Grave Encounters

Grave Encounters (5): Alfred and Eliza Collins and their two daughters

As you curve from the perimeter path back into the cemetery, on your right-hand side look out for a couple of adjacent graves. The gravestone in the foreground (Consecrated O 370) marks the resting place of Eliza Ann Collins, wife of Alfred, and their daughter Ethel Lavinia…

“In Loving Memory of Ethel Lavinia, the beloved daughter of Alfred and Eliza Ann Collins, who died Dec’r 25th 1909 aged 24 years. Rest in Peace. Also Eliza Ann, beloved wife of Alfred Collins, who died Sept 8th 1911, aged 51 years.”

And the gravestone in the background (Consecrated O 479) commemorates another of Alfred and Eliza Ann’s daughters – Beatrice Alexandra Collis (nee Collins), mother of Edna Elizabeth Barker (nee Collis), who died aged only 28 years old. Among the family papers we have this rather touching memorial card.

Alfred and Eliza Ann Collins were my great great grandparents. As these headstones record, their daughter Ethel died on Christmas Day 1909, her sister Beatrice soon after in March 1911, and their mother Eliza Ann a few months later in September 1911. It must have been an especially sad and unsettled time for the family.

Although he’s not commemorated on the headstone, Alfred Collins was also buried here when he died over three decades later in 1945, as was his second wife, Sarah Ann (formerly Potter, nee Chambers). How do I know, given that he’s not mentioned on the inscription? Well, the Leicestershire and Rutland Family History Society have created a CD of indexed burials at Welford Road Cemetery, 1849-1950 – which can be searched by surname and plot number. It’s invaluable when undertaking family history research, especially as most graves are not marked with a headstone, and those headstone inscriptions that do survive can be incomplete or difficult to decipher. For example, for Consecrated O 370 here are the details the CD provides:

So, as well as the name of the deceased and the burial (not death) date, we also get their age and an address – which can be handy in cases where an extra piece of evidence can help pinpoint the correct grave. Piecing together information from the CD and the headstones, here’s a simplified family tree showing the relationship between my relatives buried in these two graves, as well as the grave we saw in the previous blog post.

Alfred and Eliza Ann Collins in fact had a total of eight children: as well as their two daughters Beatrice and Ethel who died in their 20s, four died as babies, and only two survived to later life: William Collins and Alfred Charles ‘Uncle Charlie’ Collins. Sadly, such mortality rates were not so unusual at the time. With his second wife, Alfred later went on to have another son, Robert Francis Collins.

Alfred Collins initially worked as a fishmonger for his eldest brother, John Collins, who was the subject of one of my earlier Trading Stories, Working Lives articles: John Collins, a Victorian fishmonger and game dealer. Alfred appears as a ‘fish salesman’ in his marriage certificate (1881) as well as the census returns for 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911. By the time of the 1921 census however, he’s become a baker, and a “baker’s assistant retired” in the 1939 Register. For many years Alfred lived – firstly with Eliza Ann, then with Sarah Ann – at 1 Sheldon Street, a house owned by Beatrice’s parents-in-law, Martin and Elizabeth Collis.

Next, we’re off to see another member of the Collis family, Martin’s brother, John George Collis. Continue on the path you’re already on, ignoring side turnings to the left and right. Another path merges in from the right-hand side. Continue sloping uphill, cross straight over the wide-and-straight avenue, and then gradually the pathway curves around to the left of a triangle…