Found Dead? Unknown Causes of Death in the Bills of Mortality

The greatest purpose of the Bills of Mortality is to enumerate death, first due to plague then expanding over the years to include other causes. However, there are some gray areas where Searchers lacked the necessary information to provide a label. In these instances, the records reflect the phrase “found dead.” This label carried a wide range of ages and deaths and was listed with a basic description of the deceased person and how they were found. First, how were these people found and reported for the Bills? The Searchers of the Dead were poor older women, sometimes widows, serving the parishes for work. During times of plague they were known to mark the doors of houses with dead from the plague for the corpses to be picked up. Richelle Munkhoff writes more about this process in “Searchers of the Dead: Authority, Marginality, and the Interpretation […]