You might recall recently that I told you the story of my 2 x great-grandfather Henry Barnes, who was a Dock Worker all his life, a man who worked hard to provide for his family. Henry had a tough life, it was a difficult time living in the poorer quarters of London during the Victorian era, but Henry was a real ‘East End’ lad and lived in a world where ‘you looked after your own’. The Barnes family never had much, but they never asked for much in return either.
Henry was a born survivor, he worked in an extremely harsh environment, but despite this, he lived to a decent age of 78, before he died. The full account of Henry’s life story can be found here;
But that’s only part of the story, there was still a piece of the jigsaw missing and a part of Henry’s story that remained untold, something that I just couldn’t let go. No matter how hard I tried, I still could not find a final resting place for Henry.
After eventually finding Henry’s death certificate, I thought that finding a burial for him would be quite straight forward, how wrong could I be. The problem was slightly muddled by the fact that he died at an entirely different location to where he lived. At the time he died, he was living at 162, Victoria Dock Road in East London, but he actually died at St. Margarets Hospital, The Plain in Epping.
(Henry Barnes Death Certificate)
Initial searches of the municipal cemeteries in both Epping and and East London proved fruitless. I checked over twelve possible burial locations in and around Essex and the East London area, all of which were unsuccessful. After considering what other options I had, I decided that I had to cast my net wider, or think outside the box. Further searches across different denominations also proved to be unsuccessful. Was I missing something?
My next thought was to contact the funeral homes that had been in existence around the time of Henry’s death. Again these sadly turned up no positive results.
I then started thinking laterally, Henry’s son, Arthur George Barnes died just a few years after his father. Henry died in 1941 in Epping and his son, Arthur George died in 1949, also in Epping, it was worth a shot surely? So I ordered Arthur’s death certificate and eagerly waited for the certificate to arrive.
(Arthur George Barnes Death Certificate)
The death certificate itself did not add much detail, but it did give me a different address in Epping of 203, High Street, Epping and it did at least give me another family member, namely Arthur’s son R. Barnes. Further research revealed that Arthur George Barnes had married Catherine Scott and the couple had two children, Robert H Barnes, born in 1918 in Harlow in Essex, who was the informant on his father’s death certificate and a younger brother named Arthur George Barnes born in Epping in Essex in 1928.
The launch of the 1921 census brought new hope, but again there was nothing that would help with the key information needed to help me make a breakthrough. The 1921 Census for Henry Barnes did not add much other than a new address of 54, Woolmore Street, Poplar in London.
(Henry Barnes 1921 Census)
Henry Barnes 1921 Census Address)
The next step was to look at Henry’s son, Arthur George Barnes in the 1921 census, (the one that later died in Epping). Arthur’s entry for the 1921 census again did not reveal an awful lot that was going to help me to discover the vital clue to help me find his Father Henry’s burial. Arthur’s address of 165 Victoria Dock Road, merely confirmed what I already knew.
(Arthur Barnes 1921 Census)
(Arthur Barnes 1921 Census Address)
I had already exhausted all the cemeteries and crematoriums in the Epping and East London areas and had already cast the net wider by looking at the funeral Directors in the area, but that also drew a blank. The first ‘chink’ in the Brickwall came when a google search for obituaries turned up the following obituary for Henry’s son Arthur George Barnes who died in Epping in 2019 aged 90.
(Arthur George Barnes Obituary)
Arthur’s obituary at least told me that he had been married and had children and grandchildren, so there was a glimmer of hope. The next path to go down was to have a look at my DNA matches on Ancestry, was there any possible connections here that could help me to knock down the Brickwall? Building the Barnes family tree further established that Arthur George Barnes had married Margaret J Burlling and they had three children, Carol born in Epping in 1952 and twins Michael and Kathleen born in Epping in 1956. A quick look on ancestry allowed me to build up some quick trees for the three children and this enabled me to check these names against my DNA matches. I struck gold by searching for these names amongst my DNA matches on ancestry and found two female matches that fitted into the trees that I had built up for both Carol and Kathleen, but would either of them answer my ancestry message?
Luckily within 24 hours both Carol and Kathleen had answered my messages and we exchanged a number of emails, sharing our family tree details and details of our own families and confirming the trees that I had built and the details I had, were indeed correct. The exciting part in all of this (it feels so wrong to be excited about hearing about burial records) was that they were both able to confirm that their father and grandfather, plus many other Barnes family members were ALL buried in Epping Cemetery.
Further communication with Epping Town Council, who look after the cemetery records for Epping Cemetery, enabled me to confirm that Arthur George Barnes who died on 26 May 1949, his wife Catherine Barnes who died in 1974, Arthur’s brother, Robert H Barnes who died in 1994 and his wife Ethel Barnes who died in 2014, were all buried in Epping Cemetery, so had Epping cemetery got their records wrong for Henry?
I always feel uncomfortable when challenging any office that holds records and questioning the information that they have provided, but having exhausted all possibilities and really gone full circle with my quest to find Henry’s final resting place, I felt compelled to pass on all the information that I had and ask them is is possible that their records are incorrect or at least incomplete.
The clue of course was the year of Henry’s death 1941, the height of the Second World War. The cemetery confirmed that around this time, their records were sadly incomplete. Although I still have no record to confirm Henry’s burial location and sadly there is no photograph of a headstone (yet), I am satisfied that with the balance of probability, that Henry was also buried in Epping Cemetery, the very first place that I looked!
Carol and Kathleen have promised on their next visit to keep an eye out for a possible headstone for ‘our Henry’, but given his circumstances at the time of his death, sadly the most likely outcome is there will be no marker for his grave. For me the quest is over and I now have the final resting place for Henry Barnes.
As an Aside to this, Carol and Kathleen told me that their grandfather Arthur George Barnes (1892-1949) served in India before and during WW1 and was discharged because of his injuries………….now you know what’s coming next! Who couldn’t resist a new story like this to research, so watch this space!
All this from simply looking for a burial………..
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