Thursday, March 15, 2018

"Buried in Woolen" – What? Why?

Have you ever run across the phrase "buryed in woolen" in a 17th Century burial record for your ancestor? Were you curious what that meant? Well, when looking through early parish records for Wold Newton, Lincolnshire, England, I came across that phrase. The phrase jumped out at me. I had never noticed it before.

I didn't want to be ignorant of the phrase so like any curious researcher, I googled it and came upon quite a few explanations...I wasn't the only one who was curious.

Evidently during the reign of Charles II around 1666 it was thought the woolen trade was being threatened by "new materials and foreign imports." A parliamentary Act was written "for the lessening the importation of linen from beyond the seas, and the encouragement of the woollen and paper manufacturer of the kingdom."  [For more on the legislation see The Justice of the Peace, and Parish Officer, Volume 5, 1814 on Google Books.] 

This act required all corpses be buried in pure English woolen shrouds and it must be noted – "buryed in woolen" – on the parish register burial entry, otherwise there was a fine. The fine was for 5£, with half of it going to the "informer" and the other half going to the parish poor. Most of the time the informer would be someone in the family so only 2.50£ was paid to parish. This Act exempted anyone dying from the plague. The Act was repealed in 1814, although long before then it had been largely ignored. Most of the above information came from the website History House.

This is the burial record for Elizabeth Portus daughter of Tho Portus & Thomasin his wife buried in woolen Nov ye 18th .... There is also Thos Portus buryed in woolen Dec ye 3.... just below Eliz, I would think this Thomas is Elizabeth's father.
(1680 Wold Newton, Lincolnshire, England, parish record.)
I thought this was rather interesting. Genealogy and family history research isn't just names and dates; we learn a lot about the times our ancestors lived in when we go beyond the names and dates.

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