View Full Version : Missing Deaths at Sea

30-08-2007, 5:40 PM

I'm sure someone here will have an idea or two!

My first case is great granny's first husband John Thomas Stott (b. 1868-1869 Newcastle) . Married his cousin Jane Ann Fenwick in 1900 at East Grinstead, Sussex, he was a tailor journeyman. Family were living at East Grinstead in 1901 with a 3 month old baby. The story goes that John Thomas Stott died at sea and his widow's only evidence was a newspaper cutting! (this sounds just a bit far fetched as I can't see why he would be at Sea!)

But Jane Ann Stott (nee Fenwick) marries my great grandfather Arthur Sidney Curnick in September 1910, and she is listed as a widow. So John Thomas definitely died (or did he?)

I've searched death indexes including Scottish , and marine deaths but have been unable to locate his death. Would she have been able to re-marry without proof of death?

Second case is more recent. My son's grandfather was a Derrickman working on a Nowegian? oil rig in the North Sea. About 1973 he supposedly fell of - I'm not sure if his body was ever recovered, but the oil rig paid up compensation to his widow and money went into trust for his son (who was only a couple of years old). Again, I can not find any record of his death in Scottish or English (and Welsh!) Indexes or in the deaths at Sea indexes. I've tried searching the web for oil rig disasters but no luck.

I guess my next best option will be newspapers in the area where they were living.

Any advice appreciated


Pam Downes
31-08-2007, 4:51 AM
Hi Michelle,
re John Stott. I believe if someone is missing for seven years, then you can have them declared 'dead', and therefore be legally free to marry again.
re the 1973 oil rig question -
If the rig was Norwegian in international waters I think it would be regarded as Norwegian 'land', and therefore everything would come under Norwegian rules and regulations. If it was an English/Scottish rig in Norwegian waters I think English/Scottish rules would apply, but I'm not sure. There could also be points of law as to whether he died before or after he hit the water and therefore which 'country' he died in.
I would send either an email or letter to the GRO in Southport asking where such a death is likely to be registered. I know in ye olde days there used to be a section called 'Consular' BMD but I don't know if that still exists.
And I'm pretty certain that the local newspapers would have a report of the death. There would probably have been an inquest too, which would also almost certainly have been reported.

Peter Goodey
31-08-2007, 8:31 AM
In the first example, you could get away it in those days without a court order.

Too many areas of doubt in the oil rig case. Was a body found? Was it a Norwegian rig? How would Norwegian law treat such a case? In the UK, would English or Scottish law apply?

An important reason for needing proof of death or legal presumption of death is for probate purposes.

Have you searched the probate calendars? I think it would be a good move.

31-08-2007, 12:01 PM
Thanks for the replies. I guess in the first case, with my great grandmother remarrying 9 years after her first husband was known to be alive ( by me-that is!) I would guess that he died soon after the 1901 census. I know that death registrations can be late, but I'm sure I searched up until the end of 1910. I'll check another 10 years after her marriage - just in case!

Are Probate calenders the same as Wills and Admon indexes? I haven't looked at those yet. Unfortunately the ones I need are not on line and I haven't been to look at the indexes in London since they were housed at Somerset House - so a long time ago! I think I'm well over due a visit!

31-08-2007, 12:30 PM
You don't necessarily have to go to London for wills post 1858. You can search the indexes at your local probate office. I go to the one in Newcastle.
The addresses of the district offices can be found here

Details of how to get a copy here
http://www.lawontheweb.co.uk/willsafterdeath.htm#Getting%20A%20Copy%20of%20a%20 Will

If you search the indexes yourself it will cost 5 for a copy (and 1 for each additional copy) which will be sent out to you by post. I've always found them to be pretty quick.

31-08-2007, 12:55 PM
Thanks Sue, I'll bear that in mind. Though I have quite a few to look for that are over 50 years old, so I'll be better off going to London so I can look for the older ones.

Peter Goodey
31-08-2007, 1:05 PM
Unless the calendars are available in sub-registries, I suspect that London is Michelle's nearest place.

Incidentally, the only place guaranteed to have the full set is First Avenue House.

Copies on microform (not necessarily very up to date) turn up in various places such as CROs. I don't know about Kent - I usually do my searching in London.

Sue Mackay
11-09-2007, 12:08 PM
The story goes that John Thomas Stott died at sea and his widow's only evidence was a newspaper cutting!

Thanks Michelle, you have just proved to me that I haven't been wasting my time! I have been transcribing snippets from the South African Commercial Advertiser and posting them on the SA Rootsweb list (they are also on line at www.genealogyworld.net) and although this has been done primarily to aid people researching families at the Cape I have included all BMDs I have found, which frequently include those of seamen and soldiers temporarily at the Cape - or permanently in the case of seamen who were drowned off the Cape or soldiers KIA! My transcripts are far too early for you, but stick the name into every newspaper index you can find! I should add that by 1901 there were lots of people working on board ships who were not seamen as such - they were floating hotels!