Showing posts with label Forest Gate School. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Forest Gate School. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

How Maps Helped Me Understand the Slatter Family

After watching Helen Smith's excellent "Mapping Your Ancestors" VGA webinar, I decided to learn more about my husband's Slatter ancestors by checking their London-area addresses against the Charles Booth maps.

Who was Charles Booth?

His notebooks and maps make up Life and Labour of the People in London, a detailed study of urban poverty at the end of the 19th century. Helen demonstrated this free and informative resource for understanding the social and economic context of London in that period.

I looked at the maps for three London addresses where hubby's great-grandparents lived. John Slatter (1838-1901) and Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889) always lived in and adjacent to Whitechapel, the city's infamous poor district. Even allowing for some turnover in population and changes in local conditions year to year, knowing what Charles Booth observed in the area gave me a better sense of the daily lives of these ancestors.

1859. At top is an excerpt from the Booth map of London's Christ Church section, directly adjacent to Whitechapel. The green arrow shows 2 Heneage Street, where Mary and John were living at the time of their marriage in 1859. Booth says this part of Heneage Street was "very poor," almost as poor as it gets. Not the very bottom of the economic barrel, but close.

1861. Here, above, is an excerpt from the map for 55 Leman Street in the St. Mark area (also adjacent to Whitechapel), a short walk from where the Slatters lived when they married two years earlier. When the UK census was taken in 1861, Mary & John had a young son, Thomas, and they lived in an area that was considered "mixed"--some poor, some comfortably off. She was a cook, he was a porter, so their combined income may have helped them improve economically from their 1859 situation.

1871.  Above, an excerpt from the Charles Booth map for 3 Half Moon Passage in the St. Mary section of Whitechapel, where the Slatter family lived at the time of the UK census. No color coding by Booth, so I suspect the Slatter family was living in "mixed" surroundings, meaning some poor and some comfortable. Since John is now listed as a "labourer," and there are 5 children in the household, money must have been much tighter.

Poverty takes a toll. According to workhouse and poorhouse records (accessed via Ancestry and in person by my cousin, at the London Metropolitan Archives), Mary Shehen Slatter and 5 of her 6 children were in and out of institutions from 1873 on. Above, the discharge for 5 Slatter* children from Newington Workhouse in London to Hanwell School, both notorious places.

Mary was apparently abandoned by John at that time, and she struggled to keep body and soul together. According to UK records, she developed "melancholia" and was committed to two different (and awful) asylums starting in 1874. Her children were then in and out of workhouses**, poorhouses, and slum residential schools like Forest Gate. Mary died in the asylum in 1889. But her children all grew up to have productive lives!

When I tell the story of the Slatter family to their descendants, I marvel at the resiliency of the Slatter children and express admiration for their accomplishments. Three of the boys went from Forest Gate School to the Exmouth and Goliath Training Ships, then grew up to be celebrated military bandmasters and strong family men. The two girls seem to have been fairly close all their lives, even after they married and raised families. The ultimate trajectory of the Slatter children's lives is quite amazing.

*The eldest Slatter son, Thomas, actually lived with his paternal grandmother and step-grandfather (according to census data from 1871 on). As a result, he never seems to have been in a workhouse or a poorhouse.

**NOTE: The Ancestry database I used is called: "London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764-1930."

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.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Sepia Saturday: Postcard Leads to Two Shocking Discoveries

For this week's Sepia Saturday, I began by scanning one of the few postcards I have from Dorothy Louise Baker (1897-1981), to her first cousin, Wallis W. Wood (hubby's great uncle).

The year was 1912, and Dorothy was living with her parents (Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter and James Sills Baker) and her younger sister (Edith Eleanor Baker) in Toledo. 

Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter and her four siblings were born in London, and I went to my online tree to do a quick search on her name.

I found something quite shocking. Adelaide and all of her siblings had been admitted to Bromley House--a workhouse--for several nights in May, 1874.

This is the kind of sad place for the poor where, a few lines above the Slatter siblings in this same ledger, a 50-year-old laborer admitted for a few nights was found dead in his bed. Bromley House added to its defenses, according to records, to prevent "inmates" from escaping. Not the sort of place you'd want two little girls, ages 7 and 5, to stay for a few nights.


After catching my breath, I went back to my other research about the Slatter family living in a terribly poverty-stricken part of London, Tower Hamlets in Whitechapel.

I knew the three boys had been sent to a military training ship on the Thames in 1875 and were lucky to escape a devastating fire. All three brothers went on to serve with distinction in the military, with Captain John Daniel Slatter (1864-1954) becoming a renowned band leader based in Toronto.

But until now, I didn't know all five siblings had been bundled off to Bromley House, the workhouse. According to the admission and discharge book, they were sent by the matron of the Forest Gate School.

Why?

Well, I had a guess. I've never been able to find the death date of the mother of these children, Mary Shehen Slatter. Born in 1840, I thought Mary died before 1888, the year when her husband left London forever and came to America.


But maybe I was wrong. This was my second shock. Above, part of a ledger from "UK Lunacy Patients Admission Registers" for the year 1877. A Mary Slatter was admitted to Middlesex County Lunatic Asylum (later called Banstead Asylum) on September 28. This Mary died on April 19, 1889. According to the death index, this Mary was 52 years old.


So if Mary Slatter wasn't able to care for her children from 1874 on, it makes sense that they could be shuttled from school to workhouse to training ship (the boys).

Yet John Slatter sailed off to America and by 1893, was living in Cleveland along with a wife, Louisa (I've never been able to locate a marriage record for these two, so perhaps she was a "wife"). So did he leave a wife in the asylum and start a new life to forget the misery of the old one?

More research is in my future to determine whether the Mary in the asylum was, in fact, my husband's great-grandma.