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Family Trees From The Garden of England

  • The Thurman Mystery - Using Historical Newspapers to solve family history problems

    When Charlotte Thurman married Albert Ramsey in 1903 at St Pancras Register Office she was 18 and residing at 100 Whitfield Street. Her father was deceased - no name was given for him but it was known that he had been a carpenter. At the time of the 1911 census she stated that she was born in Limerick around 1886.

    Charlotte clearly knew little about her father and it was not known who her parents were. There was no sign of a Charlotte Thurman born in Ireland in the 1901 census but there was a Charlotte Thurman in the 1891 census living with a Mary Stansfeld.

    1891 Census: 3 Bennett, Street, St Pancras, London

    Name Relationship to Head Status Age Occupation Where Born

    Mary STANSFELD Wife Mar 29 Dressmaker London, Marylebone

    William STANSFELD Son 12 London, St Pancras

    Edward ORAM Visitor S 23 Corn Porter London, St Pancras

    Charlotte THURMAN Visitor 3 London, St Pancras

    There was no trace of this child ten years later but there was a matching birth entry for this child being registered in Westminster. Therefore Charlotte's birth certificate was purchased which showed she was born on the 8th of April 1887 at 34 Compton Street, Soho, Westminster. She was the daughter of Frederick Thurman and Ada Sarah Thurman, late McGovern, formerly Lockwood. Frederick was a carpenter and joiner. Ada registered her daughter's birth on the 24th of May.

    So this Frederick Thurman was a carpenter which matched the limited information given by Charlotte at the time of her marriage.

    Ada had been married before and her marriage to Frederick confirmed that she was a widow.

    Frederick Thurman married Ada Sarah McGovern on the 6th of December 1884 at St Margaret Westminster Parish Church. Frederick was aged 25 and a carpenter of 16 Dartmouth Street. His father, Richard, had also been a carpenter but he had died by this time. The occupation of Ada's father, John Lockwood, was also a carpenter. Like Richard Thurman, he too was deceased by this time. Ada was living at 18 Bassett Road, Notting Hill. The witnesses were John and Elizabeth Clancey.

    Frederick and Ada were sought in census returns after the date of their marriage but no sign of them could be found. On checking the indexes of deaths it was discovered that Frederick Thurman died in 1889 aged 30 in Youghal, County Cork, Ireland. Here was a connection to Ireland but Frederick was not from this country and the surname is not Irish. On looking for Frederick in earlier census returns it was established that he was born in London but his parents were from Suffolk.

    So clearly Charlotte did not remember her father for he had died by the time she was two - but what happened to her mother Ada. Why was Charlotte not with Ada in 1891?

    Ada Sarah Lockwood had married James McGovern in Shoreditch in 1881. James had been lodging in Lambeth in the 1881 census shortly before he married Ada. He was a 28 year old policeman from Clonaslee, Ireland.

    James McGovern died two years later. His death was registered in Wandsworth in the March quarter of 1883. The register of deaths for Metropolitan Police was checked for this year but no entry for James appeared so it seems he had left the police force by this time.

    Ada could not be found at the time of the 1891 census but her death was registered in Whitechapel in 1892. A record of her death was located in the Whitechapel Union Infirmary on the 15th of December at the age of 36. No cause of death was given but the word 'Inquest' was written. As an inquest was held into her death the British Newspaper Collection was searched which revealed the sad story of Ada's life. The newspaper entry revealed that Ada had met a leather-dresser in Hanbury Street on the 6th of December. She had told him that she was starving and so he had brought her to his home. Ada told him that she had been married twice -once to a policeman and then to a joiner. She had two children, one a boy aged eight, at a school at Leavesden and a girl aged three in the care of a woman named Stansfeld who lived near Middlesex Hospital. The girl could not be traced.

    The leather-dresser's wife, Jane Treeves, made up a bed for Ada, gave her food and 4d. The next morning Ada went on her way saying that she had employment at a confectioners on the High Street in Islington. She returned three days later saying she had fallen downstairs and injured her head. She subsequently went to Whitechapel infirmary in great pain after first being turned away from Highgate Infirmary. After being put to bed brain trouble appeared and death was found to be due to a fracture of the skull and cerebral haemorrhage.

    The newspaper entry revealed that Ada had another child. He had been born around 1884 and was in Leavseden. With this information the 1891 census was searched for a boy with the surname Thurman. In this way Ada's son, Frederick, was discovered.

    1891 Census: St Pancras District School, Leavesden, Hertfordshire

    Name Relationship to Head Status Age Occupation Where Born

    Frederick THURMAN Inmate 5 London, St Pancras

    The workhouse records for St Pancras were searched seeking reference to Ada and her children. No mention of Charlotte could be found but Ada had entered the workhouse on the 30th of January 1890 from 3 Crescent Place with a birth year of 1855. Ada said she had been working as a servant. She left the workhouse by her own request on the 5th of February.

    This information came from the Religious Creed but the actual Admissions Register did not survive for this date. This was the only reference to Ada in the workhouse records.

    Frederick had been admitted to the infirmary from the workhouse on the 4th of January 1890 at the age of 4 as he had ringworm. He was sent to Leavesden School on the 20th of February 1891. Frederick arrived at the school during the afternoon of the Friday. He was aged just 5 and his year of birth was given as 1886 in the admissions register. The details of his parents were not known and a remark next to his entry noted that he 'looks very delicate'.

    At some point, probably around 12 or 13, Frederick was sent out to service. He was sent back however on the 4th of July 1899. He stayed at Leavesden for a while longer before being sent to live with a Mr and Mrs Draycott of 53 Wellington Road on the 1st of February 1901. This was where Frederick was found at the time of the 1901 census a couple of months later.

    1901 Census: 53 Wellington Road, St Marylebone, London

    Name Relationship to Head Status Age Occupation Where Born

    Arthur W DRAYCOTT Son S 24 Railway Clerk London, Hackney

    Constante FERRARE Serv S 32 General Domestic Italy

    Frederick THURMAN Serv S 15 Errand Boy London, Marylebone

    Frederick had found a position as an errand boy. His death was subsequently registered in St Pancras in 1908. The Leavesden records noted Frederick's next of kin as his mother, Ada, a widow of 43 Compton Street (this was the street where Charlotte had been born). A note was made that she died November 1893 - this was almost a year after Ada had actually died so it is possible that this was the date that they actually found out about Ada's death. No other relatives were known.

    The search for what happened to Charlotte continued. There was no sign of Charlotte or the woman she had been living with, Mary Stansfeld, in the 1901 census index. When Charlotte married she said she was living at 100 Whitfield Street. This address was checked in the census index but Charlotte was not listed there. However when checking the London Electoral Rolls it was discovered that Mary Stansfield [sic] was living at the address in 1905. This solved the mystery of what happened to Charlotte. The woman who Ada had placed Charlotte with had continued to care for the child until her marriage to Albert.

    They had been living at 11 Bramshill Gardens up to 1896 according to the Electoral Rolls but again there was no sign of them at this address in the 1901 census.

    I wonder if Charlotte and her brother were ever reunited or whether they had lost touch permanently. Charlotte clearly knew a few details of her parents from what Mary Stansfeld could tell her; for example, knowing that her father had been a carpenter and that her mother was Ada as she gave this name to her daughter. She had also perhaps been told that her father had died in Ireland and maybe this was where the idea that she had been born there came from. It is at least heartening to know that, despite Ada's death, Mary Stansfeld continued to care for Charlotte.

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