seven days later I got an email to say that the pdfs were ready to download! I was impressed with the speed of the process but even more excited about the results. It’s some years since I ordered a certificate by post, but the excitement (“what am I about to find out?”) was still the same. I was not disappointed.
It turns out that William was born on the 25th of October 1838 to Mary George, the older sister of my G G Grandfather John. Her illegitimate son was born in the workhouse at Gressenhall, Norfolk. Now Mary was not a teenage mum – she was 30 when she had William. Although I have not located her in 1841, subsequent censuses show her as a servant in various farming households in the area. Her parents were obviously happy to take the boy in and bring him up – at some point I will see if I can find what happened to him in later life. Mary never married and lived to the grand age of 95, dying in Gressenhall and buried in the churchyard there.
As for John George, well he died on the 14th February 1901 of ‘senile decay’, apparently aged 89 years (although I think that should have been 85). Where did he die? In Gressenhall workhouse! That was a surprise. Poor John. Perhaps when he developed what we might term dementia his wife Fanny was unable to cope with him at home, I thought. Wondering what happened to Fanny, I did a bit of digging around and eventually realised that she died first – in 1894 – while visiting or even living with her daughter Martha in Fakenham.
Possibly, then, John was admitted to the Workhouse some years before he died and Fanny went to live with her daughter. Unfortunately the Admissions records for that period do not seem to have survived as far as I can tell so that is probably as far as I can get. Except that a very helpful Volunteer Researcher at the Gressenhall Museum was able to tell me that the burial ground at the workhouse went out of use in 1900. I will need to do a bit more hunting to find where he was actually buried.
This workhouse, unlike some others which have been turned into luxury appartments, survives and thrives as a museum and we visited it just the other year, little knowing then the personal connection I had with the place. https://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/gressenhall-farm-and-workhouse .
I think that was £12 well spent to have discovered the answers to those two outstanding questions. I wonder what other problems I can resolve while the pilot lasts?