March 20, 2015 by auntkatefirmin
A few weeks ago I sent off for a death certificate, fairly confident that it would record the circumstances of the death of Harriet Blackford Hall. When I opened the envelope the first name that caught my eye was Richard Hall. I started to go through names in my head, while thinking “Harriet didn’t have a child named Richard.” Scanning the certificate I discovered the identity of Richard – he was the husband of the woman who died on the 29th of July, 1847.
Or to state the results simply, I now have a copy of the death certificate of a woman named Harriet Hall, but she is not the person I had hoped she was. This woman, who lived at 3 Paul’s Alley in Cripplegate was the wife of Richard Hall, a porter.
So I went back to the records and noticed what is obvious now but wasn’t earlier – I had been limiting my search to the London area and thus overlooked a likely Harriet Hall. On the other hand, at the point when I originally did the search I did not know Harriet’s maiden name or that she was born in Swindon. Thus, at the time, I had no reason to connect her with the Harriet Hall in the civil records whose death was registered in 1849 and indexed as occurring in the Highworth district. (When looking at the civil death index on Ancestry Highworth is shorthand for the union of Highworth and Swindon; FreeBMD uses instead Swindon &c.) The Harriet Hall who died in 1849 was buried on 6 July 1849 in Swindon. (In 1849 the church of Harriet’s youth, Holy Rood, had not yet been replaced by Christ Church which opened in 1851.)
To be fair, many women named Harriet Hall died in the ten years between 1841 and 1851 and some guesswork was needed to narrow the search. What I didn’t take into account was that it might be wise to review both the search and my assumptions after discovering Harriet’s birthplace and birth year and before ordering (and paying for) a death certificate.
I think this time I have the correct Harriet but I am left with another mystery – as far as is known, Thomas Hall resided continuously in London through 1851 so Harriet was either visiting relatives in or near Swindon and died an accidental/sudden death or had retired to Swindon to be nursed in what she suspected was a final illness. Who was she visiting? Most of her generation had left Wiltshire and many of them predeceased her; a question for another day.
So now I have a lesson in double-checking my assumptions and another mystery waiting to be investigated. Maybe I need to order another death certificate …