Sometimes information or evidence can present itself to you unexpectedly.

Being a successful genealogist relies on having a reasonable knowledge of history, of records and where to find them and the ability to read some pretty dreadful and dated handwriting. Other factors play their part, of course, and the most exciting of these is luck.

Stumbling upon information or a relevant item when you are not looking for it is a great bonus.  We wonder how we came across the record or uncovered the evidence or were we just in the right place in the right time?

So here’s my story. Chance, coincidence or ghostly guidance? You decide.

Last Sunday Mr GinandGenealogy and I were having lunch with my daughter, who has recently moved to the East End of London with her boyfriend.  My mother who grew up in the area was with us and we spent a while after the meal deciding whether to take her to Victoria Park or have a walk around Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park.  We opted for the Cemetery Park as it was closer and easier for my Mother to walk to. Once one of London’s largest cemeteries, the 31 acre site is now a beautiful woodland and nature reserve. A peaceful oasis of paths winding through the old gravestones which lie among the tall trees and wild plants and flowers.   A shady sanctuary in the heart of London’s bustling East End.

My Mother decided to stop and sit for a while at the site of the outdoor classroom, used for school trips and tours of the park. Meanwhile I wandered down an adjacent path and stood in front of a half hidden gravestone which was obscured by plants and brambles. I don’t know exactly why I was drawn to this spot, perhaps it was the dappled sunlight through the branches of the trees falling on and highlighting the ivy clad memorial.  The name on the stone was partly worn away but I could make out “Adam Mill..”.  I couldn’t see the date of death but underneath his inscription I could make out the name “Deans” and, knowing we have these names in the family I pulled back the ivy to reveal the name of their daughter, Janet, and their dates of death.  I was standing in front of the grave of Mr GinandGinealogy’s great-great grandfather, his wife and one of their daughters.

I called the long suffering Mr GinandGenealogy over and casually mentioned I’d found his relative’s grave and instructed him to clear the stone of vegetation as this is no job for a genteel genealogist.  I was already sporting some large red patches of nettle stings on my ankles which had been obtained in the excitement.  I could tell he was slightly sceptical about the find and it did lie behind a rather large bramble that needed cutting back but my standard “trust me I’m a genealogist” seemed enough to spur him on in his task.

So there it was. Although I had already recorded the evidence of the family burials in the Cemetery in my research, I did not remember and was not looking for the grave.  The coincidence was simply amazing.

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is a lovely place to visit for a walk or exploration.  Historical, peaceful and beautiful, perfect for photographers and nature lovers alike.  If you do have a relative who was buried there, the Friends of THCP can help you locate the plot.  Their contact details are on the link:  which also gives lots of information about the park.  The burial registers are also on may be helpful but not all burials from THC are included.


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