About the Bath Burial Index

About the Bath Burial Index

  1. Summary

The Bath Burial Index, developed by Philip Bendall, is a compilation of information on burials for over 50 of Bath’s cemeteries and graveyards past and present. It is based on information from burial registers, indexes to burial registers and surveys carried out by various organisations such as The Widcombe Association, The Bathwick Local History Society and the Beckford Tower Trust. It has been facilitated by the permission of some parishes to photograph their burial registers and by the Council for providing indexes to burial registers for those cemeteries that it administers.

It brings together the information on burials in both church and municipal cemeteries into a single index so that it is easier to determine where someone was buried. It currently has over 240,000 entries from 1660 to present. In addition, there are over 30,000 images of surviving memorials. Where a survey has been carried out, the index indicates whether or not there is a memorial and has additional information from the inscriptions. There are a hundred maps of cemeteries, both overall and detailed, to allow the location of a grave to be determined.

In terms of geography, the limits are:

  • North: St Catherine
  • South: Wellow
  • West: Saltford
  • East: Bathford, Claverton.

Currently (June 2017) there are over 260,000 burial records and over 30,000 images of memorials.

Prior to 1813, when statutory burial registers with preprinted columns were made mandatory, the presence of an age for the entry depended on the parish clerk. Where possible missing ages have been added from information obtained from a memorial or a death notice.

Age present

202,194

82.59%

Abode present

117,644

48.06%

Country of birth present

35,563

14.53%

Entries with notes

92,825

37.92%

Occupation present

11.291

4.61%

Grave location present

116,540

47.61%

Name on memorial

49,651

20.28%

The place of residence (‘abode’ in the registers) of someone buried is present from 1813 but often is just the name of the parish. The abode is absent where, for the municipal cemeteries, only the indexes and not the burial registers themselves can be accessed. Some have been able to be added by reference to the grant of probate.

Number of burials per year

The increase in numbers during the 1700s reflects the growth in Bath’s population during that period. The peak in 1837 arose from a Europe-wide outbreak of influenza. The diminution in numbers per year from the late 1800s is mainly due to the reduction in child mortality. The following graph shows this: 

http://www.batharchives.co.uk/sites/bath_record_office/files/heritage/BBI%20Nr%20by%20year%20by%20age.jpg

Percentage of burials by age range

From the 1950s, the increasing use of cremation with scattering of ashes means that of the 2,000 cremations per year at Haycombe only those with burial of ashes can be documented.

There is a wide variation in child mortality and longevity between the cemeteries:

http://www.batharchives.co.uk/sites/bath_record_office/files/heritage/BBI%20Correlation.jpg

 

Disclaimer

The information in the Bath Burial Index comes from numerous burial registers, burial order books, transcriptions and surveys of cemeteries.  All the sources of information have their limitations and can have errors and omissions.

 

  1. Background

The impetus behind developing the Bath Burial Index was the recognition that to try and find the grave of a relative in one of Bath’s cemeteries is not simple.

The records are scattered across a number of organisations: the Council, parishes and in documentation produced by local historical groups. Many of the parish burial registers are unindexed. The Council’s facilities only allow you to specify a name, a year and a cemetery and for a charge (currently £35) it will supply the location. If you have picked the wrong cemetery there is no refund. Documentation lodged with Bath Record Office is only available during its limited opening hours. With over 40 cemeteries in the Bath area it is no easy task to identify a burial.

In 2011 the information from three cemeteries that had been surveyed was put together to form the basis of a composite index. However, this represented only 60,000 records. Index information for four of the cemeteries administered by the Council was then obtained for the cost of scanning. Access to the burial registers under a Freedom of Information request to the Council was not permitted on the grounds that they contain information on living people who have inherited a grave. The index information does not contain the ages and these have had to be determined by finding the corresponding death registration. The indexes also do not have the abodes, some of which have been obtained from the index to grants of probate. Months of work ensued, involving transcribing from the images, adding ages, etc. For two out of the four cemeteries a survey was undertaken to determine whether or not there was a surviving memorial. By May 2012 the number of records in the index had risen to 96,000.

The unindexed parish burial registers for a series of parishes were transcribed and to this were added the records of those parishes which had been documented. By July 2013 the number of records had increased to 199,000.

In November 2013 the Council supplied the index records for three more cemeteries for which there was no information. The records were transcribed and missing ages added. By March 2014, the number of records had increased to 235,000 records. Surveys of the three cemeteries were undertaken, maps produced and the records updated where the names appear on a memorial.

In order to determine whether or not it would ever be possible to add the missing information to the records and resolve anomalies in the index data, the Council was asked in 2014 whether the burial registers could be accessed, but this was refused on Data Protection grounds.

For the Walcot section of Locksbrook Cemetery, the B&NES Bereavement Services website states that it is only possible to determine whether and where an individual is buried, not who else may be buried in the same grave. Having already transcribed the summary information it would be possible for this project to add the locations from the burial register and then sort by location but in the absence of information on the grave numbering scheme the result of surveying is limited.

 

  1. Limitations

The development of the index has taken over seven years and made use of a variety of resources on the documentation of cemeteries. Some resources such as parish registers are limited in their scope of dates. For a number of graveyards there is no book showing who was buried where.

Locksbrook Cemetery – Walcot Section

Access to the full burial registers is not permitted by B&NES Bereavement Services, and the index that was provided does not have the locations of the burials, the burial dates or ages. Therefore ages have been added by attempting to find the corresponding death registration, which is not always possible.  Without the burial locations it is not possible to produce a map showing where people are buried, and whether there is memorial or not. A survey could establish that a memorial exists but, without the numbering scheme, this would of limited use. A start has been made on surveying to establish the general layout and presence of memorials and some draft maps have been produced. However, identifiers cannot be added to each grave without access to the burial registers which have this information. 

Locksbrook Cemetery – Weston Section

The index information only has the locations for some burials. A survey has established the numbering scheme but it is not possible to identify all burial locations.

Locksbrook Cemetery – St Saviour’s Section

The index has the burial locations but not the abodes and ages. A survey has been undertaken to establish whether or not there is a memorial.

Batheaston

The burial register for the period 1904-1942 has not been found. Entries for this period are limited to those for which there is a memorial.

Haycombe

The index obtained for this cemetery has the burial locations but is missing over 10,000 ages. The missing ages have therefore been added in over 95% of cases. This checking and a survey have found a large number of discrepancies. Some names are incorrect having the name of the person organising the burial rather than that of the individual buried. In other cases, the forenames have been truncated. In addition there are memorials for which there is no corresponding entry in the index. As far as possible the errors have been corrected but a residue remains.

St Swithin’s

The registers prior to 1801 have not been transcribed. From 1813 the statutory registers give name, age and abode. Before this, entries do not have ages consistently, limiting their usefulness.

Swainswick, Langridge and Woolley

The whereabouts of various registers have yet to be established. 

Moravian Burial Ground

The information at Bath Record Office is limited to a list and an annotated map. The original books in London need to be transcribed to obtain the full list.

Lyncombe & Widcombe and St James

The index information supplied by B&NES Bereavement Services does not contain ages so these have been added by reference to the corresponding death registration. Some memorials from a survey carried out in the 1980s (which had no locations) have not been found. About 50 memorials in the south-western part remain to be surveyed.