Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My great grandfather's tragic death in Manchester

My great grandfather, Ernest Evans, died on this day ninety three years ago at the age of 54. He lived in Manchester where he was a stocktaker at a cotton warehouse owned by Horrocks Crewdson.

Ernest Evans in about 1918 with his wife and grandson
I had known that Ernest died in 1919 but had never bothered to get his death certificate. As most of his sons and grandsons had  died from or suffered heart attacks I thought that he this was most likely the cause of his death. However, having learnt from past experiences that assumptions should never be made when researching family history, I finally decided that I might as well obtain his death certificate.

When the death certificate arrived I opened the envelope thinking that it probably wouldn't be of much interest. I skimmed across the first few columns and then came to the "Cause of death". I was stunned. "Suicide by hanging in the dwelling house". There was also information that a certificate had been received from the Manchester coroner following an inquest on 18th July 1919.

I started searching for details of the inquest hoping that it might shed some light on why Ernest was driven to hang himself, but unfortunately the inquest records for Manchester at that time haven't survived. I also searched newspapers available online, including those in the British Newspaper Archive, but was unable to find any reports of his inquest.

Why did he commit suicide? Maybe the end of the First World War the year before he died had something to do with it. Many men were returning home looking for jobs, so older workers might have lost their jobs. The British cotton industry was in decline which would have made matters worse in places like Manchester.

I would be grateful for any help in finding out why my great grandfather died so tragically.

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