Monday, 28 April 2014

A stroll through the churchyard of Saint Mary's in Whitkirk, Yorkshire

On a fateful day in March 2014 I visited the churchyard of Saint Mary's in Whitkirk, Yorkshire, England. This was a rural area eventually absorbed into the city of Leeds. The purpose of the visit was to see if there were any headstones for my Hardwick forebears. They were farmers and had been based in and near Whitkirk for hundreds of years... until 1855 when my great great great grandfather John Hardwick was convicted for robbery with violence and shipped to Western Australia!

There were many Hardwick inscriptions to be found etched in stone. Most were distantly related but sadly none were my direct-line ancestors. However, to my great surprise, I stumbled across some other very familiar names. They were those of my great great great great great great great grandparents Thomas and Ann Crosland, along with their daughter Mary. I already knew from parish registers that they were buried here but never expected that they'd have a headstone so vividly standing the weathering of time.

The inscription reads: Here Lyeth the Body of Thomas Crosland who Departed this Life the 17th of November Anno Dom 1740 Aged 60 Years And Mary his Daughter Who Died the 31 of July 1745 Aged 26 Years Likewise Ann his wife ...

Anno Dom is short for Anno Domini which is Latin for "in the year of Our Lord". The headstone has been there so long that the end of the inscription is no longer readable as it is underground!

While it was surreal to kneel beside the grave of ancestors from so long ago, it is worth remembering that everyone has 512 seventh great grandparents (unless you're descended from individuals or couples more than once - which is very common, especially in earlier periods). Thomas and Ann Crosland collectively represent one 256th of my ancestry, or put more simply - 0.39%.

The above image is an excerpt of the header and the entry for Thomas and Ann's marriage from a page of the parish registers for All Saints Church in Wakefield, Yorkshire. It reads: Tho: Crosland of East Ardsley & Ann Clarkson of this par. Mar. June 22nd (Tho: is short for Thomas, par. for parish and Mar. for married).

I found it quite apt finding this particular headstone at Whitkirk as it sits at one of the junctions in my Yorkshire ancestry. Thomas Crosland was born in East Ardsley and his wife Ann Clarkson in Wakefield. Following their marriage in Wakefield in 1704 (above) all of their children were baptised in East Ardsley, and those who died in infancy were also buried there. During the 1730s the family shifted from East Ardsley to Colton in Whitkirk where Thomas was a yeoman (a small-scale farmer owning his own land). Their surviving children, except the eldest who had married a man in East Ardsley, lived out their lives and were buried in Whitkirk.

Gould Genealogy announced that April 2014 is #genealogyselfie month and have coupled the hashtag with a Kaiser Baas competition. I have contributed the first photo of this post to the comp, so please wish me luck :)


  1. It's a great feeling when you find something you hadn't expected to - and to think that you are descended from people who lived and probably worshipped there so long ago. Until you've experienced it for yourself I don't think anyone can understand the excitement of finding something in this way - and the feeling of "belonging" it gives you. Good luck in the Kaiser Baas competition Andrew. xxx

    1. Thanks Catherine. It would've been a shame to have shared just the photo without some of the experience and information that surrounded it. While we were in the UK we found many ancestral headstones but I already knew about most of them. This one, however, was a complete surprise!