Yet another FAIRS gravestone with an interesting story to tell

27 Jul

This is another FAIRS gravestone from West Grinstead, Sussex. It is for my 5x great uncle Harry FAIRS, son of Thomas and Elizabeth FAIRS.

Gravestone of Harry FAIRS, West Grinstead, Sussex

Gravestone of Harry FAIRS, West Grinstead, Sussex

This kept me occupied for several hours yesterday evening. At this stage of my research into the FAIRS family I wouldn’t normally have spent so much time on a family group who weren’t my direct ancestors, but this one seemed particularly interesting.

Harry FAIRS died on the 16th July 1850 aged 54 and was buried on the 20th July 1850. The condition of the gravestone is quite poor, but I was able to check the inscription (or at least parts of it) against the transcription I already have.

Interestingly the transcription has the name Henry FAIRS but the stone itself has the name Harry FAIRS (and it is one of the clearest parts of the inscription), as does the burial record and the GRO Death Index entry.

However, the most interesting thing is that it is a double headstone but there is only one name on it. I assumed that this meant that Harry had been married but for some reason his wife hadn’t been buried alongside him, the mostly likely explanations being that she had married again or moved away from West Grinstead after his death.

This set me off on a journey through the census years on ancestry.co.uk in search of Harry’s wife.

It was quite a journey, which took me to the neighbouring parishes of Shipley and Ashurst before arriving back in West Grinstead where Harry’s wife Ann died in 1882 aged 84 years. The journey also introduced me to several of Harry and Ann’s children and their spouses and families, with whom Ann was living (she didn’t re-marry).

Ann was buried in West Grinstead on the 16th February 1882, 32 years after her husband. I will probably never know if she was buried alongside her husband, but there appears to be no other gravestone for Ann recorded, so it seems likely she was.

Annoyingly I have not been able to find Ann’s maiden name or a record of their marriage. I would expect it to have been around 1815-20 so it should be on the Sussex Marriage Index, but I can’t find it there or in the transcriptions of the marriage registers for West Grinstead or Shipley, where Ann was born. I am sure it will turn up eventually.

The other thing I learnt whilst chasing Ann through the census was a selection of different spellings of the surname FAIRS. Some were transcription errors (like FARIS and FUIRS) and one was as different variant on the original census return (FAYERS). All useful information for my future research.

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