As the summer draws to a close and September rolls in, our interns, Imogen and Kelsie, reflect on the findings of their project researching the Leeds General Cemetery burial registers.

Throughout July and August Kelsie and I have completed two student internships, which were a partnership between the School of History and Special Collections. The internships were funded as a result of Dr Laura King’s AHRC Leadership Fellowship, Living with Dying: Everyday Cultures of Dying within Family Life in Britain, c.1900s-1950s.

With this project we have returned to the Leeds General Cemetery Burial Registers Index, launched in November to great acclaim. Kelsie and I have produced a number of resources to help researchers use this collection. We have also investigated the research potential of the Index and asked, what can we learn from these burial registers?

In short, the answer is… a significant amount! The Index truly is a fantastic resource for genealogists, the study of medical history, death studies and other branches of social history.

Leeds General Cemetery Interns, Kelsie and Imogen
Project Interns, Kelsie and Imogen

Our internships kicked off with a week-long boot camp that trained us in statistics and the use of the software RStudio to analyse quantitative data. Kelsie and I are both Arts and Humanities students so we found this week challenging but ultimately really useful. We then applied our new techniques to the 97,121 entries in the Leeds General Cemetery (LGC) Burial Registers Index. Our report on the statistical analysis will be available shortly on the Living with Dying project blog.

Next we created a glossary of medical terms used within the burial registers. Many of the causes of death recorded in the registers have archaic terminology. For example, ‘consumption’ is the most common cause of death in adults in the LGC. Our glossary explains unfamiliar terms and gives the historical context of the registers’ main causes of death. It will be made available as website text to supplement the Index in future.

Finally, using census, birth, marriage and death records we have researched the history of ordinary families buried in the LGC. Special Collections already has some information about notable burials. We wanted to discover more about the cemetery’s role in the everyday lives of people in Leeds.

One family who used the cemetery extensively was the Frankland family. At least 25 people in the family were buried there between 1846 and 1963 in 6 different plots. To see biographical information about the Franklands and how they are all related, we’ve created a family tree.

Illustration of a Family Tree, by Imogen
Illustration of a Family Tree, by Imogen

Additionally, this timeline displays the chronological order in which these people entered the cemetery, and the different plots in which they were buried.

We have been writing up our research findings in a series of blog posts scheduled to be released in intervals in the forthcoming weeks. Do check these out to learn more about our research. We discuss the top ten causes of death in the registers, religion and class in the cemetery and the stories of families who used the cemetery. We also provide resources to assist with further research of the cemetery including our reports and Kelsie’s undergraduate dissertation on the LGC.

Do explore the rest of the Living with Dying project website. The Fellowship includes collaborations with a group of family historians, an artist and Leeds City Council in exploring experiences of dying and remembering the dead.

Kelsie and I would like to thank our project leaders Laura, Louise and Tim for all their guidance, help and support with this varied project. We would also like to give a shout out to the School of History, all the staff in Special Collections, our Systems Officer, Jonathan, the Library data repository team and all those involved with the Q Step Programme.