Where in Berkshire were they buried?

Some researchers pay less attention to deaths and burials of their forebears than to earlier events in their ancestors' lives. Here are nine reasons why that approach is hard to support:

  • a recorded age at death, even if inaccurate, can help to identify a birth year...
  • parish burial register entries confirm where families lived at a particular time and...
  • ...often give details of relationships and other key information
  • a death certificate may hold an address that helps direct further searches
  • a death may be marked with a newspaper obituary or funeral notice...
  • newspapers report on coroners' inquests too
  • dates and places of death can help to locate probate documents
  • monumental inscriptions can include ages, relationships, addresses and occupations
  • causes and circumstances of deaths can often be of interest

Berkshire Burial publications

The society's Berkshire Burials CD is the definitive finding aid for burials across all of  pre-1974 Berkshire.

The 12th edition holds over 900,000 transcribed entries from registers and records of more than 270 churchyards, cemeteries, workhouses and burial grounds in Berkshire. You can buy the CD at The Centre for Heritage and Family History or online from the Shop.

Keep in mind that people often sought to return to a former parish where they once lived to be buried. Sometimes, people wanted to be reunited with a spouse who had predeceased them. Thus, burials may not necessarily be found in the expected localities where deaths took place. Many such examples can be found in the Berkshire Burials datasets - underlining the value of the CD - and its county-wide searching potential.

Some family history societies have indexed burials for their respective counties too. The third edition of the National Burial Index for England & Wales (published in 2010) has useful, if much abbreviated, details of burial records BUT individual county coverage is very variable, and some counties having little or no information included.

Death certificates

English certificates often contain less detail for researchers than those issued in some other countries. But addresses at the time of death can help later census searches, recorded ages may point to birth years, and informants may prove to be direct relatives — although they might just as easily be neighbours.

Certificates are normally issued before funeral arrangements are finalised.

Until recently, registration of a death took place in the registration district where the event took place. This may not be the district or locality where any subsequent burial or cremation took place. It follows that certificates of deaths at work, in hospital, or in a workhouse, and those for deaths occuring away from home or while travelling may offer few if any clues to eventual burial places.

 Other sources of information

As in so many areas of family history research, a little lateral thinking can sometimes open up new lines of research. Here are three further suggestions to consider when searching for accurate information concerning the deaths of your ancestors.

  • Coroners' Inquests  - for those who died unexpectedly. While records do not always survive, inquests were invariably reported in local newspapers. The society has published an Index to Coroners' Inquisitions for the years 1688 to 1926 on CD, available from the Shop. This indexes surviving papers for the pre-1974 county held in Berkshire Record Office in Reading.

  • Local and national newspapers contain funeral notices, funeral reports and obituaries. The British Newspaper Archive website has transformed the newspaper search process, with more than 23 million pages from old newspapers now searchable online (December 2017).  The British Newspaper Archive, along with Findmypast, The Genealogist and Ancestry — the worldwide edition, is available to all researchers FREE of charge at The Centre for Heritage and Family History, the society's home in Reading.

  • Wills and probate documents have become much more accessible in recent years. Wills, in particular, while potential sources of rich family detail, may provide pointers to a burial place. Berkshire Family History Society, with other project partners, published an Index to the Probate Documents of the Archdeaconry of Berkshire (2012). This covers the period from 1480-1857 and the actual documents are held by Berkshire Record Office. This link gives more information.
  • From 1858 onwards, probate jurisdiction became a civil process. A number of finding aids are now available and simple (and free) searches can provide dates of death, addresses, executor details — particularly for the period 1858-1996, but also from 1996 to the present (date of death only). See the Find a Will service on the Gov.uk website. Pay-per-view websites like Findmypast and Ancestry also offer a means to search the Probate Calendars for England and Wales for selected periods, and other probate records and indexes.

page last reviewed and revised 19th December 2017

Additional information