I have received a certified copy of my great-great grandmother’s death certificate from the General Register Office in London. This is my first English vital record, and I was quite excited to receive it. It amazes me that I can obtain a record that is over 150 years old from a foreign country just by clicking on the keys of a computer. Below is a scan of the document and also a cropped version to highlight the actual text on the certificate.
There are a number of things that interest me about the information on this document. First is Rachel’s date of death, January 9, 1851. When I had searched through the BMD Index for this certificate, there were a number of Rachel Cohens who might have been the right person. I guessed that it was this one based on the date. Although Lewis and Jacob, Rachel’s sons, had left for the US in 1846 and 1848, respectively, Rachel’s husband and other children, Elizabeth and Jonas, did not leave until 1851. I had a hunch that they did not leave because Rachel was ill and not able to make the journey, so they waited until after she died.
As the certificate shows, Rachel’s cause of death was “scirehus paylonis” and exhaustion, and it seems she had been ill for a year. As best I can tell, scrirehus paylonis would be translated to schirrous pylonis or cancer of the stomach. (My medical expert should feel free to correct this.) I found some English writings on line in which that term was used to refer to what we would call stomach cancer.
The certificate also indicates where the family was living—in Landers Buildings in Christchurch, Spitalfields, in the Registration District of Whitechapel, County of Middlesex. It also confirms that Hart Levy Cohen was a clothes dealer.
Perhaps most interesting and surprising to me is that Hart signed the certificate with a mark, an X, not with a signature. Was he not able to sign his name? Was he illiterate? It’s so hard for me to imagine not being able to read and write that I found this shocking and disturbing.