A search for the final resting place of the LEEs in England

I knew my great great grandparents, Edward LEE and Jemima LEE (nee WILLIAMS), did not follow their sons, George, Edward (my great-grandfather) and Charles to Australia, so, it wasn’t too much of a jump to assume they died and were buried in England. But where?

Discerning their ‘timelines’ in England led to a burial plot in Nunhead Cemetery, London. And contact with the volunteers, the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery (FONC), gave me the Grave number and photos of their final resting place.

Here’s the trail…

AS for many family historians, information in census returns is invaluable, and, the English ones are particularly good. They were conducted every 10 years. The 1841 census is considered to be the first modern census.

The English censuses can provide occupations, relationships, addresses, children, ages and birthplaces. And absences can suggest deaths in the years in between. So, with the aid of other verifying documents a timeline of a person’s life can be determined. This is great for those of us who can’t zip down the road and fossick through the London records ourselves.

So what did I find out about the LEE family?

(All the following information has been transcribed from the scans of English census returns available on Ancestry.com)

1841 English census

1841 Census table LEE

H.S. = Household Servant.

Corn Meter = ‘a type of weights and measures inspector who ensured that the quantities of corn traded at market were accurately weighed’.

1850 London bermondsey Cross Map (see Evernote)

1850 Section of Cross’s New Plan of London (St Catharine’s and Bermondsey)

In 1841 the LEE family, consisting of, Edward and Jemima LEE and their children, George, Mary and Edward (my great-grandfather), are living in Horselydown Lane, Parish of St John, Borough of Southwark.

Horselydown Lane runs perpendicular to the Thames in the parish of St John Horselydown, Southwark. The Lane is still in existence today.

I’ve included the details of the next door neighbours, George WILLIAMS, Mary WILLIAMS and Elizabeth HENRY, as they prove to be significant in regards to the LEE family in the next census of 1851.

Unfortunately, the census of 1841 did not include relationships to the head of the household so I don’t know how these three people were related to each other.

1851 English census

1851 Census LEE

George Williams LEE-Occupation: ‘AKC’ = ‘Associate of King’s College’. To be explained later. What I’ve learned about George will fill up many future posts.


In 1851 the family are now living at 1 Bath Terrace, Parish of Newington, Borough of Lambeth, away from the Thames: Edward and Jemima, their children, George, Mary, Edward, Charles and Alfred.

George WILLIAMS, who was next door ten years before in 1841, is now living with the family and is described as ‘Uncle’ and ‘Widower’.

Mary WILLIAMS and Elizabeth HENRY are absent. They may have died??

(I have found a Mary HENRY who married a George WILLIAMS but I haven’t found any proof that they are one and the same. This could be significant considering an Elizabeth HENRY (Mary WILLIAMS’ sister perhaps?) was living with them in the 1841 census).

1861 census

1861 English Census table LEE

Fundholder (Jemima’s occupation) = Someone whose main income was from the interest and dividends received from investments.


By 1861 the family is markedly reduced in numbers.

Edward, now a retired Corn Meter and Jemima LEE,  a ‘Fundholder’, are living with their youngest son, Alfred (scholar) in the village of Wonersh, County Surrey.

At this stage, I know that George Williams LEE, their eldest child, has emigrated to Australia (1852).

Two of their other sons, Edward and Charles, may have been off doing apprenticeships and Mary Elizabeth is?

George WILLIAMS, Jemima’s uncle, is not listed. Has he died?

A search for his death between 1851 and 1861 reveals many George WILLIAMS but the finding of a will in 1857 narrows the search.

One of the executors of this lengthy will is Edward LEE, a Corn Meter, and one of the beneficiaries is his niece, Jemima LEE. With these details I knew I had the right George WILLIAMS.

George WILLIAMS left a great deal of money to the Baptist Missionary Society and another decent portion to his niece, Jemima LEE. This probably explains Jemima LEE’s occupation listed as ‘Fundholder’ in the 1861 census.

There is ‘talk’ in branches of the family that the children of Edward and Jemima LEE came into an ‘inheritance’, possibly assisting them with the finances for their education and enabling them to emigrate to Australia. Uncle George WILLIAMS may well have been the source.

A search in FreeBDM gave me the reference number of the death of a George WILLIAMS in 1857 and in Newington which is where he was living with the LEEs in 1851.

I used the reference number to request a copy of the death certificate from General Register Office (GRO):

20 August 1857 Death of George WILLIAMS, uncle of Jemima LEE, in NEWINGTON, Co. Surrey. Courtesy GRO.

The details in the certificate reveal the place of death as 1 Bath Terrace which is the address he was living at with the LEE family in the census for 1851. Occupation: Corn Meter which also corresponds with the 1851 census and Edward LEE was ‘present at the death’. I was pretty confident I had the right George WILLIAMS.

1871 census

1871 Census table LEE

By 1871 Edward LEE is a ‘widower’ living north of the Thames with his daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who is now married to A F TILLEY (verified by LEE relatives in USA).

So, Edward’s wife, Jemima LEE, must have died between 1861 and 1871. A search in FreeBMD reveals she died in 1863, 2nd December.

Edward and Charles have emigrated to Australia (1864). I’m unsure of Alfred’s (the youngest son) whereabouts.

1863 Death of Jemima LEE

1863 Death of Jemima LEE, in LAMBETH. Courtesy of GRO.

1881 Census

No Edward LEE. This means he most probably died between 1871 and 1881. A search in FreeBDM for a death between these years reveals the death in 1875 of an Edward LEE in Hackney-right age.

I requested the death certificate from GRO:

1875 Death of Edward LEE Hackney

1875 Death of Edward LEE, HACKNEY. Courtesy of GRO.

Right one. He died at his daughter’s residence in Upper Clapton, Hackney.


Now, knowing the death dates of Edward and Jemima LEE, I investigated possible burial sites.

Deceased Online had recently announced that the details of burials in Nunhead Cemetery, Southwark, had been uploaded to their website. The cemetery, being in the general area of the early years of the LEE family, was a possible resting place.

I checked it out…

Deceased Online

A search of deceased online revealed an Edward LEE in the Nunhead Cemetery.

With Grave Number and Credit card in hand I applied for the details of the grave:

Nunhead Cemetery LEE and WILLIAMS from Deceased on Line Sep 2015

To my delight the results revealed the details of a burial plot containing not only the remains of Edward LEE but also the remains of his wife Jemima, her uncle, George WILLIAMS, and maybe, his wife, Mary WILLIAMS.

Attached records to these interment details of the ages of each person helped to verify that I had the right ones. But I didn’t know about Walter Henry LEE. He was 5 months old at the time of death.

(I found the death of a Walter Henry LEE in 1849, son of Edward LEE but he was 5 yo)

Nunhead Cemetery

Nunhead cemetery is one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ Victorian cemeteries forming a ring around what were then the outskirts of London. It opened in 1840. It is one of two cemeteries south of the Thames.

As can be seen from the map of the cemetery below, Section 100 where the LEE plot is located, is part of the ‘Nature reserve’:

Nunhead cemetery map

After about 4 months, I received an email from the volunteers at Nunhead cemetery in response to a request I’d made as to whether the plot had a headstone and whether it was accessible. The volunteers had previously warned me that they had a long waiting list for requests of grave locations.

They were sorry to say that they couldn’t get access to the grave due to overgrowth but they kindly sent me two photos of the approximate area…

And a closer look below…

So, somewhere in amongst those brambles is the final resting place of my great-great-grandparents, along with a generous uncle and (I think) his wife and a baby. I gather it was too unsafe for the volunteers to pursue the exact location. Imagine scrambling through that!

It’s been an interesting exercise finding the burial plot of the LEEs, but by the look of that overgrowth, I won’t be rushing over to London any time soon to check it out.

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4 Responses to A search for the final resting place of the LEEs in England

  1. Heather says:

    terrific research Marg. and I am left waiting eagerly for more………………….

  2. Bernadette shelley says:

    Yes Marg, fantastic research done. Cemetery does needs a bit of work….!! Bx

    • Marg says:

      Yes, Bern. Not a cemetery I’d like to clamber through. They’ll need a lot more ‘Friends’ to clean it up! x

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