Case Studyone

Finding Arabella

Locating the grave of Arabella Arne was proving very tricky...

Born at Chelsea in 1705 and baptised at St Luke's in the parish, Arabella would have lived and died prior to the advent of both statutory and census records. With not much information to go on, fortunately, I managed to find her marriage to a man called Thomas Allen on the International Genealogical Index.

My task was to locate burial registers for Chelsea in the hope of finding a grave for Arabella and her husband. I searched the internet to see if there were any transcriptions available, either online or in CD or booklet form. Luckily, Archive CD Books had published quite a collection of material for the parish of St Luke, the most interesting of which was a CD of the scanned images of the original burial registers covering the years 1559-1883.

After spending a while searching through the images I found a burial entry for Arabella (1751), and further searching produced her husband's entry (1756). Having established this couple, I felt it was now worthwhile travelling to London to visit the churchyard without worrying it might be a wasted visit - and there the grave was, slightly worn but quite beautiful.

CHELSEA GIRL: Arabella's gravestone was found after getting a copy of the burial register for the parish of St Luke, Chelsea

History Societies' website, www.ffhs.,

while the Scottish equivalent can be found at The majority of these publications are on microfiche, although a growing number are in booklet form or CD-ROM. They are mostly published for an individual parish or a collection of adjoined parishes, with the exception of many Scottish MIs which include a complete county of parishes in each publication.

The obvious advantage of using an MI publication is that virtually all of the groundwork has been taken out of the search process; looking at the index of an MI publication for an ancestor takes no time at all compared with the hours looking at and checking every grave in a churchyard or cemetery.

As some monuments wear away more quickly than others (those made of sandstone for example) publications where the inscriptions were recorded many years ago are especially important, particularly if the inscription is no longer legible. Family History Online,, provides

MIXED BAG: The churchyard in Laleham is typical of the majority of burial sites in Britain, with a variety of styles of monument

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