Showing posts with label Colney Hatch Asylum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Colney Hatch Asylum. Show all posts

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Surname Saturday: Proof of Mary Slatter and "Melancholia"

During my Gen Go-Over, I've been determined to find out whether my husband's great-great-grandma Mary Shehen Slatter was in two notorious London insane asylums.

Mary's death date was a mystery for years. I proved that her husband John Slatter (1838-1901) had come to America by 1888 (I have him listed in a Cleveland city directory for that year and later years). John remarried in America, his second wife died in 1895, and John himself died at the Cleveland home of his younger daughter, Mary Slatter Wood, in 1901.

But what was the fate of Mary Slatter? Chasing down the many Slatters in UK civil death registers, I found a listing of a Mary Slatter dying at age 52 in April, 1889. Of course I wondered why Mary's husband would be in America while she was dying in the London area, but the age and location was approximately correct to be great-great-grandma Mary.

Have your tissue box handy. Now I have proof of Mary's unfortunate fate. And one reason the proof works is because I can match mother and children's names/dates to the documents, as well as developing a rough timeline of what happened, when, and why. Researching one name (Mary Slatter) is a lot more difficult than researching a few family members! So think in terms of families, not ancestors in isolation.

As I wrote in January, I discovered that Mary's five children had been admitted to a London workhouse. Then I found the registry for a Mary Slatter admitted to Banstead Asylum. My sweet cousin in London visited the London Metropolitan Archives and examined the ledgers in person. She told me that Mary had actually been admitted to Colney Hatch Asylum before being moved to Banstead Asylum--and that both asylums were horrific places to be confined.

Recently, my cousin returned to the archives and gave me more specifics from the Colney Hatch Admission Register, which is available only to in-person visitors. What she learned, plus other documents I've uncovered, proves that my husband's great-great-grandma was the Mary Slatter admitted to these asylums.

Cousin Anna found that Mary Slatter, wife of a laborer and living in Whitechapel, was admitted to Colney Hatch on June 1, 1874, suffering from "melancholia" with a symptom of "imagines she is dead." Oh, dear.

"Time insane" was listed as 3 weeks. Now the timing becomes critical: Mary's children were admitted to the workhouse on May 18, 1874, just weeks before Mary's admission to Colney Hatch. If Mary was incapacitated, where would her children be cared for? Apparently, the workhouse.

More proof: Cousin Anna read the "Whitechapel Union Register of Lunatics and Idiots" and learned that Mary Slatter had, in fact, been admitted to Colney Hatch from a workhouse, "passed from St. Saviours." This is significant (I'll explain in a moment) but also the notation that "Children at Forest Gate Sch"--meaning Forest Gate School.

When the five children were admitted to the workhouse in May, 1874, the matron of Forest Gate School referred them there. Other evidence shows that the children were enrolled at Forest Gate School. And all the children's names from the workhouse register match the names/ages of Mary's children.

Now about St. Saviour. (Get a fresh hanky.) Mary was admitted to workhouses in the parish of St. Saviour multiple times in 1873-4 (the earliest I've so far found is September, 1873). Sometimes with her children! So the notation in Colney Hatch Asylum's register that Mary was coming from a "workhouse, passed from St. Saviours," exactly fits great-great-grandma Mary's situation as I've reconstructed it.

(See bottom of post for final proof, Mary Slater [sic] being discharged from workhouse on June 1, 1874 as "insane." That was the same day Mary was admitted to Colney Hatch Asylum. It's always good to investigate alternative spellings like Slater and Slattery, not just the name as actually known.)

At top of this post is the workhouse admission register from January 17, 1874, showing Mary and her children. This indicates that she was a servant and her "master" admitted her. From my admittedly modern perspective, I wonder whether the point of being admitted was to have food and shelter for a night or more? And where on earth is John Slatter, Mary's husband, during all this time??

Here's the answer and more proof. Mary and her children were again admitted to a workhouse, in April 22, 1874, as shown below. Names/dates match. Residence: "No Home." She is married, wife of John, "deserted." And the children? You can't see in this excerpt, but the children were sent to . . . Forest Gate School. There is no longer any doubt about the sad life and fate of hubby's g-g-grandma, Mary Shehen Slatter. RIP.

One reason I do genealogy is to honor the memory of ancestors, who paved the way for us to live our lives. I had no idea what my husband's Slatter family endured, and even though I am typing through my tears, I am also proud that their descendants had full and productive lives. Mary Shehen Slatter's bandmaster sons were renowned in Canada. Her two daughters made homes in Ohio and raised families of their own. If only g-g-grandma Mary had known what would become of her children and their children, perhaps this would have given her a bit of peace and comfort.

Mary "Slater" discharged from workhouse on June 1 as "insane" - same day as admission to asylum.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Surname Saturday: Mary Slatter, Melancholy and Demented?

Last month, I wrote about discovering in the Banstead Asylum records a woman named Mary Slatter who was possibly my husband's great-great-grandmother. I was doing a Genealogy Go-Over and learned that more records had become available, so I dove in.

The only way to find out more was to see these records in person, since they're not available in any other format. My wonderful cousin Anna in London was kind enough to visit the London Metropolitan Archives, where she read the admission and discharge registers.

If this was indeed Mary Shehen Slatter, her life was even sadder than the family could have imagined. Get out your hanky. Here's what the records say:
  • Mary was admitted to Banstead Asylum on September 28, 1877, at age 40. (This is within a year or two of the age I would expect her to have been at that point.) She was married, the wife of a laborer, and she was from Whitechapel (these facts fit exactly with the Mary Slatter I'm trying to find).
  • Mary's "previous place of abode" was--oh, dear--Colney Hatch Asylum. In other words, she was institutionalized before she even got to Banstead. Colney was notorious, another place to hold paupers, originally meant to be more humane but then resorting to straight jackets and other restraints. Wait, there's more.
  • Mary's form of mental disorder was characterized as "Melancholy and demented." 
  • Mary's cause of insanity was described as "Misfortune and destitution."
  • The duration of Mary's previous attacks of insanity was 3 years, 4 months.
  • Mary died young of phthisis--meaning tuberculosis--on April 19, 1889, at age 52.
Now my cousin is going to view the Colney Hatch records in person to try to learn more about whether this is indeed our Mary Shehen Slatter.

From what I know about hubby's g-g-grandmother, this could very well be her sad fate. The family was chronically impoverished, I have confirmed from the records and from later comments made by Mary's children as adults.


Mary's first-born child, Thomas John Slatter, didn't live to the age of 11. He was born in 1860 (see him in the 1861 UK census excerpt here, with the Slatter family listed in Whitechapel) and he died sometime before the 1871 UK census. * Was this why Mary was first institutionalized?

I hope the Colney Hatch records will give me more insight into Mary's life. Also, I've sent for Mary Slatter's death cert to see what it says. UPDATE: Mary's death cert is a single line in a ledger. It says "date of death is April 19, 1889; place: "Middlesex Lunatic Asylum, Banstead; female, age 52, wife of a labourer, Whitechapel; cause of death is phthisis." No place of burial mentioned, no maiden name. Since the Mary I'm seeking was the wife of a labourer in Whitechapel, the death cert supports my theory but doesn't prove that Mary Slatter in Banstead was Mary Shehen Slatter, hubby's g-g-grandma.

* Elizabeth, in a comment below, notes that Thomas seems to be alive and living with his grandparents in the 1871 census. Thanks to her help, I have clues to dig deeper!