Buried in No Time

You don’t have to look at many death and burial records to get the impression that the modal length of time between each event is three days, in the 19th century at least, (and in a Christian nation).

With only a burial record to hand, I routinely add my person of interest’s death three days earlier.

Adding “about” is obviously good practice but whenever I later found a death record the caution proved to have been unnecessary in most cases. But not all.

I looked online yesterday for figures that would show how often a three-day “guess” might be correct. Genealogists in York have compiled a dataset that answers my needs perfectly. They looked at almost 122,000 death and burial records and found that almost 53,000 of the departed had been buried on the third day.

So, a 3-day estimate would be right, roughly, two times in five. From my experience of Filey folk, I thought the odds of success would have been higher than that. If for some reason you decided to guess at two days, or four, your chance of being correct would fall to one in five.

Burials two, three or four days after death account for about 89% of the total.

What triggered this passing interest was finding a couple of people who were buried on the day of their death. I couldn’t really imagine why this would happen in Victorian Britain and doubted the reliability of the sources.

The York experience shows that 220 people were buried on the day they died, or 0.18%, or 1 chance in about 55,500 of being right if you placed your bet on zero.

Here is a graph of the York distribution for the first 9 postmortem days.


One of the two Filonians quickly interred is Henry EMPTAGE. He was 17-years-old. His father, a preventive officer and coastguard, had drowned off Flamborough Head in January 1841 and when the Census was taken a few months later, Henry was staying with older brother James in Lincolnshire, with James’ wife Elizabeth and her father, William HARRISON. (Some records give “HARVISON”.)

The York dataset can be found here.

Victorian Monsters offers a lot of information about Victorian funerary practices.

Find the EMPTAGE pedigree on FamilySearch Tree. (Filey Genealogy & Connections gives James the Coastguard different parents and I’m not sure yet which resource is more reliable.)


In memory of CHARLOTTE, widow of JAMES EMPTAGE, who died Sep 8th 1873, aged 78 years.

Also the above named JAMES EMPTAGE, Chief Officer of the Coast Guard, Filey, died Jan 15th 1841 and was interred at Flamboro, aged 47 years.

Likewise, ELLEN their daughter, died Aug. 27th 1851, aged 27 years.

HENRY, died May 6th 1843, aged 17 years, and GEORGE, July 21st 1831, aged 1 year 9 months.

Sudden Death in a Railway Train

The Scarborough Mercury reported on the 4th December 1885:-

On Monday morning a man named Edward Creaser (76) master tailor, Filey, died in the train while journeying from that place to Scarborough. It appears that the deceased left Filey about 8-30 that morning in the train for Scarborough. On arriving at Cayton the deceased got out with a friend to walk up and down for a while. As he seemed ill the stationmaster was communicated with, and he at once sent the train on to Scarborough, so that the man might have medical assistance. However before the train arrived at Seamer, it was found that the man was dead. It is stated that the deceased has been for some time subject to heart disease. He has been a member and officer of the Primitive Methodist Church at Filey for a long period.

Edward’s age at the various censuses suggests he was born in 1811 or 1812, in Ruston Parva. He found his wife in Filey, marrying Elizabeth NEWTON at St Oswald’s in 1836. Their first 7 children were born in Flamborough, the next in Muston and the last in Filey, in 1855. Edward was still tailoring, and training an apprentice, at the 1881 census, when he gave his age as 69. His son George, then 34, had followed his father into the trade, and daughter Ellen worked as a machinist. Later, in 1902, she is listed in a Directory as a tailor in White’s Yard, off Queen Street.

Four of the Creaser children died in infancy and only two seem to have married, George unhappily to Jane BODDY, Esther more productively with a Norfolk incomer, James HOLMAN, though four of their six children had died before 1911.

In the thirty years or so that Edward resided in Filey, he didn’t rock any boats. The brief account of his death may have been the first time his name appeared in the paper, outside of advertisements for his business.

I have been unable to trace any of his forebears with certainty but, with all those children he had generated a dozen identities, and Elizabeth a like number, on the FamilySearch Tree. Most of this (snowy) morning was spent transforming this… –


…to this…


I hope some Creaser descendants will find the pedigree, check my effort and extend it fore and aft.