Follow my Blog

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

A Day Out With Other Genealogists

The constant accumulation of knowledge is a must for any genealogist.  There are always new areas that require research and updating of your knowledge and visiting places of genealogical interest always raises questions and furthers our knowledge. Recently I visited the Brookwood Cemetery also known as the London Necropolis, with the AGRA South East Network Group.  After a fascinating tour of the Surrey History Centre and some unusual conservation techniques, at least for the lay person, followed by a delicious and entertaining pub lunch, the open air at Brookwood was needed. 

There are over 235 000 burials at the cemetery, and it has different sections including, The Church of England Burial Ground, which is further divided, with some areas attributable to specific London Churches. The Muslim Burial Ground also has a variety of areas, one being the London Mosque and Ahmadiyya Burial Ground.  There is also a nonconformist area, divided into sectors such as Roman Catholic, Zoroastrian and Swedish being a few and also a Military Section.  Many of the earlier pauper burials sadly have no gravestones.

We spent our time in the Military Section where people of many nationalities are buried.  The gravestones have a variety of religious symbols and sometimes no religious indicators, and they can include regimental insignias and badges. I have attached photos of two symbols from the gravestones.  One is a badge of the Royal Engineers, which like many other military regiments uses the garter and motto from the British Chivalric Order of the Garter, - ‘Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense’, translation ‘Shame on him who thinks evil of it’.

The other is a Star of David with Hebrew letters in the centre. The letters are an acronym for the phrase, ‘May his soul be bound up in the bond of life’ which is a paraphrase of 1 Samuel 25:29 - ‘But my Lord’s soul shall be bound in the bond of life with the Lord your God’. 

There are also military gravestones with other members of the family mentioned, sometime children, parents or wives and husbands although why they are mentioned or if they are actually also buried there is uncertain. There are also some graves where questions were raised as to whether those interred were prisoners of war, or men who had died while on bombing raids over England.   

The cemetery is a massive store of information for the genealogist and the cemetery staff undertake searches for a fee and a photo of any grave stone can be provided also.  The Surrey History Centre also has the burial registers (1854 – 1976) on microfilm and a search can be made on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for military burials.  Additionally Find a Grave has a good supply of transcriptions and photos for the military gravestone and approximately 742 for the non-military graves.  Although there are not many non-military graves, it is continually growing.  The advantage of Find a Grave is you can browse the complete list rather than just inserting a single name search. 
The Brookwood Cemetery Society also conducts guided walks on the first Sunday of each month.  It starts at 2 pm and costs £3, no need to book in advance.  The walk takes about ninety minutes and further details can be found at their website,