I regard a cemetery as an archive too - all your ancestors are neatly filed away there and if you're lucky they are also indexed correctly on the headstone above them.
I went to the Brompton Cemetery in Kensington, West London in search of the grave of Joseph Henry Fitzhenry.
Joseph was well known in his later life as an extremely wealthy art collector. In fact, he used the Victoria and Albert Museum in London as an overflow storage facility for his huge collection of silverware and fine art, much of which can still be seen at the museum today. But his origins are shrouded in mystery and even his obituary in The Times of London could only hazard a guess that he had been born in France. He never married. I didn't have a date of birth for him, but I did have his Times obituary, and armed with that I made my way to the cemetery.
For those who haven't been to Brompton Cemetery, it's well worth going even if you haven't got a grave to visit. Established in the 1850s to relieve the overcrowded inner London burial grounds, this 16 acre Victorian cemetery is now managed as one of London's Great Parks and is a haven for wildlife, as well as being beautifully atmospheric and fully of lovely architecture and history. The official website for the cemetery is here, and a selection of the photos that I took on that day are here in one of my Picasa webalbums. (Editor's note April 2015 - I've fixed the broken link to this album, but you may have to be logged into your Google account to view it)
Jay, the wonderfully helpful chap in the cemetery office, was able to look up Joseph FH on his computer database and drew me a map - Joseph was buried in the highly desirable inner circle of the burial ground. Jay also found me two other Fitzhenrys that I hadn't been expecting and ran me off their details too.
I don't really know what I had been expecting for Joseph's gravestone, but certainly something more elaborate and "arty" than the very plain flat grave cover that I found. But at least it gave me that all important birthdate detail that I was looking for.
In lead lettering on granite, the text read:
JOSEPH HENRY FITZHENRYIf any of you art lovers out there have any more information about Joseph Henry Fitzhenry, then please drop me an email.
BORN 21st SEPTEMBER 1836
DIED 14th MARCH 1913
So who were the other Fitzhenrys buried at Brompton Cemetery? The details that are held in the cemetery registers are entered below. Both women were buried in common graves rather than private plots. This meant that their family paid for the burial in the cemetery, but didn't have exclusive right to the plot, and in theory up to 8 people could be buried in the same plot. It also meant no headstone, so there were no further details to be found about them.
Elizabeth Fitzhenry of 38 East Street, Red Lion Square, Parish of St George the Martyr, Holborn.
Buried 4 April 1877 aged 65 years.
Ann Fitzhenry of 61 Duffield Street, Battersea, London.
Buried 3 May 1889 aged 53 years.
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