Wednesday, 28 January 2015

52 Ancestors:# 4 ~ Butcher Births and Deaths between the Census'

No Story Too Small
This post is for week 4 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge (2015) by Amy Crow from No Story Too Small.
You can read the list of my posts HERE

My Grandfather's parents, Charles Butcher and his wife, Annie Prudence nee Harris raised a family of nine children to adulthood; five daughters and four sons. They also had three children other children; two who lived a very short time, and one who was stillborn.

Something touched me as I re-read my notes about these three children. The reality is that apart from their names and the notes that I made when my Great Aunt spoke of her deceased siblings there isn't much to tell. Or is there?
  • Charles Henry Butcher born 1st June 1902 and died 23rd November 1902. Both events occurred at Wanborough Surrey. Charles was born blind
  • Frederick William Butcher born 23rd August 1903 in Wanborough was stillborn
  • Elsie Butcher born 7th January 1912 and died 25th March 1912. Both events in Wanborough Surrey. Elsie suffered from "fits"
Crown Copyright. Accessed via Ancestry
Class: RG14; Piece: 3098; Schedule Number: 44

Back in 1988 when my Great Aunt told me about these siblings the 1901 Census had not been released, and even if it had it missed the birth of all of these children.

The 1911 Census was also not available and again the children would not have been recorded in any case, but as you can see from the 1911 Census for the family it does confirm that two children had died. The Census document should have shown children who had been born living and subsequently died which was not the case.

Oral history was my starting point. My Great Aunt was born in 1900, so she recalled the birth and death of Elsie, and was very small during the births and subsequent deaths of her two earlier siblings, which indicated that the information came to me second hand, from my Great Grandmother via my Aunt.

Wanborough Church circa 1940
From the Guildford & District Collection of Julie Goucher
The question was how much of the information was accurate?

I made an appointment with the churchwarden of the time at Wanborough. He was less welcoming that his colleague from neighbouring Puttenham. He observed me with the register as I extracted the baptisms and burials of my Grandfather born in Wanborough in 1908, his earlier and later siblings in addition to the details for Charles and Elsie. I also transcribed the burial register for Frederick.

Here in the UK there was not a separate GRO register for stillborns until the 1920's, therefore there is actually no record of Frederick William apart from the oral history and the entry in the burial register. There is no gravestone, and Frederick was simply added to the grave plot of a recent and non related burial.

I was curious about the causes for death, as recalled by the oral history of both Charles and Elsie and set about trying to establish a little detail about the causes for death.

Charles Henry (born in 1902) apparently was born blind, which in babies from birth was more common alongside other developmental issues - what we would call now intellectual disability, or conditions such as Cerebal Palsy and Epilepsy.

Elsie (born 1912) apparently died of, what was described to me as  "fits". Babies can have Infantile Spasms. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder which is characterised by recurrent seizures. It can be hereditary, but on the whole most siblings do not have the condition, but if they do the seizures are Generalised Seizures which begin from both sides of the brain at the same time.

Was the conditions suffered by Charles and Elsie linked? The reality is that this can never been 100% proved. What is certain is that Society viewed epilepsy very differently at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, and those views had formed in the Victorian age. Had those children had a form of Epilepsy and lived to adulthood, there is a chance they would have been subject to ridicule and perhaps incarceration into an asylum.


  • Order the birth and death certificates for Charles Henry Butcher 1902 - DONE
  • Order the birth and death certificates for Elsie Butcher 1912 - DONE
  • Locate the burial log to see if I can identify which grave Frederick William was added to.
  • Further research on the causes of death once the certificates have arrived

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful tribute to the memory of these three babies. I might one day tell the story of my dad's cousin who had three babies who died as infants or were stillborn. Our family takes photos of dead relatives and there are two heart-breaking photos of at least one of these tiny babies.


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