A Grave Business

Back in September 2009 my sister and her husband visited.  We had some spare time and were passing through Longdon, near Lichfield (once Longdon-by-Lichfield), and took time out to visit the church and explore the graveyard. So it was we entered the grounds of St James the Great. This was on a whim and I had no notes of whose memorial we might find. So we decided to split up and look for anyone named Greatrex or similar.

longdon st james lych gate (640x428)
Lych gate, St James the Great, Longdon, near Lichfield, Staffordshire

Within ten seconds my sister called out: “Is this one?”. Sure enough there were Mary and George Greatrix, who died respectively in 1821, aged 67, and 1826, aged 81. This sort of information is invaluable to the family historian. The key facts are that George, born about 1745, had a wife named Mary, who was born about 1754.

greatrix mary george bd 1821 1826 l (457x640)
Memorial to Mary and George Greatrix

Instinct told me these were direct ancestors, but this being a spur-of-the-moment visit I could not check my notes and it turned out that this George, baptised on 28 Sep 1745, Longdon(Findmypast image), was brother of my direct ancestor.

greatrix john bu 1817 hammerwich (640x148)
From Hammerwich parish register 1817

My 5th great grandfather was, in fact, John, baptised there on 16 Jan 1748, son of George Greatrix and buried at Hammerwich in 1817 (FMP images).

greatrix john bu 1887 longdon (526x640)
Churchyard to St James the Great, Longdon

We found several other memorials to people named Greatrex and all turned out to be related, but none was a direct ancestor.

greatrix george bp 1716 c
From parish regsiter for Longdon 1716

The earliest person I could track down was 6th great grandfather George Greatrix, baptised 23 Sep 1716, son of an unnamed Greatrix, presumably out of wedlock, and the father’s name was not known, or at least not revealed officially. George was buried at the ripe of age of 92 on 16 Feb 1808 at St James. We never did find his grave.

All of these people, as far as can be gleaned from censuses, were farm workers, mainly labourers. From at least 1716 this family lived in Longdon, but by 1802 my branch had moved to Woodhouses, near Burntwood, then to Stonnall, initially to somewhere near Muckley Corner at the junction of Watling Street (A5) and Walsall Road (A461), then to Hilton and Lower Stonnall. Presumably, they moved from farm to farm to find work that grew ever more scarce as machinery replaced men, boys and horses and a more industrial approach to food production, to feed the burgeoning cities, reduced the need for farm hands still further.

st james the great interior s
Inside St James the Great, Longdon, 2009

For comparison there is a watercolour at the Salt Library.  I remember thinking that if George and Mary were to revisit their local church they might think the old place had changed a bit, but they would have no doubt about being in the right place.

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