The Bills of Mortality are a great source of information for those who have ancestors from London. The bills are the records of what the people of London have died from in that year. The bills were produced every year from 1603 until 1840. Some were produced in other periods but they may not have covered all of London.
The bills only covered Church of England burial grounds and not those of other denominations.
Now I have to say I hadn’t heard of these bills until I was watching 8 out of 10 cats does countdown and the comedian Vic Reeves mentioned them.
I thought I’d look at some of the death and see how they compared over the years in 10 year increments from 1657 until 1757.
The first cause of death is childbed, or childbirth as we would say now. Childbirth was a dangerous time for women and had it didn’t care from which level of society you came from. These figures remain fairly constant over the years and unfortunately this is to be expected as until medicine progressed the women continued to die.
Evil or King’s Evil was a disease that many believed that the touch of the monarch would cure. In reality this didn’t happen but the last British monarch to carry out the touching of those afflicted was Queen Anne. In reality this illness is scrofula which is the swelling of lymph nodes cause by TB.
Consumption is another form of TB which predominately affects the lungs.
I’m glad people don’t die of lethargy these days as I’d have gone years ago. I believe this was probably a form of coma from which people didn’t recover from. As for mortification the same is true. With my ability to put my foot in it and keep digging I’d have died from mortification years ago. In reality this was a form of gangrene.
I have to say I’m surprises that so few people in London were murdered each year. More people probably suffer this fate today than they did in the 17th and 18th century.
We all think hundreds died from the plague each year but in reality very few did. 4 died in 1657 compared to the 1998 that died in 1666.
I was surprised how many people died due to their teeth. I suppose their teeth became infected and the infection spread and they died as a result. Thank goodness for antibiotics and regular dental check-ups.
I have to say worms sounds like a dreadful way to go. I think it means as a result of parasites and worms such as tape worms and if you think about it London was a big port city so sailors were coming in from all over the world and bringing new and exciting illnesses with them.
Now I have one more personal favourite to add to the list. In 1670 one person in London died from a wolf! I assume they meant a wolf attack. Now this is unfortunate but why was there a wolf in London? I suppose it could have been at the royal menagerie at the Tower of London and have attacked it’s keeper or a visitor. Not a pleasant way to go but I bet the poor person 348 years ago never thought they would be remembered for dying from such an unusual method and be mentioned in a blog.
If you want to know more about the bills of mortality you can download the returns from: https://archive.org/details/collectionyearl00hebegoog/page/n5
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!