The Grave of Old John Brown

roseville wallbrook map 1885 os
Part of the Black Country where my Brown ancestors lived in the mid-nineteenth century.  Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

In The Elusive Mister Brown I closed with the notion that my 2nd great grandfather John Brown would take some tracking down. It is not the most common permutation of English names, that is John Smith, but it must be a strong contender for second place!

My uncle told me: “They are all buried at Coseley”, which is another town in the Black Country. So, in 2009 I went to Christ Church to mooch around the graveyard. A lot of graves were overgrown or so eroded as to be illegible. I found nothing of relevance to my search.

I had been unable to find the family in the censuses for 1861 or 1881, and, after much searching in vain, diiscovered that these records are missing. However, I did manage to find great grandfather Jonas Brown in the 1851 census, at Bloomfield, Tipton, with parents John (aged 44, miner) and Mary Ann, and, crucially, among other siblings, a 7-year old sister, Selina. Her birth was registered and I obtained the entry of birth from the General Register Office. This gave her mother’s maiden name as Davies, yet another frequent name, especially in Wales.

Nonetheless, there was only one marriage that could fit on FamilySearch – the image is now on Findmypast – and it took place on 26 Dec 1825 at Eyton upon the Weald Moors, which is just to the north of Wellington, Shropshire. There is an image of the church of St Catherine on religiousbuildings dot net. Back then fathers’ names were not recorded.

From the census I could calculate that John was born about 1807 at Ketley, Salop (an alternative name for Shropshire), but there were three baptisms of John Brown at Wellington in that year alone. How would I discern the “right” John? Maybe if I could find a record of burial it would give date of birth, and possibly even parents or other relatives. As you can imagine, I had given up on this, but thought I would give it one last try on Rootschat. So, in December 2014, I put up the question with no real hope of success, but if you don’t ask you don’t get.

The next morning there was a message to say I had a reply. It included: “11 May 1860, age 54, abode Old End”. Now I know my way around the Black Country reasonably well, but this was a place name I had not previously encountered. Today there is an Old End Lane just to the west of Wallbrook, where other family members lived, so that matched, too. The OS mapping from circa 1900 shows just to the west of Wallbrook an area named Roseville.

The GRO index includes 1860 Apr-Jun Dudley 6c 34 and I duly ordered a copy. When it arrived there was enough information to confirm that it was the right John Brown. The address was Roseville, Coseley, and the informant Sarah Harper, present at the death Broad Street Mamble Square Sedgley. Mamble Square was where Jonas junior was born in 1874. In 1861 a Sarah Harper, aged 88, relative was recorded with John Brown, son of the deceased, and his wife Elizabeth, formerly Harper; I think Sarah was her mother.

The cause of death was scirrhus pylorus, a cancer of the pylorus, which is the opening of the stomach to the duodenum. A pound to a penny it was “miners’ disease”.

I tried the same approach for Mary Ann, but to no avail; there were just too many candidates in the index of deaths.

It is clear when visiting the area that little remains of the townscape that John and Mary Ann would have known, probably swept away by a post-war housing clearance programme, including building large numbers of council houses. The Old Meeting House of the “Coseley Unitarians 1662” survives on Old Meeting Road and, of course, the parish church survives on Church Road.

The grave of old John Brown remains elusive.

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