10th Apr, 2021

Family members found after Standard appeal prompted by mystery gravestone in Stoke Prior Churchyard

Tristan Harris 8th Apr, 2021 Updated: 8th Apr, 2021

RELATIVES of a woman whose headstone was found in Bromsgrove woodland have been tracked down – thanks to an appeal in the Standard.

We reported back in February how descendants of Eliza Mary Dee were being sought after the discovery in the area just outside St Michael and All Angels Churchyard.

Jo-Anne Till and the mystery gravestone. Picture by Marcus Mingins 0821013MMR1 www.buyphotos247.com

The mystery began with the stone – marked up as ‘EMD 1842 to 1922′ – looked after Jonathan and Jo Till who live at Aldham House (once the Rectory at Stoke Prior) and own the woodland.

The stone had been moved out of the graveyard because it was deemed unsafe and, although records show Eliza’s and her family’s graves were in the churchyard, it was not known exactly where.

Research had been carried out, using the Federation of Family History Society book which recorded all monument inscriptions at St Michael and All Angels. Assistance was also provided by experts from the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry.

Janet Huskinson and Hilary Dawson (both nee Dee) who were daughters of William Dee’s son (Eliza’s great-granddaughters) and are now living in Cambridgeshire were contacted by a distant cousin Ann Ross who lives in New South Wales, Australia and is a descendant of Eliza’s brother and a family history enthusiast.

Ann saw our article in our online edition and shared it with Janet and Hilary who got in touch with Gary Stokes from Stoke Prior Church.

They said in an email: “We are both very touched by the care and effort which Jonathan and Jo Till and the Friends of Stoke Prior Church have put into this project. Thank you so much.

“We had no idea that Eliza was buried in Stoke Prior churchyard, although we knew that her husband George and daughters Mary May, Ethel and Daisy were all buried there.”

The mystery gravestone. Picture by Marcus Mingins 0821013MMR3

The pair had spent time during lockdown piecing together their family history and said they appreciated the work done by the Friends group.

They have inherited a trunk full of family photographs and papers, which they have been slowly sorting through, and are happy to share them with the Friends of Stoke Prior Church and answer questions to help fill in the gaps.

Gary shared the information which had been researched and Janet and Hilary sent through a picture of Eliza and made generous donations to the Stoke Prior Tower Fund to say thank you.

Although the exact spot where the grave is not known the Friends have a rough idea of where it is and later in the year (when the easing of restrictions allows), the stone will be placed back where it belongs and a short service will be held.

It is hoped Eliza’s relatives will be able to be present at the event.

Gary said: “When we put out the appeal we were hoping for a response from family members – never did we think it would initially come all the way from Australia.

“We wanted to put the gravestone back in its rightful place and the family members were the missing piece of the jigsaw.”

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