Researching a Funeral Notice: Herbert William POOLE (d. 1901)

For the past ten days, many vital tasks (none of them even remotely concerned with genealogy) have demanded my attention. For me, a day without research or writing is like a day without sunshine, so by last night I was more than a little cranky. In order to remedy this mood, I located an unfinished post from late last year that promised to take no more than an hour to polish and publish before I went to bed. But, as often happens, the genealogy muse had other plans.

Herbert William POOLE (b. 1867) was the oldest child of Herbert Brooker POOLE and his wife, Mary JONES, and a brother of my husband’s maternal grandfather, Arthur Henry POOLE. He died in 1901 near Swansea, Wales, at the age of 34, leaving a wife, Marian WITHERS, and two young sons, Harold, 2, and Leslie, 5 weeks. His Death Certificate lists the cause of death as “accidentally drowned” on 13 Sep 1901. The informant was the Swansea coroner who had held an inquest on the following day, but none of the details are listed in the certificate.

According to The National Archives site, few inquest records are available from public archives in the U. K.; “[f]rom the 19th century onwards, a newspaper report may be the only surviving account.” Patrice, my husband’s third cousin and the family’s treasure hunter who lives in Cardiff, immediately started researching newspapers in Wales, which extensively covered the drowning of Herbert William and his friend, George Frederick DAVENPORT.

The articles she forwarded quoted witnesses, named places, and advanced theories about what had happened to the two young men, both of whom were experienced sailors and swimmers, during their Sunday morning outing in a sailboat to shoot wild ducks. In my unfinished post, I had laid out a timeline of events from the launching of the boat to the recovery of the two bodies. However, I soon changed focus when I re-discovered a short paragraph about Herbert William’s funeral.


The funeral of Mr. Bert Poole, who lost his life in Swansea Bay last week, took place at Cockett on Monday. It was strictly private, the following relatives being present: Mr. H. Poole (father), Mr. Percy Poole, Newport, and Mr. Arthur Poole, Curragh (brothers), Mr. Henry and Mr. Parrish (brothers-in-law), Mr. Marshall (cousin), the Rev. Mr. Tomlinson (London), and Mr. E. Poole and Mr. Poole, junr. Mr. Ivor Thomas and other friends were also present. The service was conducted by the Rev. Watkins Jones and the Rev. Mr. Prosser. The coffin bore the following inscription: “Herbert William Poole; born, 24th July, 1867; died, September 8, 1901.” Wreaths were sent by the family, Mr. and Mrs. Dowman (Mumbles), and Miss Marquiss. Mr. John Dowdle, Waterloo-street, was the undertaker.

Although I had read the notice in passing when Patrice sent it some months ago, I had not properly analyzed it until last night. A feverish one-and-a-half hours later, thanks to Ancestry and Google, I had gathered the following trove of information just by researching the names listed in this one small paragraph.

1) “Bert” is a logical nickname for Herbert William, but this is the first time it has appeared in any of the documents I’ve gathered so far. Possibly, it was used to distinguish him from his father, Herbert Brooker.

2) Not only was the funeral “strictly private,” all of the attendees were men. According to one blog devoted to Victorian History, “Although expected to mourn, women were generally advised against attending funerals, especially for those nearest and dearest to them. Cassell’s Household Guide for 1878 discourages the practice pointing out that it is something done by female relatives in the poorer classes.”

3) Perceval “Percy” of Newport and Arthur Henry were younger brothers of Herbert William. (Details about these and other siblings can be found in an earlier post.) No mention is made of the third brother, Charles Edwin POOLE, an assistant school master, who was single and still living with his parents in 1901. Was this an oversight on the part of the writer or had Charles Edwin elected to stay home with the grieving women of the family? Arthur POOLE’s residence in Curragh answers the question of where he had undergone “basic” training after joining the British Army, when he had been sent directly to armaments school. The Army camp at The Curragh, County Kildare, was used to train soldiers who were destined to be sent to the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa. This posting is not cited in his Army Service Record.

4) None of Herbert William’s three sisters was married in 1901, so I assumed that the two brothers-in-law, surnames PARRISH and HENRY, must be from the family of his widow, Marian WITHERS. A Parrish Family Tree on Ancestry includes Sarah as a sister of Marian WITHERS. The England & Wales Marriage Index, 1837-1915, also on, lists the 1901 marriage of Sarah WITHERS and William Thomas PARRISH. The same sources show Edward HENRY as Marian’s half-brother from the 1890 marriage of her widowed mother Jemima (TOMLINSON) WITHERS to Edward HENRY (Sr.).

5) Earlier research had found that Elizabeth JONES was the oldest sister of Mary JONES, Herbert William’s mother. The England & Wales Marriage Index, 1837-1915, shows that she married James MARSHALL in 1867. The 1891 England Census lists Elizabeth MARSHALL as a widow with a son named James E., 20.

6) The Parrish Family Tree also lists Richard William TOMLINSON as a younger brother of Jemima. The 1901 England Census shows him, his wife Margaret and their son, Richard, living in Bethnal Green, London; his occupation is Church of England clergyman.

7) Earlier research determined that Edwin Powning POOLE was a half-brother to the deceased’s father, Herbert Brooker POOLE. He was the son of Charles Frederick POOLE by his third wife, Mary ELLIS. Edwin Powning had two sons, but I assume that he was accompanied to the funeral by his older son, Frederick Llewellyn, 17, instead of Philip Ellis, 14.

8) Friend Ivor THOMAS and the two clergymen who conducted the service have not yet been identified.

9) Herbert William’s birth date was known from the International Genealogical Index (formerly available online at with records transcribed from Family History Library microfilm #0104497 “Bishop’s Transcripts, 1677-1905, Church in Wales. St. Mary’s Church (Swansea, Glamorganshire), Baptisms and Burials 1856-1878.” The coffin inscription gives a different death date than is found on the Death Certificate and assumes that he died sometime during the day when he went out in a boat.

10) The 1901 England Census for Oystermouth lists George F. DOWMAN’s occupation as that of licensed victualler, probably the owner of a restaurant or tavern, perhaps a place where Herbert William and his friend stopped on days when they went sailing.

11) Lily MARQUISS was to marry Charles Edwin POOLE in 1909.

12) John DOWDLE had been a cabinet maker for 40 years. He most likely made coffins and thereby assumed the occupation of undertaker. (From what I can gather online, embalming was not commonly done in early twentieth-century U. K.) His place of business was close to the POOLE family dyeing establishments, both on Fisher Street and later on Waterloo Street.

Needless to say, the original post remains in its unfinished state. But what a fuller picture has emerged of the POOLE family as a result of my late-night research frenzy!

Research Notes

The Funeral Notice is taken from the 21 Sep 1901 edition of Swansea & Glamorgan Herald and Herald of Wales.

Cassell’s Household Guide goes on to state, “It may also have been the case that the frequent practice of drinking both before and after the funeral not only by the funeral party, but by the undertaker and his assistants would have been upsetting [to women].” Additional details about funerals and mourning practices can be found at a digitized version of the Guide.

This entry was posted in DAVENPORT, DOWDLE, DOWMAN, ELLIS, HENRY, JONES, JONES, MARQUISS, MARSHALL, PARRISH, POOLE, PROSSER, THOMAS, TOMLINSON, WITHERS and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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