Carved in stone, but that doesn’t make it correct

24 Dec

On Monday I wrote about John FAIRS, my 4x great-grandfather. I mentioned that his headstone records that he died on the 11th March 1846 and that the parish register recorded that he was buried on the same day.

I was rather suspicious of this, it seemed plausible that he died and was buried on the same day but it seemed unlikely and incredibly efficient of all the people involved, including the people who had to dig the grave.

A much more likely explanation was that one of the records was wrong, either the wrong date had been carved on the headstone or the officiating minister had recorded the wrong date in the burial register.

Given that John died aged only 41 years I felt that there could be an interesting story behind his death, so I decided it would be worth ordering a copy of his death certificate. I was astonished to receive the certificate in the post today, having only ordered it on Monday evening (excellent service from the GRO and the Royal Mail).

The certificate revealed the truth, John FAIRS died on the 7th March 1846 not the 11th March, so the inscription on his headstone is wrong.

Disappointingly the cause of death was not very exciting, the cause given is “Acute Gastritis 48 hours” according to Wikipedia Gastritis is “an inflammation of the lining of the stomach”. Not particularly exciting or unusual, Wikipedia does also say that “the main acute causes are excessive alcohol consumption”, so maybe it was alcohol that caused his premature death?

Regardless of the cause of his death, this story does prove one thing, even if it is carved in stone it is not necessarily true.

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