Showing posts with label Whitechapel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Whitechapel. Show all posts

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Surname Saturday: Tracing the Sad Fate of Mary Shehen Slatter

Was my husband's great-grandma, Mary Shehen Slatter, committed to a London insane asylum in 1877 -- and did she die there in 1889?

Thanks to online records, a phone call, and the kindness of a cousin who lives in London, I'll soon know more about this ancestor's sad fate. This is part of my Genealogy Go-Over, filling in the blanks on the family tree.

I am fairly certain of Mary's birth date, thanks to marriage records, but not her death date nor her whereabouts after the 1871 UK Census, shown here. At that time, Mary and her husband John Slatter and their 5 children lived together in Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel, London--an area known for extreme poverty.

In December, I learned that Mary's 5 children had spent time in a notorious London workhouse.

Checking further, I discovered that a woman with the name of Mary Slatter had been committed to Banstead Asylum in September, 1877. Whether this is our Mary Slatter, I couldn't tell, but it was an intriguing and disturbing thought.

Women were committed to such asylums for a variety of reasons, not just in the 19th century but also well into the 20th century. Click to read what one genealogy researcher found out about her great-grandmother's time in Banstead, circa 1930s. But get out your hanky before you click.



Next, I did an online search and landed at the National Archives in Surrey, England, which has an entire page devoted to Banstead Asylum and Hospital, closed for years. At the very bottom is the statement: "...not clear whether these records are now at either London Metropolitan Archives or Surrey History Centre."

Time for a phone call to the Surrey History Centre. The gentleman who answered the phone listened to my question about where the asylum's records might be found and told me they were definitely at the London Metropolitan Archives. He even gave me the archive catalog code so I could quickly locate what I needed.

On the London Metro Archives site, I found lots and lots of files readily available to the public, subject to the 100 year rule that protects patient privacy. Oh, the archive has patients' records, organized by date and by gender. Also visitors' logs and some photos (possibly only of staff, but maybe I'll get lucky?). What a treasure trove. Only one catch: These files must be accessed in person.

I sent an email to my London cousin Anna, asking whether she would be willing to undertake a field trip to the archives on my behalf. Even though she has no relation to poor Mary Shehen Slatter, my wonderful cousin agreed to visit this spring, armed with what I know and what I want to know. Before the snow melts here in New England, I hope to confirm whether this is hubby's great-grandma Mary and clarify her fate.

Why is Mary Shehen Slatter in my thoughts? Because too often, women are much less visible in family history . . .  especially once they marry and their maiden names disappear from public records. I want to honor and respect the lives these women lived, give them dignity and help them be remembered as more than simply "the wife of" or "the mother of" when I share the family tree with their descendants.

Monday, September 1, 2014

52 Ancestors #33: Mary Shehen of London, a Family Link to Ireland

Ancestry Images (www.ancestryimages.com)
Mary Shehen (b. in London abt 1839, died there before 1888) was hubby's great-grandma and one of his links to Ireland.

Her parents, Mary and John Shehen (or Shehan or Sheehan) were both born in Ireland around 1801. It's a mystery how and when they arrived in London, but there they were in the 1841 UK Census, in Gray's Buildings in Marylebone. At that time, the family consisted of Thomas (7), our Mary (3), and Michael (8 mos). Mary Shehen's birth was registered in the second quarter of 1840, yet the 1841 Census shows her as 3 years old. Hmmm...

On December 18, 1859, a Sunday just a week before Christmas, Mary married John Slatter in Spitalfields Christ Church, located in the Whitechapel area of London. She and her new husband moved into Whitechapel, while her parents remained in Marylebone, five miles away.

Mary and John Slatter had six children. The family was quite poor, and the five youngest children left for North America after they grew up. I'm still trying to determine what happened to the oldest child, Thomas John Slatter. He's 1 year old in the 1861 census but missing from the family household in the 1871 census and ever after.


HOWEVER, there's an intriguing possibility in the 1871 census, where a "Thomas Slatter, grandson" is living in the living in the household of John and Sarah Shuttleworth, along with a granddaughter with a different surname. The Shuttleworth household is barely 3 miles from the Slatter household. Could this be our Thomas John Slatter? He's the correct age in 1871. The Shuttleworth name is new to me, not anywhere in the family tree--yet.