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Twiggy family records on Deceased Online

This week saw the 100th episode of the ever popular BBC television show, Who Do You Think You Are? This special episode featured model and actor Twiggy (Lesley Lawson, née Hornby) and her Victorian ancestors' lives of hard times in east and north London. But did you know that some of Twiggy's family can be found in the Deceased Online database?

Twiggy in the 100th episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (credit: BBC)
Twiggy was born in Neasden, north London, in 1949. Although her father was from Lancashire, this episode focused on Twiggy's maternal ancestors who lived in the capital. This had particular resonance for her, as, she said, "I feel, heart and soul, a Londoner, and I’m very proud of it." I had a personal interest in the programme as not only do I live in north London but I have ancestors from the capital - including Hackney, where Twiggy's great grandmother, Grace Gillies, met her tragic end. There were also many familiar sights for those who've researched in London, including the library of the Society of Genealogists and the Clerkenwell courthouse where Dickens worked as a reporter.
St John's Church, Hampstead
Deceased Online has a wealth of records covering all 32 of London boroughs, but we were able to find some of Twiggy's ancestors in the collection for Camden. It is a sign of life in 21st century London to discover that the the workhouse for the parish of St John's Hampstead, where Twiggy's great aunts and uncles lived from 1892, has been converted into luxury flats. While current residents can enjoy the luxury of a premium postcode and quality local amenities, life for Twiggy's ancestors encompassed wretched poverty. Deserted by her husband, Twiggy's great grandmother, Elizabeth Meadows, entered the workhouse in 1894 after her infant son, Frederick, was struck with fever. Sadly, Elizabeth's efforts were to no avail and Frederick succumbed to the disease in November of that year. He was buried in a common grave in unconsecrated ground in Hampstead Cemetery and his burial record is in the Deceased Online database.

Entry for Frederick Meadows in the Burial Register of Hampstead Cemetery

Twiggy's never knew her grandmother, Alice Meadows, but she was relieved to discover that she had escaped the workhouse by being old enough to work. By 1901, Alice was married and living with her husband, Alfred Reeman, and sister, Lucy Meadows, still in Hampstead. Sadly, their mother, Elizabeth Meadows, had not survived. She died just over 3 years after her son and was buried in June 1898 in a large common grave with 39 others in Hampstead Cemetery. Like Frederick, she had died in the Workhouse and was buried in unconsecrated ground. 
Entry for Elizabeth Meadows in the Burial Register of Hampstead Cemetery
Although the episode focused on the Meadows side of the family, we decided to explore the Reeman side. We were interested to discover that Twiggy's grandfather's father, also Alfred Reeman, is in our records and also lies in Hampstead Cemetery. Alfred senior was a bricklayer from Suffolk, born in 1854. He died in Hampstead, aged 65, in April 1921. Like his daughter-in-law's relatives, he died in the building of the New End Infirmary/Hospital but, unlike them, he lies in consecrated ground.
Entry for Alfred Reeman in the Burial Register of Hampstead Cemetery
Hampstead is less than 6 miles from Neasden where Twiggy was raised in the post-war years. She did not know her maternal grandmother and, for various reasons, was unable to find out about her past. If she had been able to explore her family history as a child then she could have grown up knowing the nearby homes her ancestors lived in, the streets down which they walked, and the places where they are buried. Family historians today are fortunate to have so many records online. We hope that by using the collections on the Deceased Online database many more people are able to discover where their ancestors lie buried, and possibly to have visited at least some of their graves.

If you have ancestors who lived in the capital and have found ancestors in the records of Hampstead Cemetery or our other London collections, please do let us know via our Twitter and Facebook pages or in the comment box below!

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