An 1855 Death Certificate from Harris

I have previously mentioned the excellent guide to Registration in Scotland produced by the University of Glasgow and the page here is relevant to the current piece.

On the 24th May 1855 at 4:30 in the morning, my great, great, grandaunt Catherine Kerr died at the age of 18 in Direcleit where she had been born and lived since infancy. She was a General Servant and her parents were the Tailor, John Kerr, and Margaret Kerr whose Maiden Name was Martin. She died of Consumption although No Medial Attendant had been present to confirm this. Catherine was laid to rest at Luskintyre according to the Informant, who was her father and who put his ‘Mark’, an ‘X’ which was countersigned by Rod McDonald, Obe (next word unreadable). The Registrar, James Stewart, signs the Register on the 28th May.

All this information (apart from my personal connection!) is contained in this very early example of a Death Certificate from Harris (Registration was only introduced in the year of Catherine’s death). The piece that excites me is one which was later dropped from the certificates, namely the place of Burial.

Catherine is the first of my relatives, or of anyone in Harris whose Certificates I have seen, for whom I know the site of her interment. Catherine lies at Luskintyre, overlooking the sandy beaches of the West coast and opposite the island of Taransay. I can imagine the scene of her coffin being loaded onto a boat on the shore of Ob Liceasto just yards from her home at Direcleit and being taken to the second Ob Liceasto at Liceasto before being born along the Coffin Road and thence to Luskintyre. (An alternative would have been possible via a portage at Tarbert and followed by a second voyage via the Atlantic coast but my leanings are towards the traditional route). We know that her funeral took place within five days of her death, between the 24th and 28th of May when John the Tailor wrote that ‘X’ upon the certificate.

Oh, and had Catherine had any children then their names and ages would have been recorded too along with the name of her spouse- what a great shame it is that such details (apart from the name of the spouse) were soon dropped for they would have provided us with so many genealogical treasures, albeit gained under such sad circumstances…

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