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FAQ Burials

Where were they buried?

Most commonly in the parish where they died. Usually this would be the parish where they lived but if someone happened to die away from home they might well be buried in the parish where they died rather than have the expense of transporting the body back home for burial. At the other end of the social scale, more affluent families may have owned vaults or burial plots in their “ancestral home parish” and so the deceased would be taken back there for burial.

Can I trust the age in a burial register?

In a word, “no”. Ages of infants or young married people are usually reliable but for older folk, the deceased themselves probably had only an approximate idea of their age, and anyway were in no position to say! The entry in the register is often little more than a guess by the parish clerk and any surviving relatives.

I can’t find a burial. What are the alternatives?

Baptisms and marriages can often not have taken place and so go unrecorded, but everyone dies eventually. So if they were not buried where you expect, they must have been buried somewhere else. If this was in Oxfordshire, the Search Service can often help locate the burial. If not found, they may have left the county, or indeed the country. The latter could have been as voluntary emigrants, or as transportees as a results of some misdemeanour.

Why were they “Buried in Woollen”?

Entries in old burial registers will often include a phrase such as “buried in woollen” or “affidavit sworn” often with the name of a person testifying this. What is this all about? In 1666 Parliament passed the first of the “Burying in Woollen” acts, requiring that all persons other than plague victims be buried only in material made from wool. This was an attempt to protect the British wool industry from a perceived threat of foreign imports of linen or other materials. It was largely ignored and in 1678 was replaced by an act with more “teeth”. This required the person responsible for laying out the deceased to swear an oath before a Justice of the Peace and two witnesses, that only wool had been used. An affidavit to this effect was to be shown to the parson responsible for the burial and he in turn had to include the details in the burial register. These extra names can be of great interest to the family historian. Laying out the dead often seems to have been the responsibility of a small group of older matriarchs within a community and you find the same names cropping up again and again. An example is an entry from the Deddington Burial Register for the burial of Elizabeth PAINTER on 5 November 1684, where the oath has been sworn by Jane PARSONS. This is the sixth time Jane had performed this function since 1678. She herself died in 1691, in her mid seventies. If you are very lucky you may find an original signed affidavit, such as one on display in South Newington Church with the affidavit being sworn by Alice DUMBLETON concerning the body of William PARSONS and is included in more detail on OFHS Monumental Inscriptions CD OXF-MI-SNT.


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