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Dying in Droves: History Mysteries and Parish Records

By Geoff Timmins
Image of Deane parish churchyard
Deane parish churchyard as it is today ©

Find out how parish records can be used to help explain the causes of a mortality crisis that overtook the rural community of Deane in the early 18th century.

Community in crisis?

In the late 1720s, a disaster overtook Deane, a rural parish near Bolton in Lancashire. A period of apparent population growth was suddenly brought to a halt by a dramatic rise in the death rate. Why?

'The local parish register contains a record of every baptism, marriage and burial in Deane parish.'

The usual suspects in such instances are war, disease, migration or famine, but which of these helped cause this catastrophe? As far as we know, no one has left an account of life in Deane in the mid-18th century, so looking for an answer will require some historical detective work.

The local parish register contains a record of every baptism, marriage and burial in Deane parish. What can it tell us about the people buried in Deane churchyard in the 1720s and 1730s?

Image of Deane burial register
The page above is from the Deane burial register. The entries have been copied from the original and, together with baptism and marriage entries, they have been printed in book form. The entries are in Latin and they record the names of those who died, along with the date on which they were buried. The page is taken from the entries made in 1729.

Published: 2005-01-31

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