Showing posts with label Shehen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shehen. Show all posts

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Road Trip: At the London Metro Archives

Checking the catalog at the London Metropolitan Archives
In search of more info about hubby's great-great grandma Mary [maiden name unknown] Shehen (b. abt 1801-d. ?) my husband and I took a road trip to the London Metropolitan Archives two weeks ago.

We preregistered online and when we presented personnel with our two pieces of identification, we were each issued on-site IDs. Then we proceeded to the computers, where we entered requests for relevant materials.

In Search of Physical Documents 

Many of the poorhouse and workhouse books have been digitized and are available on Ancestry, including this ledger of admissions and discharges from the Northumberland Street Workhouse.

"Mary Shehan" is the fourth name down on this page from March, 1871. This is unquestionably the right Mary, because on the facing page is her street address--which exactly matches her residence in previous UK census records. She was in the medical ward, due to chronic rheumatism, where she remained for 30 days.

With limited time for on-site research, we concentrated on printed materials only available in person at the archives. We requested a Visitors Book for the Northumberland Street Workhouse, not sure whether Mary would have have visitors during her monthlong stay. This was a physical book from the period that we would be allowed to page through on our own!

Visitors = Oversight

Well, I have to admit that I didn't understood the terminology. "Visitors" were actually committee people responsible for oversight of these institutions for the poor. They would visit the institutions periodically and look at conditions, also indicating whether the diet was good, etc. They weren't actually individually visiting the poor people, only writing reports about the care being provided.

But the good news is that the Visitors Book listed every person kept in the insane asylum areas during each visit. Most pages showed 8-20 inmates, although there were sometimes no inmates present during a visit.

Mary Shehen was not listed in the book, most likely because she was in the medical ward, not in the asylum itself.

Still, we found it a bit amazing to hold in our hands a workhouse ledger from way back in the 1870s. It made a big impression on both of us.

Records of the T.S. Goliath

Having struck out on Mary, we next huddled with the research staff about records of the Training Ship Goliath, where three of hubby's teenaged great uncles, born poor in London, learned maritime skills and were taught to play musical instruments during the 1870s. These three boys, sons of hubby's great-grandpa John Slatter and great-grandma Mary Shehen Slatter, grew up to be well-known military bandmasters in Canada.

We were given a microfilm showing the names of recruits on the Goliath, arranged by date (not indexed). Cranking through, we found some promising leads on one of the Slatter boys to follow up later, but ran out of time to do more in-person research. Guess that means another visit?!
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Thanks, as always, to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompts. This is my post for "Road Trip."

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Researching at the London Metropolitan Archives


While in London for #FamilyTreeLive, my husband and I went to the London Metropolitan Archives for some genealogy research.

Some UK records can only be accessed in person, and that includes detailed records from London workhouses and poorhouses. We wanted to request documents about two related families in his tree: Shehen and Slatter.

Mary "Unknown Maiden Name" Shehen

Hubby's great-great-grandmother Mary (unknown maiden name) Shehen (1801-??), born somewhere in Ireland, was married to John Shehen (1801-1875).

During the 1871 Census, Mary Unknown was enumerated twice: Once in the medical ward of the Northumberland Workhouse, where she was suffering from chronic rheumatism, and once at home, with her husband, at Gray's Buildings.

We wanted to see any surviving records of Mary's stay in the medical ward and whether she was there before or after for another reason. We hoped to find clues to her death date.

Mary Shehen Slatter & Family

Mary Unknown's daughter, hubby's great-grandma, didn't escape the cycle of poverty, either. She was London-born Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889), who had 6 children with her Oxford-born husband, John Slatter (1838-1901).

Mary and the 5 younger children were in and out of poorhouses and workhouses while the children were growing up. The earliest admission I've found for Mary Shehen Slatter is 1873. In mid-1874, she was sent from a workhouse to the first of two insane asylums, diagnosed with melancholia. Sadly, she died in notorious Banstead Asylum at the age of 51. Cause: Phthisis (tuberculosis).

Although my wonderful cousin Anna has visited the London Metropolitan Archives to see many of this Mary's records, we wondered whether there was anything earlier that we can see--and perhaps something that explains why her husband John Slatter took off for America before his wife died.

More soon about the results of our research visit.
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Any comments won't be posted for a few more days. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 21, 2019

"Aunt Ada" Reinvents Herself


"Aunt Ada" living in Toledo, Ohio, sent this penny postcard for Easter, 1914 to her nephew, "Master Wallis Wood," in Cleveland, Ohio.

The recipient was then 9 years old and accustomed to postcards tumbling out of the mailbox from relatives on every conceivable occasion.

Even before he could read, he was receiving greetings from cousins, aunts, and uncles.

The sender this time was Adelaide Mary Ann Slatter Baker (1868-1947). She, unlike nearly every correspondent who sent a card to the young boy in Cleveland, spelled his name correctly!

"Aunt Ada" was the great aunt of my husband, a woman with a very, very difficult childhood.

Census Records Reveal Real Trouble 


Adelaide Mary Ann was the daughter of John Slatter (1838-1901) and Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889), living in the notoriously poor London neighborhood of Whitechapel. I didn't immediately recognize the hint of trouble beyond poverty when I found Ada for the first time in the 1871 UK Census, living at 3 Half Moon Passage in Whitechapel with her parents and 4 siblings.

In the previous Census of 1861, I easily found the parents and their first child, Thomas John Slatter. However, Thomas didn't appear in the 1871 Census with his parents and siblings. For a long time, I believed he had died young, not an unknown phenomenon in this poverty-stricken neighborhood.

One of my wonderful blog readers tipped me off to where Thomas John Slatter was in 1871. The UK Census shows him in Christchurch Southwark, another poor section of London, at the unimaginative address of "32 Gravel Lane." He's 10 years old, living with his grandmother and step-grandfather. Also in the household are 2 other grandchildren! So this grandmother and step-grandpa were apparently rescuing 3 grandchildren from desperately impoverished conditions.

With Thomas in another household, Ada and her siblings were only 5 mouths for their parents to feed. Alas, still too many for a simple laborer who wasn't always with the family. Ada and her Mom and 4 siblings were in and out of poorhouses and workhouses during the 1870s, I learned. Ultimately, Ada's mother entered an insane asylum and died there.

The children were then on their own. The girls were in a school for the poor, the boys went to a "training ship" on the Thames and ultimately joined the Army. During these years, Ada was accustomed to watching over her baby sister Mary (my husband's grandmother).

Ada Reinvents Herself

In spring of 1895, Ada sailed from Liverpool to Montreal, enroute to join her father, who had left London for Ohio a few years earlier. The outbound passenger manifest lists her occupation as "servant." Miraculously, her U.S. border documentation lists her occupation as "lady."

One year after arriving, Ada married James Sills Baker (1866-1937) in Cuyahoga County, Ohio (where Cleveland is located), just 3 weeks after Easter Sunday.

They moved to Toledo, where their first child was born 9 months and 1 day after their marriage. Their second child was born another 4 years after that.

Ada regularly kept in touch with her baby sister Mary and all of her family, in England as well as in Ohio and beyond. She sent penny postcards on many occasions and had her two children write greetings to their first cousins, including Wallis W. Wood, a son of baby sister Mary.

I continue to be impressed that Ada and her siblings grew up, married, and had productive lives after the grinding poverty and appalling workhouse experiences of their childhood.

Note: With my presentations at Family Tree Live coming up, I won't be able to look at any reader comments for a little while. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Was John Shehen a Bricklayer?

Marriage record of John Slatter & Mary Shehen in 1859, Parish of Christ Church, Middlesex, London, England
I keep saying I married my husband for his ancestors, an endless source of genealogical challenge and fun.

For this week's #52Ancestors ("brick wall" is the theme), I'm looking at my husband's great-great-grandfather, John Shehen (1801-1875?), who lived much of his adult life in a terribly poor section of London.

When his daughter Mary Shehen (1837-1889) married John Slatter (1838-1901) in London in 1859, she told UK authorities that her father was a bricklayer. You can see that in the marriage document at top. Well...not so fast.

John Shehen and the UK Census

John and his wife Mary were both born in Ireland, they consistently told the UK Census (see this snippet from the 1841 Census, where the "I" stands for Ireland).

John (but not his wife) was consistent about his age in the UK Census, saying he was 40 (in 1841), 50 (in 1851), 60 (in 1861), and 70 (in 1871). He lived in the same impoverished area of Whitechapel, London, all those years.

John was also consistent about telling the UK Census that he was a labourer. His wife was either a laundress or milkwoman, but he said he was a labourer. Although he may very well have worked in construction, even worked with bricks, he didn't call himself a bricklayer even once.

I need to investigate whether there are any guilds or unions that John Shehen might have belonged to in the London area. Meanwhile, I'm inclined to think his daughter Mary was exaggerating his status just a bit on the official marriage record. Alas, marriage records didn't ask for the mother's maiden name, so I'm out of luck at this time.

Shehen, Shehan, Sheen?

Where in Ireland were John Shehen and wife Mary from? I have no idea, since the UK Census only lists "Ireland" as their birthplace. The spelling of his surname varies from time to time, and I make my own life simple by calling him "Shehen" here and on Ancestry, aware that creative spelling is needed when conducting research.

He's gone from the 1881 Census, and I think I found his death from bronchitis in 1875. The name on that form is Shehan. But not enough details to know for sure.

About Mary

What about John's wife, Mary? She was actually counted by the UK census twice in 1871. I found her admitted to Northumberland Workhouse due to "chronic rheumatism" in March, and released exactly one month later. Her age was shown as 70. Despite being in the medical ward of the workhouse at the time of the Census on 2 April 1871, she was also shown as living at home.

I don't know when or where Mary Shehen died, unfortunately. I may have found her in the 1881 Census, but I'm not sure whether to hope it's her or not.

A "Mary Sheen" born in Ireland was enumerated in the District Middlesex Lunatic Insane Asylum in 1881. Shown as age 77, this Mary has the occupation of "charwoman."

Also, Ancestry shows a number of people with Mary's given name but varying spellings of the "Shehen" surname as being imprisoned, acquitted, and/or in London court registers for different offenses such as theft, from the 1830s on.

Was this my husband's great-great-grandma? The dates are in between the Census, so I can't know for sure, but my guess is no. Why? Because Mary and John remained in their same lodgings for so many decades, I suspect they had just enough financial stability for Mary to not resort to theft. Or so I hope.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

My Year in Genealogy - 2018

Time to look back at 2018, an exciting and also a satisfying year for genealogy.

One of the high points was attending RootsTech 2018 and meeting so many of my genealogy blogging friends in person! (I'm in the center of the front row in this photo, wearing a white sweater.) It was a joy to say hello and chat with you, genea-folks. Also I attended the New York State Family History Conference, learning from experts and enjoying the company of genealogy friends from around the northeast.

I came away from both conferences with new ideas and new techniques to add to my momentum. Leaving RootsTech, I crammed into my suitcase specially-priced DNA kits, a new genealogy T-shirt and socks, and several of Nathan Dylan Goodwin's genealogy mysteries. Joining VGA, I learned a lot from watching webinars and lurking in VGA discussions.

Alas, not a single family history breakthrough during a day's research at the fabulous Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Still, ruling things out counts as some progress in the Wood, Steiner, Rinehart, and Burk/Birk trees.

Another high point was hearing from a second cousin who had a set of "missing" monthly minutes and letters related to my mother's Farkas Family Tree. These were all from the WWII period, and were long thought to be gone. Receiving these to scan and index was a gift beyond measure.

Now my Farkas cousins and I have documents spanning the entire life of the family tree association, 1933-1964. I'm still integrating the index from the 1940s into the index for the complete set of minutes, with completion scheduled for very early 2019. Work on the Farkas family tree (including collaborating with cousins who helped identify all ancestors/relatives in large family portraits) was a very satisfying way to end the year.

During 2018, a sad discovery: the early death of a boy born into my Mahler family, a child who was previously not known to me or any of my cousins. And a happy gift: the full anniversary booklet of the Kossuth Society, a group in which my Farkas and Schwartz ancestors were active. Their photos are in the booklet!

In my husband's family, I finally learned the truth about the long-standing mystery surrounding his grandfather Wood's divorce from wife #2. Also I gained a deeper understanding of the poverty endured by his Slatter and Shehen ancestors, using the Charles Booth maps of poor areas in London. Through contact with a Gershwin expert, I received a detailed news clipping that explained the background behind a prize-winning song written by my late father-in-law Wood.



Another exciting moment was when my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Pastwent to number one on the Kindle genealogy best-seller list in the middle of June!

This year, I made 15 genealogy presentations and led two hands-on workshops, with my husband, about writing family history.

Next year, I'm thrilled to be leading two sessions and participating in a panel discussion at Family Tree Live in London, April 26-27.

Quite a year in genealogy. Yet I didn't actually accomplish all I planned to do when 2018 began. More in my next post!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

More Winter Weddings in the Wood Family Tree

My husband's Wood family tree has lots of December marriages. Here are three more of the many that popped up when I used RootsMagic's calendar report.
  • December 18: Mary Shehen and John Slatter. Mary (1837-1889) was my hubby's great-grandma, and the saddest figure in his family tree. Born into terrible poverty in London, she married great-grandpa John Slatter (1838-1901) 159 years ago, and had 6 children with him. As the years went on, she and the children were in and out of workhouses, seemingly abandoned. Eventually, Mary was admitted to an insane asylum due to depression. She died there 15 years later, of TB. John, meanwhile, left for Cleveland, Ohio and a new life, with a new wife and a new occupation. He died at his youngest daughter's home in Cleveland, having been widowed again and chronically ill. I'm still trying to get back a generation and learn more about Mary's parents, who were themselves born in Ireland around 1801.  
  • December 19: William Smith and Janet "Jean" UNK. Born in Ireland, Smith (1724-1786) and his wife Janet (?-1805) were hubby's 5th great-grandparents. Alas, I know very little about either of them, although it appears they were married in 1751, which is 267 years ago. A Smith researcher whose work I respect indicates that two of William and Janet's sons were doctors. Not sure I'll be able to learn more about these long-ago ancestors, given the "Smith" name and the dates/places.
  • December 24: Francis "Frank" Ellery Wood and Louisa Mary Schultz. Frank (1857-1933) and his bride Louisa (1860-1948) were married on Christmas Eve, 1883, in Toledo, Ohio, where Frank and most of his brothers were working as carpenters. Frank was my husband's great uncle. The snippet at top from the Lucas county ledger shows their marriage a mere 135 years ago, when he was 26 and she was 23. Frank died after an operation in 1933...then 17 months later, his widow Louisa married his younger brother, Marion Elton Wood. (Unfortunately, Marion had lost two wives by then, as well as one of his two children.) Louisa was again widowed in December, 1947; she lived just 5 months longer.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Mapping the Shehen Family in London (Mary in Two Places at Once)

Today I'm using Charles Booth's London maps and notebooks for context about my husband's 2d great-grandparents. I know very little about John & Mary Shehen (or Shehan or Sheen). But Booth's info indicates that they were truly poor. 

The 1841-1871 UK Census entries for the Shehens consistently say they were born in Ireland around 1801. He is a "labourer," she is usually a "laundress" or "charing." They never left a quadrangle known as Gray's Buildings, shown above on Booth's maps in the Marylebone section of London. Census entries on the same page with the Shehens in 1871 indicate that a good number of the residents were also Irish-born. Given the devastating Irish Famine, it's not surprising to find so many Irish people in London in that period.

Above, a snippet from Booth's notebook entry about Gray's Buildings, in which he writes there are "a great many Irish" and also notes: "most of the doors open but few broken windows." Based on the poverty he observes, Booth considers the area of Gray's Buildings to be "very poor . . . chronic want."


Poor isn't the end of it. Alas, hubby's great-great-grandma Mary Shehen (whose maiden name I don't yet know), was admitted to the medical wing of the crowded Northumberland Street Workhouse on March 15, 1871, due to"chronic rheumatism." One month later, she was discharged (or, as the record shows, "reliesed").

Two places at once? Mary Shehen was enumerated both in Gray's Buildings and in the Northumberland workhouse for the 1871 Census. Interestingly, that Census was supposed to be as of April 2. But even though Mary Shehen is listed as being in the household with her husband John, the workhouse admission record AND the 1871 Census, below, are evidence that she was actually ailing in the workhouse. Probably it was her husband John or someone else who reported her at her usual residence, unsure of how to tell the Census about her temporary stay in the workhouse.

When I started looking for the Shehen family in Booth's records, I hoped they would not be in as dire economic shape as their daughter Mary's family. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, as the maps and then the workhouse documents indicate. (Sadly, their daughter Mary Shehen, who married John Slatter in 1859, was in and out of workhouses and then two asylums for years.)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Researching "Misfortune" Mary Shehen Slatter

My husband's great-grandma, Mary Shehen Slatter (1837-1889), was in and out of London workhouses during the early to mid-1870s. She married John Slatter (1838-1901) in 1859. From 1860-1869, they had six children. But John had no steady work as the years went on. He was out of their lives as Mary and the children bounced in and out of workhouses, trying to stay afloat amid their poverty.

At top, Mary's workhouse discharge on January 17, 1874, indicating she had a bad leg, and was being sent to Newington workhouse. This time, she was without her children. Often, her children were also sent to the workhouse with Mary, to be sure they had meals and shelter.

In 1875, as shown above, Mary was still "destitute" and released from this workhouse "to Poplar" workhouse while her children were kept a couple more days (to be fed) and then discharged to Forest Gate School in the notoriously poor area of Whitechapel, London.

Thanks to my cousin Anna, who visited the London Metropolitan Archives last year, I know that Mary Shehen Slatter was diagnosed with "melancholia" when admitted to Colney Hatch Asylum and, later, sent to Banstead Asylum. The asylum's notes indicate that Mary's real problem was poverty and misfortune. She died in Banstead of tuberculosis.

Yet every one of her children grew up and had a good life. One was taken in by Grandma Slatter at an early age. The others muddled through the school/workhouse system, and then the boys joined the British military as young teens. Both girls came to America, married, and had families of their own.

Thanks to the many Rootstech sessions I attended on how to locate parish chest records, my plan is to flesh out the family's backstory by doing more research in their London parish. For background, see this Family Search wiki discussion of parish chest records, and another Fam Search article here. FindMyPast has some parish chest records here (not for "Misfortune Mary," however).

This is my post #12 in Amy Johnson Crow's #52Ancestors challenge for 2018.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Lucky Me, I Married Him For His Ancestors!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I married my wonderful husband for his ancestors! Lucky me.

Actually, for the first decade of our marriage, I paid absolutely no attention to our families' roots. But once I caught the genealogy bug, it was full speed ahead, starting with the bits and pieces in the family's possession.

As shown in the handwritten note passed down from his Granddaddy Brice Larimer McClure (1878-1970), there were clear clues to Irish ancestry on hubby's mother's side of the family. Following up on these and other clues, here's what I learned about his Irish ancestors:

John Shehen and his wife, Mary, from somewhere in Ireland (possibly south) - Hubby's 2d great-grandparents. They were born around 1800 in Ireland but were in London by the 1830s. John and Mary’s daughter, Mary Shehen, married John Slatter in England. Their youngest daughter Mary Slatter grew up, married James Edgar Wood, and became hubby's grandma. [Too many Marys and Johns, don't ya think?]

William Smith and his wife, Jean, were from Limerick – His 5th great-grandparents. Their son Brice Smith was the first Brice in the family and was the first son born to these ancestors in America. There have been several other men named Brice since then, including hubby's Granddaddy.

Robert Larimer and his wife, Mary O’Gallagher, both from the North of Ireland - Hubby's 5th great-grandparents. Robert was shipwrecked while sailing from No. Ireland to America and then served as an indentured servant to work off the cost of his rescue. He finally ran away, married Mary, and settled down to farming. McKibbin and Short cousins from the North of Ireland were known to intermarry with the Larimer branch in America.

Halbert McClure and his wife, Agnes, were born in County Donegal, in the North of Ireland (although the McClure family is originally from Isle of Skye in Scotland) - Hubby’s 5th great-grandparents. This family sailed to Philadelphia as a group and then walked 200 miles to Virginia to buy land for farming in the 1730s.

Every year, I write my grandchildren to share the latest info about their Irish roots. There's always something new to investigate, someone new to discover among these branches of the tree. Lucky me, I married him for his ancestors.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the "lucky" prompt in Week 11 of her #52Ancestors series.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

It Was a Busy Genealogy Year in 2017

This has been an incredibly productive and rewarding year for genealogy--and it's not over. A recap of the year to date:
  • Thanks to newly-discovered ephemera, I smashed a long-standing brick wall on my paternal Burk tree, identified my great-aunts and great-uncles, and met lovely new cousins, who were kind enough to share photos and memories.
  • With the in-person help of one of my UK cousins, I learned the sad truth about hubby's ancestor, Mary Shehen Slatter, who died in a notorious insane asylum in 1889.
  • Cousins I found through genealogy have been taking DNA tests to help in the search for more connections with outlying branches of our mutual trees. At the very least, we've proven our family ties and, sometimes, pinpointed the common ancestor.
  • I've made a lot of progress on writing family history. I updated one family history booklet for my side of the family, based on the new Burk information. I wrote two brand new booklets for hubby's side, one based on his Slatter-Wood roots and one based on his McClure-Larimer roots.
  • I'm about to complete a booklet about my husband's Wood family during World War II, based on interviews with relatives, documents and photos saved by the family, and genealogical research to fill in the gaps.
  • Also, I've written detailed captions for key photos, so future generations will know who's who, when, where, and why.
  • I was a speaker at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference and the International Jewish Genealogy Conference. So many wonderful sessions to attend, excellent speakers, friendly audiences, and a chance to meet blogging buddies in person.
Already this year, I've written more posts than at any other time in my 9 1/2 years as a genealogy blogger. At top are the stats showing my most popular posts of 2017. If you missed them, here are the links. Thank you for reading--and stay tuned for more posts before the end of the year.
  • Beyond Google Your Family Tree (practical tips for online genealogy searches using five specific search operators)
  • Tuesday's Tip, Genealogy, Free or Fee (try free sources first, but don't hesitate to pay for a Social Security Application if it will show a maiden name you don't have or otherwise move your research forward a leap)
  • Junk or Joy? Think of Future Generations (downsizing or just simplifying your life, consider the significance of family artifacts before deciding to donate, give away, or keep)
  • The Case Against Paperless Genealogy (Why I print everything, file everything. Technology changes rapidly but paper, stored properly, will live on for future generations)
  • Tuesday's Tip, Free or Free Genealogy (Learn to record strip: check every detail on every document or photo, analyze it in the context of what else you know, wring everything you can from the research you have and what you acquire)

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, March 17, 2017

Erin Go Bragh - Hubby's Irish Roots

Happy St. Patrick's Day! My hubby has Irish (and Scots-Irish) ancestry that we can trace to the 17th century as they prepared for their journeys to America.
  1. His 5th great-grandparents, Halbert McClure (1684-1754) and Agnes (1690-1750?) were born in County Donegal, but the McClure clan was originally from Scotland's Isle of Skye. These Scotch-Irish McClures were the journey-takers who sailed to Philadelphia and then walked, as a family, down to Virginia so they could buy fertile land and farm it. Above, a transcription of the land purchase by Halbert McClure in 1747. Later, the McClure clan fanned out to Ohio and Indiana and beyond.
  2. His 5th great-grandparents, Robert Larimer (1719-1803) and Mary O'Gallagher Larimer (1721-1803) were from the north of Ireland. Robert is the ancestor who was shipwrecked while enroute to the New World, and was brought to Pennsylvania to work off the cost of his rescue. Larimer worked hard and then walked away to start a new life in the interior of Pennsylvania. Larimer descendants intermarried with the Short, McKibbin*, and Work families who were cousins from Ireland.
  3. His 5th great-grandparents, William Smith (1724-1786) and Janet (1724?-1805), were from Limerick. Their first son born in America was Brice Smith (1756-1828), who later settled in Fairfield County, Ohio. The name Brice has come down through the family, but this is the earliest instance documented in the family tree in America.
  4. His 2nd great-grandparents, John Shehen (1801?-1875) and Mary (1801?-?) were born in "Ireland" (that's all the info they told UK Census officials in 1841). Their children were born in Marylebone, London during the 1830s. In 1859, their daughter Mary Shehen married John Slatter Sr. in Oxfordshire. Mary Shehen Slatter is the ancestor I have been tracing through two different insane asylums, eventually dying at Banstead from tuberculosis in 1889. More on her saga very soon.
*Just in time for St. Paddy's Day, I heard from a McKibbin cousin who has Ohio naturalization papers from the McKibbin family, confirming their origin as County Down! Thank you so much, Marilyn.

P.S.: My wonderful daughter-in-law is adding to the festivities by having the family piece together a puzzle of different Irish places and themes (above is a sneak peek of our progress). A great way to remind the next generation of their Irish roots!

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!

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.

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.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Military Monday: It's a Long Way to Tipperary WWI Handkerchief

Hubby's grandma, Mary Slatter Wood (1869-1925), kept this handkerchief from World War I. Someone wrote "World War 1914" in pencil at bottom right and then, just in case that wasn't enough, permanently inked "World War 1914" at bottom right. (Mary's Shehen grandparents were born in Ireland but she and her parents were born in England.)

Mary most likely received this from one of her bandmaster brothers in Canada, Captain John Slatter of the 48th Highlanders in Toronto or Henry Arthur Slatter of the 72d Seaforth Highlanders in Vancouver or Albert William Slatter of the 7th London Fusiliers in Ontario.
 It's a Long Way to Tipperary was popular during WWI, and troops were heard singing it all over Europe.

I did a little Web research and discovered this exact handkerchief in the collection of London's Imperial War Museum! And in other museums, including Museum Victoria in Australia and the Canadian War Museum.

The medal is the Victoria Cross.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Genealogy Blog Party: Time Travel Adventure with Rachel and Mary

Elizabeth O'Neal over at Little Bytes of Life is throwing a Genealogy Blog Party. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the opportunity to blog about April's theme, Time Travel to an Ancestor. I asked hubby who he would like to meet in a time travel adventure, and his answer was his paternal grandma, Mary. My answer is my paternal 2d great-grandma, Rachel.
MEETING RACHEL

My time travel adventure would be with Rachel Shuham Jacobs, shown at right. She was married to Jonah Jacobs and had two children, Tillie Jacobs Mahler and Joseph Jacobs.

As I always do when reaching out to a relative (or someone I think is a relative), I'm going to start by writing Rachel a letter. Of course I'll tell her exactly who I am--what great-great-grandma wouldn't want to know that she's remembered fondly by her family?

Dear GGG Rachel,

Greetings from the future from your great-great-granddaughter! The little girl you're holding in this photo from New York City grew up, got married, and became close friends with a young woman from the Farkas family. Set up on a blind date by these "matchmaker aunts," my parents fell in love, married, and had children--including me. 

So GGG Rachel, I would really like to bring you on a time travel adventure to meet my parents on their wedding day in 1946. Then you can hug your daughter Tillie, who as matriarch was in an honored position at the wedding. Also meet your grandchildren, including my grandma Henrietta and my great-aunt Mary, the little girl who became the matchmaker aunt. 

First, a few questions, please. Where in Lithuania were you born, and who were your parents? What was life like in your home town? How did you meet and marry your husband, Jonah? And how did you feel about leaving Lithuania to live in New York with your two children? 

When I come to pick you up, please wear something a little fancy to the wedding of your great-grandson Harold. Love, Your great-great-granddaughter

MEETING MARY

Hubby would like to meet his father's mother, Mary Slatter Wood, one of two daughters of John Slatter and Mary Shehen Slatter. Mary was born in a poor (really, really poor) area of London but left in the late 1800s for America, where she married James Edgar Wood and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. Sadly, Mary died before her sons were fully grown.

Dear Grandma Mary,

Greetings from the future. I'm the oldest son of your oldest son. I want you to know that the musical ability you brought into the Wood family has come down through the generations. Thank you!

Grandma Mary, there are some questions I wish I could ask you. What was life like growing up in London? Do you remember your mother and father? Did you have an older brother Thomas, who died young? Was your mother's death the reason your father left for America? How did you meet and marry my granddaddy? 

It would be wonderful to meet you, Grandma Mary. My plan is to travel back in time to the summer of 1917, when you and Granddaddy James and your four sons took a road trip in your new Ford auto. It looked like quite an adventure. Let me join you and see my ancestors through your eyes. Love, Your grandson

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Those Places Thursday: From Ireland with Love, Hubby's Ancestors

Happy St. Paddy's Day! Hubby has Irish (and Scots-Irish) ancestry that we can trace to the 17th century as they prepared for their journeys to America.
  1. His 5th great-grandparents, Robert Larimer (1719-1803) and Mary Gallagher Larimer (1721-1803) were from the North of Ireland. Robert is the ancestor who was shipwrecked while enroute to the New World, and was brought to Pennsylvania to work off the cost of his rescue. Above, Robert Larimore's land grant for 200 acres in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, where he eventually owned 300 acres.
  2. His 5th great-grandparents, William Smith (1724-1786) and Janet (1724?-1805), were from Limerick. Their first son born in America was Brice Smith (1756-1828), who later settled in Fairfield County, Ohio. The name Brice has come down through the family, but this is the first instance documented so far.
  3. His 2nd great-grandparents, John Shehen (1801?-1875) and Mary (1801?-?) were born in "Ireland" (that's all the info they told UK Census officials in 1841). Their children were born in Marylebone, London during the 1830s. Daughter Mary Shehen married John Slatter Sr., they had a family in Oxfordshire, and he ultimately followed five of those children to North America in the late 1800s.
  4. His 5th great-grandparents, Halbert McClure (1684-1754) and Agnes (1690-1750?) were born in County Donegal, but the McClure clan was originally from Isle of Skye in Scotland. The McClures were the journey-takers who sailed to Philadelphia and then walked, as a family, all the way to Virginia so they could buy fertile land in a sparsely settled area.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Erin Go Bragh for Tombstone Tuesday: Smith, Larimer, Gallagher, McClure, Shehen

Hubby's family has at least four branches stretching back to Ireland.
  1. His 5th great-grandparents, William Smith (1724-1786) and Janet Smith (1724?-1805), were from Limerick. Their first son born in America was Brice Smith (1756-1828), whose tombstone is shown above, from Fairfield County, Ohio. The name Brice has shown up elsewhere in this branch of the family, including in a member of the current generation.
  2. His 5th great-grandparents, Robert Larimer (1719-1803) and Mary Gallagher Larimer (1721-1803) were from the North of Ireland. He's the ancestor who was shipwrecked while enroute to the New World.
  3. His 5th great-grandparents, Halbert McClure (1684-1754) and Agnes (Steel?) McClure (1690-1750) were born in County Donegal. They were the journey-takers who brought the family to Philadelphia and then walked to Virginia for land.
  4. His 2nd great-grandparents, John Shehen (1801?-1875) and his wife Mary (1801?-?) were born in "Ireland" (that's all the info they told UK Census officials in 1841). Their three children were born in Marylebone, London during the 1830s. Perhaps they came to London because of the famine in Ireland?

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.