Friday, 8 March 2013

Obit - Thomas Wilkins

The following item about the death of my great-great grandfather, Thomas Wilkins, was reported in the Western Gazette and Flying Post in Yeovil, Somerset, England on 1 January 1869. The article incorrectly gave his name as William Wilkins, who was his brother and probably the one who provided details about the incident.

"BURNHAM On Monday afternoon a man named William Wilkins [Thomas Wilkins], but better known as "Browney" was drowned. He and Mr. C. Dyer, his employer, proceeded from the pier in a small boat. Having placed Mr. Dyer on board a vessel close by, "Browney" made towards Steart Island, where was anchored Dyer's large pilot-boat. A terrific gale was blowing at the time, and the frail boat was turned over. The poor fellow left a wife and five children."

Later there was an inquest as reported in the Cardiff and Merthyn Guardian on 6 February 1869:

"FOUND DROWNED An inquest was held at the Town Hall, before R. L. Reece, Esq., coroner, on the body of Thomas Wilkins, a hobbling pilot, belonging to Burnham. The body was in an advanced state of decomposition, and was only recognized by the clothes and from the circumstance of the forefinger of the left hand having been amputated. The deceased was employed on the night of the 28th of December in the river Parrot in rowing a captain to his vessel, when from some cause the boat upset and he was drowned. The body was not discovered until Saturday, when it was washed on shore at the entrance to the gutway. A verdict of "Found drowned" was returned."

Thomas’ death had been difficult to find. The story that had been handed down in the family was only that he had died at sea. On the 1861 Census, he was not living in Burnham-On-Sea yet and his occupation was given as Labourer. Though he lived in Somerset, his death was not registered there but in Cardiff, Wales. Had it not been for the small item in the Gazette, Thomas would have seemed to have just disappeared. As reported in the newspaper, "he left a wife and five children" and his accidental death at aged 37 certainly changed the lives of his children.


  1. Welcome to Geneabloggers! I wish you great success with your new blog :)

    Ancestoring's Ask a Genealogist

  2. What a tragedy for the family. Great job in finding the newspaper report of his drowning.

  3. Welcome to Geneabloggers Gayle! It's amazing how much information we can find in the old newspapers. What a tragic story for Thomas and his family. Kathryn

  4. What a challenge to find that newspaper article, considering the wrong name was provided in the text!

    Gayle, I found your blog today, thanks to a mention in GeneaBloggers. Best wishes as you continue this project--and especially that you find the distant cousins you seek!