Thursday, 22 March 2012


As a genealogist you begin to view death in the same light at birth, marriage, or even a census return. It's a piece of information to enable you to build up a picture of an ancestor.

I have ordered one death certificate so far in my research. It was for my great great grandfather John Elders who died in 1904 of pneumonia aged just 31. He left a wife and three children, one not even a month old.

In my life I have been fortunate to have not been too affected by death. The first person I remember losing was my Granny's oldest sister, Auntie Hilda, but at the age of 10 I wasn't really too aware of what was happening. Two years ago I lost my first grandparent, the slightly bonkers Bernard Elders. But at the age of 79 and after suffering from dementia it was expected.

What happened today however, was not expected. A superb bloke by the name of Adrian died today at work of a heart attack aged just 40 years old. We worked together on the same team, and as part of that team we went out for a meal not even 24 hours before he died. I am still in a state of shock, but I had to write something down, and here seemed as good a place as any.

Death has so many more repercussions than a birth or marriage, and I think it's important to think about how the death of an ancestor would affect both the family, but also friends and acquaintances. Especially a sudden death.

RIP Adrian. You will be missed x


  1. Hi Katelyn, sorry to hear about Adrian.

    I agree with what you say about death just becoming another event in an ancestor's life. We sometimes tend to forget that someone actually died! I try to not forget that they were all actually people rather than just a name on a page, although this is sometimes hard when we lack photographs or any information about their life. It's hard to make an emotional connection with someone when all we have is their name and a date of birth.

    I too have been fairly lucky when it comes to death. My paternal grandparents died before I was born, and I lost both my maternal grandparents when I was only 7 and 8 - and age where you don't fully understand or appreciate what is going on. However, a couple of years ago, my great-aunt died, and although I went to her funeral with my mum, I never actually met her (something I deeply regret - she only lived 10 minutes away, and I could have told her about her family history). I also lost my step great-grandparents a few years ago and then my step grandmother only a couple of years later, which was the first big loss in my life as she was the only real grandparent I had after losing mine at a young age.

    I have a few unexpected deaths in my family unfortunately. My great-grandfather was killed in WW1 aged only 28. His mother died of pneumonia aged 38. A great-great-great-grandfather also died of pneumonia at just 25. A little more recently, my mother's cousin died of meningitis aged just 17. Obviously these deaths are expected to be uncovered when researching your family, but we have to think of how they would affect our ancestors. My great-grandmother lost her mother, father and husband, and then died herself all within 5 years. It must have been very difficult for her.

  2. I'm sorry about your workmate. :(

    I completely agree that we tend to think of death as just a date and place. I've been trying to at least notice what age someone was when they died, to give me a bit more appreciation for the context.

    I have the same disconnect when it comes to graveyards. I love graveyards, and all the exciting information they contain. (I also feel a weird urge to do martial arts in them, lol, must be all the Buffy the Vampire Slayer I watch!) It was only when I came across my grandma's tombstone for the first time that I really connected the graveyard to death in my mind.