Suffocated by Geneva

I'm indebted to Helen Highwater who posted this fascinating data on Blogspot back in June 2013.

One of my hobbies is transcribing parish registers. I got into this through researching my own family tree, and now that the Essex Record Office have digitised a lot of the parish registers that they hold, it's now much easier to trace wandering agricultural labourers as they go from village to village and, thank you ancestors, give birth to my great x 4 grandparents and the like.

Family history doesn't have to be just a list of names and dates - what I find so endlessly fascinating is how I get to look at the lives of ordinary people, and how they negotiated with the times they lived in. When leafing through the registers, albeit virtually, I often come across interesting notes which shed light on the times that the British people of the past lived through.

Today's historical snippet dates from the period of the Gin Craze. You'll no doubt be familiar with Hogarth's 1751 engraving, Gin Lane, which illustrated the perils of gin, or genever as it was also called.

I'm currently transcribing the registers of Beaumont-cum-Moze in Essex, and it records the burial on 27th Nov 1744 of John Brastead of Kettlebarston (Kettlebaston, in Suffolk), who "dyed suffocated with Geneva". Whilst it's tempting to speculate that poor John fell into a vat of gin, "suffocated" is perhaps a euphemistic way of saying that his death was aided by consumption of the drink.

One does wonder, though, what he was doing in Beaumont-cum-Moze, 30 miles away from Kettlebaston. Perhaps he had traveled there for work. Not, as might happen today, a stag night....

Posted by Helen Highwater at 11:39
Labels: genealogy, gin, history, parish registers


supporting charity without charge