Discover your ancestors who were buried in the Greater London area between 1399 and 1992. The records may reveal your relative’s name, age, occupation, religious denomination and where they were buried. Included in these records are those of George Wombwell, the famous Victorian menagerie exhibitor, who was buried in Highgate Cemetery in 1850. The Greater London Burial Index is a collection of the Middlesex Burials & Memorial Inscriptions, South London Burials Index 1545-1905 and City of London Burials 1754-1855.
Each record comprises a transcript of the original index. The amount of information listed varies, but the records usually include a combination of the following information about your ancestor:
Age at death
The record set comprises over one million names from 226 parishes in the Greater London area.
The records include Anglican and non-conformist parishes.
Note that the ‘Parish’ field refers to a burial ground, which includes Anglican parish churchyards as well as other types of graveyards and cemeteries.
This record set includes the City of London Burials, Middlesex Memorial Inscriptions, Middlesex & City of London Burials Index and the South London Burials Index.
The International Genealogical Index (IGI) transformed genealogical study and made the tracing of ancestry much easier. However the IGI covers mostly baptisms, with a few marriages and no burials at all. English parish burial registers after 1813 virtually always include the age at death. This is a vital detail in the further tracing of the family, but actually to find an entry is very hard. There will seldom be any tradition or other evidence to guide you to a date. Nowhere is tracing a burial harder than in the City of London, where there are so many registers to search. There are 98 burial registers, or series of registers in the City of London area for the period 1813-1857. Burials were ended by official order in most parishes in 1853 and in every parish by 1857. Many had ceased or virtually ceased to have burials for 10-15 years before that. To search all these registers for an ancestor would be a daunting and probably futile task, since the majority of burials took place outside the city.
George Wombwell, Victorian Menagerist
George Wombwell was born in 1777 in Wendon Lofts, Essex. At the age of about 13, he moved to London and became a shoemaker in Soho. When a ship from South America brought two boa constrictors to London, Wombwell bought them and started to exhibit them in taverns. He then began to buy exotic animals from ships that had travelled from Africa, Australia and South America, displaying his menagerie in Soho. In 1810, he established Wombwell’s Travelling Menagerie and started to tour British county fairs. The menagerie contained elephants, giraffes, leopards, lions, tigers, wildcats, zebras, llamas, monkeys, ostriches and panthers as well as a gorilla, kangaroo, hyena and a rhinoceros. However, many of the creatures died in the cold British climate, and Wombwell then either sold the body to a taxidermist or exhibited the dead creature as a curiosity.
He bred and reared many of the animals himself, including the first lion to be bred in Britain, calling it William in honour of Scottish hero William Wallace. Wombwell was invited to the royal court five times to exhibit his animals, on three occasions before Queen Victoria. He died in 1850 and was laid to rest in a coffin made from oak timber from the HMS Royal George, presented to him by Prince Albert as a token of gratitude for solving the mystery of his dogs’ illnesses, and exhibited by Wombwell before his death. Wombwell was buried in Highgate Cemetery on 16 November 1850 under a statue of his favourite lion, Nero. His obituary in The Times stated that: “No one probably has done so much to forward practically the study of natural history amongst the masses”. Our records show Wombwell’s occupation as “Menagerist”.
Acknowledgements Cliff Webb created the original City of London Burial Index which contained details of 75 of the 98 churches within the historic core of the City of London. He was helped by Connie Foulds, Gordon Lickfold, June Rudman, Kate Maslen, Peter Cleaver and Tim Wilcock. Monnica Stevens and John Hanson worked on transcribing the burial registers from the remaining 23 churches. Stevens and Hanson also expanded the index to include burial grounds and parishes on the edge of London, including those south of the River Thames.