NEWSPAPERS Newspapers are rich sources of information about resurrectionists but bear in mind that reports tend to be sensationalised. Find out whether there were any cases of bodysnatching in the area in which your ancestors lived by searching the British Newspaper Archive ( www. britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk). These newspapers are also available on Findmypast ( findmypast.co.uk). CONTEMPORARY SOURCES The 19th- century biographies of eminent surgeons reveal their connections with resurrectionists and even their direct involvement in bodysnatching as medical students. Many are available for free on Google Books ( books.google.co.uk). Try The Life of Sir Astley Cooper by Bransby Blake Cooper and A Sketch of the Life and Writings of Robert Knox, the Anatomist by Henry Lonsdale.
Another fantastic resource is The Diary of a Resurrectionist, 1811-1812, which includes a later account of resurrection men in London. The writer of the diary was believed to be Joseph Naples; he had been in the Navy, became a gravedigger and was drawn into bodysnatching by another man. He continued it until the passage of the Anatomy Act when he became a servant in the dissecting room at St Thomas’s Hospital. PARISH RECORDS You may find evidence of bodysnatching in burial records or parish committee minutes if the vicar or minister saw fit to make a note of any illegal exhumations. References to the activities of resurrectionists in Scotland might also be found in the Old and New Statistical Accounts of Scotland (1791-1799 and 1834-1845) written by the minister of each parish. They can be searched and browsed online at edina. ac.uk/stat-acc- scot.