Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Researching Gravestones

One of the features of my website is the photographs and transcriptions of gravestones and monumental inscriptions from the North Devon parishes of St Giles in the Wood, Yarnscombe, High Bickington, Atherington and Tawstock. With each photograph and transcription, I have included some basic biographical information. Surprisingly, the research required is usually fairly straightforward and actually takes only a few minutes.

Consider the photograph of the gravestone of Richard CONGRAM (1787-1858) of Atherington which was recently added to my website. The first step was to check the transcription of Atherington burials available online through Devon Heritage. The burial register usually confirms the information on the gravestone but sometimes there are descrepancies. For example the year on the gravestone may not match the year in the burial register. In Richard's case, he was buried five days after his death and was 71 years of age when he died.

The next step was to check census data to find out where Richard was born. According to the 1851 Census he was born in the neighbouring parish of Chittlehampton. Armed with a location and an approximate year of birth it was time to use the International Genealogical Index (IGI) to find a baptism. While the IGI can be accessed directly online, it was more effective to go through Hugh Wallis's website and search by surname and batch number. Sure enough I found a Richard, son of William CONGRAM and Margareth, baptised at Chittlehampton in 1787.

Whenever possible I also try to include information about the parents. Using the Deanery of Barnstaple CD published by the Devon Family History Society, I found a 1781 marriage at Chittlehampton between William CONGRAM and Margareth SQUIRE, but unfortunately was not able to learn much more. There is a baptism at Chittlehampton for Margareth SQUIRES in 1757, but I did not find a likely candidate for William CONGRAM. It also seems likely that both of Richard's parents died before 1813 since neither burial is listed in the Deanery of Barnstaple CD.

Richard's son, Thomas CONGRAM (1823-1903) is also buried at Atherington.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Thomas Moore (1782-1832)

The memorial to Thomas STEVENS (1782-1832) in Little Torrington, Devon only tells part of the story. Thomas, the son of the Reverend Thomas MOORE (1740-1802) of Bishops Tawton, was the grandson of Henry STEVENS (1698-1748) and Christian Maria ROLLE (1709-1780), aunt to John, Lord ROLLE of Stevenstone (1751-1842). Thomas changed his name to STEVENS as a condition of the will of his cousin Elizabeth CLEVELAND née STEVENS and it is this name that his monument bears. What the monument does not say is that Thomas committed suicide by cutting his own throat with a razor.

Newspaper accounts of his death were far less restrained. One death notice was printed in the 1832 Annual Register:
14 Jan. At his seat, Cross, near Torrington, Thomas Stevens, esq. recorder of Exeter, Barnstaple, and Torrington, and a major in the North Devon regiment of Yeomanry cavalry. Educated for the bar, he early displayed talents of a superior order, and in 1826 he was elected by the chamber of Exeter to fill the honourable and responsible office or recorder of that city. On Monday, January 9, Mr. Stevens sat in the court of quarter sessions in Barnstaple; and on Tuesday, at the quarter sessions in South Molton; and, on each of those days, he complained of indisposition in his head. A tumultuous assemblage of people at Torrington on the following days, called forth his active exertions both as a magistrate and an officer, and probably increased the excitement which disease had previously begotten in his mind. On Friday evening he wrote a letter to a gentleman, which bore strong indications of great mental agitation. In this perturbed state he retired to his room on the evening of Friday. In the morning was heard from the dressing room, which induced Mrs. Stevens to hasten thither; and, on entering she caught her husband in her arms, deluged in blood flowing in torrents from a wound inflicted in his throat, which caused his death within a very short period.
The diaries of Thomas's wife, Sophia LE MARCHANT (1798-1860) are held by the North Devon Record Office in Barnstaple. Unfortunately a large gap exists around the time of her husband's death.

Thomas's brother John MOORE (1784-1865) also changed his name as an inheritance condition, becoming John MOORE-STEVENS. John was the Vicar of Otterton and was apparently under the impression that, as the closest male relative of Lord Rolle, he was going to inherit the Rolle Estates. The estates, however, went instead to Mark George Kerr TREFUSIS (1835-1907), the six-year-old nephew of Lord ROLLE's second wife.