Cornwell and Price graves in Kedington, Suffolk
Lofthouse Parish Church
Monumental inscriptions are a terribly underused source of family history information. We manage to find a death, maybe even a burial for our ancestor and then we move on to the next person on our list. The search for the grave and any surviving monument and inscription is firmly assigned to the “to do sometime in the future” pile.
I managed a brief visit to the parish church of Lofthouse, Yorkshire on a weekend away. My Jenkins ancestors were coal miners. They moved from Flintshire in North Wales to the Lofthouse area in the mid 1800s and continued as coal miners for four generations.
My ambition on arrival at the graveyard was to locate the resting place of my great x 3 grandparents, John Jenkins and Sarah Jenkins née Foulks. Armed with camera, notebook, husband and daughter we began to search the graveyard stone by stone for any reference to the Jenkins family.
John and Sarah’s grave is shown on the right and on the front left of the photograph of the parish church. The inscription reads:
John & Sarah Jenkins
of Rothwell Haigh
Who Died December 8th
1874 aged 52 years
Our home is not this
Our life knows not its bounds…..
And death is but the line that lies
Between the soul and Paradise.
Also Sarah Jane daughter of the
above who died October 25th 1856
aged 4 months
Also of Francis son of the
above who died August 28th 1863,
aged 1 year and 4 months
The Lord gave and the Lord taketh
away Blessed be the name of the
Also of John Jenkins,
who died April 26th 1891
Aged 68 years”
and it is seen that two children who died in infancy are also remembered here. What is most useful about the information on the inscription is that Sarah Jane and Francis were both born and buried between census returns. As it happens the parish registers for West Yorkshire are now available and indexed online but at the time two new members of the Jenkins family were found on this gravestone that would not have been discovered until local research had been conducted.
An even more remarkable find was yet to come. A second Jenkins grave was found only a few feet from John and Sarah. The inscription reads:
The children of Sam & Ann Jenkins
“In Loving Memory of
of Sam and Ann Jenkins
of Australia, late of Lofthouse
Sarah Elizabeth, died May 1st 1872
Aged 15 months
Ada, died December 17th 1873
Aged 9 months
Sarah, died October 9th 1882
Aged 7 years
Martha Ellen, died Oct 10th 1882
Aged 8 years
Anne, died November 5th 1882
Aged 5 years
Wilfred died November 10th 1883
Aged 3 months
Minnie died at sea May 24th 1884
Aged 9 months
Not Dead but Sleepeth
Also of Richard Humphrey Jenkins
Son of the Above
Died April 30th 1910
Aged 28 years
N. S. W. Australia”
It is not clear which family members are interred in this grave and further research is warranted at a later date. Sam Jenkins was John and Sarah Jenkins’ son. Sam, also a coal miner, had married Ann Watson in the neighboring parish of Rothwell in 1870. At the time of the 1881 census they had four children. They had not been found in the 1891 census but it was known that three of their children had died in 1882.
This inscription reveals that the family emigrated to Australia. It also provides information regarding more children and the fact that one child died “at sea” provides the year of emigration to Australia. Sadly, of Sam and Ann’s nine children, only two survived to reach Australia.
These are only two examples of the type of information that may be obtained from monumental inscriptions.
Sadly, many graveyards are now being cleared for development or “ease of maintenance” and the gravestones are being lost. The inscriptions also deteriorate with time and it is only thanks to the efforts of volunteers, such as the family history societies, that records of these inscriptions are being preserved.
I urge you not to overlook this incredibly rich source of family history information, you never know what you may find…