The story went that the Thompson parents (parents of my great-grandfather who came to Canada) had a family grave, but only they were buried there. It was told as a rather sad story. So when I went to England in 2006 for research, I of course had to see if I can find this fabled grave. Earlier searches of the much-touted National Burial Index, which may work for many, yielded up nothing for my Thompsons. A trip to the Berkshire Record Office (Archives) in Reading however were very helpful. I found they were in the Reading Cemetery, which would seem a simple place to find, being as I was in Reading. Working “on the fly” (most things I do I have researched fairly extensively a day or two beforehand), I found the general area the cemetery should be. A wrong bus in the wrong direction and a fair bit of walking later, I finally arrived at Reading Cemetery (at Cemetery Junction).
It was not at all what I was used to here. Here at home our cemeteries are immaculately manicured properties, with an office near the entrance usually open weekdays with generally helpful staff. Not so at Reading Cemetery. No office, no staff, and what looked like a rather overgrown and unkempt cemetery. Luckily I had taken a copy of a cemetery map I had found at the archives, with the grave’s position identified only as being in section 30.
I got to the what I thought must be the correct area, judging by various pathways and how/where they merged. There were areas I could see graves had been completely grown over with shrubs and trees, graves that would only be made accessible by some hard work with a weedwacker or machete. A little more searching and I was lucky enough to find my Thompson grave, mostly clear of plant growth. And indeed, there they were, Thomas and Hannah, alone in their grave.
I cleared off some of the vines as carefully as I could (recalling all the warnings about “cleaning” stones. I talked to them (okay, that may sound strange to some of you), telling them how one of their sons had survived the orphanage, and had come to Canada to find love, a career as a warehouseman, and to have two children. I left a photo of an original ambrotype of Hannah (below) at the site, with my contact details on the back, just in case any relatives should stop by (no contact to date).
Oh, and the family lore about room for the family, that seems to have come from the grave nextdoor to Thomas & Hannah’s–Thomas’ parents. More about Peter & Sarah Thompson another time.
In Loving Rememberance Of
WHO DIED MARCH 4th 1880
AT THE 43rd YEAR OF HIS AGE
COME UNTO ME ALL YE THAT LABOUR AND
ARE HEAVY LADEN AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST
ALSO OF HANNAH HIS WIFE
WHO DIED JANUARY 15th 1885
AGED 44 YEARS
THY WILL BE DONE
Thanks again to Geneablogger for the subject inspiration.