Sometimes in family history research you discover a document or an object that hints at an intriguing story; something that compels you to investigate further. Such was the case when I discovered a gravestone at Barrow Upon Soar, inscribed with:
“Two fellow workmen in this grave do lie
Both in a well at Barley Hill did die
The unwholesome damp the fatal stroke did give”
Here was a gravestone with a story: Joseph Taylor and his workmate Henry Barsby had been buried together after perishing in a well on 11th June 1824, both aged 25 years.
Many of us have labourers amongst our ancestors – men who grafted in the fields or on the roads. Despite long years of toil, labourers generally leave a sparse paper trail; theirs were not jobs that brought about apprenticeship records, trade directory listings or wills. It can be tricky to get more than a general sense of their working lives. So here – starting with the gravestone inscription – was an opportunity to find out rather more than usual.
Joseph Taylor’s life as a lime worker is the focus in our latest article in the Trading Stories, Working Lives series: click to download
As well as uncovering Taylor’s tragic story, the article suggests ways in which you might enrich your own ancestral research by drawing upon newspaper snippets, trade directories, industrial histories and local studies. Which of your ancestors might have a working history to investigate further?
Take a look too at the other articles in our Trading Stories, Working Lives series: