Thursday 28 August 2014

Waterford Funeral Book is a great new resource

A fabulous new resource for those with ancestors from Waterford was officially launched last night by Waterford City & County Libraries. It's the funeral accounts of Robert Thompson Funeral Directors, a company that has been in business in the City since 1786.

Unfortunately, the record books don't stretch right back to when the business was established. They start from 1876 and those up to 1918 are available for free download from the County Council's website in a series of four large pdfs (max 56Mb). Watch out for the leap-frogging of dates across the volumes.

They are intriging records, albeit you have to decipher some of the spelling of the accounts clerk. It took me a while to appreciate that the highly popular Ellim, Ellem, Ellam coffins sold by the company were, in fact, made of Elm, and that the herse was not a horse but a hearse. There are many trips to the 'a Silum' (asylum).

Here are a few examples that I cross-checked with the FamilySearch civil registration indexes:

21 June 1888: 'A herse to the a Silum', David Galivan, 5shillings. This probably relates to the death, registered in Q2 of that year, of 55-year-old David Galvin.

Early 1903: Patrick Norris. The funeral expenses of £16 included eight journeys made by Mrs Norris to and fro Killivery, presumably in the week leading up to the funeral, an oak coffin, a hearse and four horses. Each driver was charged out at 2shillings and 6pence. Civil registration index suggests he was 72 years old.

17 March 1880: An elm coffin with hearse and pair and covered carriage was supplied to Kilmacow for Thomas Pender at a cost of £2 and 2shillings. (Death index has him as 26 years old.)

In addition to funeral accounts, there are some odd medicinal recipes dotted about in the books, some lists of drinks supplied to wakes, and many examples of the company sending carriages to collect or deliver people, presumably funeral-goers, to or from the railway station. Fascinating.