Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Harriet Whybrew - an update


Poor Harriet! I've found more information about her recently, but everything I've discovered has been bad news. 

To recap on what I've already written about her, Harriet was David and Susan Whybrew's first child. She was born in Adelaide in 1868, before they were married. When David's regiment returned to England, Susan went too, taking their second daughter, Eliza, with them, but leaving Harriet behind. I've discussed who might have taken care of Harriet and how she came to be reunited with her family in her late teens.

Harriet's name began appearing in the Adelaide press in January 1882, when she was only thirteen, though she was reported to be fifteen. She was charged with stealing a watch and other property. The police magistrate sent her to the Industrial School, a reformatory, for twelve months. Even there she got into trouble.

Between then and August 1885 she was constantly in and out of the police courts, often charged with 'loitering' or with the use of bad language. Sometimes she paid a fine, sometimes she went to prison for several weeks. 

I've recently come across some additional newspaper reports and records that I hadn't seen before. All together, I've found twelve mentions of Harriet in the police court between 1882 and 1885. On one occasion, in July 1883, she and her cousin, Rose Atkin, appeared together, both charged with 'using indecent language, loitering etc'. They were each fined two pounds. Rose paid the fine but Harriet went to gaol for three months, presumably because she couldn't pay. On the prison records (which are now available on familysearch.org) both girls were described as prostitutes. 

Time in hospital?

I still don't know what happened to Harriet between her last appearance in the Adelaide courts in August 1885 and her appearance in court in  Colchester in England in October 1888. But I did discover a 'Susan Whybrow' listed in the Adelaide hospital admissions in 1885. She was said to be eighteen years old, single, Roman Catholic, born in South Australia. She was admitted on 26 November.

Since I can't find any Susan Whybrow (or similar name) born in SA around the right time, and the details fit Harriet pretty well, I'm wondering if someone inadvertently listed her mother's name instead of hers. After all, the Destitute Asylum twice listed David Whybrew as her uncle rather than her father. The hospital admission records (which are also now on familysearch.org) show that she was in hospital for two weeks. 

The name 'J. Bonnin' is listed under the 'circumstances' column. Was this a doctor? An employer? A friend? Usually doctors were given their title in this column. The only Dr J Bonnin I can find in Adelaide, James A Bonnin, didn't graduate until 1895. A John Bonnin (or Bonnie or Bonney) appeared in the Police Courts around this time, charged with use of indecent language. Perhaps he brought Harriet to the hospital.

Harriet, if this is her, was treated for anaemia. Given her lifestyle, it's quite likely that Harriet would have had a poor diet, which could have led to chronic anaemia. But if she was admitted to hospital for treatment, it's more likely that the anaemia was acute. I can only speculate on what might have caused this, but it does seem that something happened at the end of 1885 that led to the end of Harriet's appearances in the Police Court.

If Harriet was in hospital in late November 1885, then she couldn't have been the 'Miss S Wybrow" who left Adelaide for England on 15 November. The identity of this Miss Wybrow is a mystery. I can't find any other mention of her existence. 

How Harriet came to rejoin her family is also still a mystery. My hunch continues to be that the Salvation Army might have had something to do with it, given their outreach to 'fallen women' in Adelaide, and Harriet's sister Eliza's association with the 'Salvos' in Colchester. An article about the Salvation Army 'home for fallen women' in Norwood reported in August 1886 that

Since the opening, thirty-four girls and women have been received, thirteen of whom have been placed in situations, and from reports that are received by the matron, they are giving entire satisfaction, and are most thankful to the officers of the institution for the great benefits derived by them from its establishment. Four of the number have been restored to their parents, and four have been transferred to the lying-in department of the destitute, whilst one married' woman has returned to her husband.

Perhaps Harriet was one of those restored to her parents. 

(My thanks to the South Australia Genealogy group on Facebook, who helped me to find some of this information.)

You can find out more about Susan and David Whybrew and their family, in my book Susan: convict's daughter, soldier's wife, nobody's fool.
It's available on Amazon and other online books stores

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Alice Whybrew


Herbert & Alice Miller
with baby Alice c1901
(from a larger family photo)

Having tracked down the story of what happened to Rose Whybrew after she arrived in Chicago in the United States, I hoped I might find out more about her sister Alice, who also migrated to Chicago. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find much to add to what I wrote about her in my post about the fourteen children of David and Susan Whybrew. But here's what's known.

Alice was born at Parsonstown in Ireland in September 1875, while her father David was stationed with the 50th Regiment in Kings County (now known as Co. Offaly). At the time of her birth her oldest sister, Harriet, was still in Australia, and two other siblings, David and Rosina, had already died. So she effectively became the second child in the family, with her sister Eliza nearly six years older. 

By the time her younger sister, Rose, was born in 1877, the family had moved back to England, to Canterbury. They eventually settled in Colchester. I can't find anything about Alice's childhood, other than what's known about the family generally. In the 1891 census, when she was 16, she was described as a tailoress.

In 1896 Alice married Herbert Arthur Miller, a carpenter from Colchester. He had enlisted in the army in 1889, but was discharged in 1891, apparently due to having flat feet. The couple went to live in Canterbury Road, Colchester.

A newspaper report in the Essex Standard in October 1899 suggests that their marriage was not going well. Herbert appeared in the Colchester police court charged with assaulting Alice. It was evident that this was not the first time that they had a violent argument. Alice wanted a separation order, but the judge would not allow it.

Perhaps things improved. A year later, in November 1900, Alice gave birth to their first child, Alice Frances. Three years later, in September 1903, Bessie Mary was born. She was named after Herbert's sister and was baptised at St Botolph's church in Colchester. I can't find a record of Alice Frances being baptised.

Moving to Chicago

In 1905, Herbert left England for Winnipeg in Canada aboard the Virginian, arriving in April. Alice followed with the two children on 10 August 1905, on the Tunisian. They all arrived safely in Canada. But the North West census for Canada in 1906 shows Alice and six year old daughter Alice living in what seems to be a boarding house in Winnipeg, with no sign of Herbert or little Bessie.

The census was taken in June. Possibly Herbert had already left for the USA. He crossed through Vermont into the United States with $30 to his name in June-July of 1906. (Most of this information comes from documents on familysearch.org)

It seems most likely that Bessie died while they were in Canada. She may be the 'Mary Miller' aged 2 whose death on 11 July 1906 is listed in the Manitoba Vital Statistics Agency database. It was a sad start to the family's new life in North America.

Eventually Alice and daughter Alice joined Herbert in Chicago. He found work as a bricklayer. When Alice's sister Rose and her husband George migrated in 1907, they gave Alice and Herbert's address, on 48th Avenue, Chicago, as their destination. Rose was still at this address in 1910.

By 7 December 1909, Alice was dead. I haven't discovered what caused her death. She was only thirty-four. There are no newspaper reports to suggest an accident. Her address when she died was recorded as 4742 W Ohio St. (See a photo of the house here.) She was buried at the Forest Home cemetery, 

Herbert remarried a few months later, to Alice M McKeon, an Irish immigrant who was a five years younger than Alice Whybrew. She is the Alice who appears with Herbert and his daughter Alice in the 1910 United States census, living as boarders with another family.

You can find out more about Susan and David Whybrew and their family, in my book Susan: convict's daughter, soldier's wife, nobody's fool.
It's available on Amazon and other online books stores

Monday, June 14, 2021

Benjamin John (Jack) Whybrew

I haven't written much about Benjamin John (Jack) Whybrew. For a long time there seemed little to add to what I said about him, when I wrote about the Whybrew's fourteen children. But recently I've come across some new information about his army career and his later life.

To recap, Benjamin John (usually known as John or Jack) was born in Canterbury in July 1879, while his father David Whybrew was a Staff Sergeant with the East Kent Militia. As the first boy in the family to survive infancy, he grew up with three older sisters. (Eliza, Alice and Rose. He was about ten years old when his eldest sister Harriet briefly re-joined the family.) 

Of the children born after Jack, two boys (David aka Henry and William) and two girls (Ellen and Ada) survived to adulthood. Jack was sixteen when Ada was born.

Cap badge of the York & Lancaster regiment

Like his younger brother, Henry, Jack joined the army in his late teens. He initially enlisted in the militia and then transferred to the York and Lancaster Regiment when he reached eighteen. But he was discharged unfit a couple of years later due to a perforated eardrum. The medical officer who diagnosed him was unsure of the cause, but seemed certain that it hadn't been caused or aggravated by his army service. 

His army records describe Jack as 5 feet 4 7/8 inches tall, with blue eyes, dark brown hair and a fresh complexion, which suggests he took after the Irish side of his family. On his discharge, his behaviour was described as 'fair' rather than 'good'. He'd faced a court martial and spent time in the lock-up on one occasion for breaking out of the barracks.

Marriage and family

In 1898, the year he left the army, he married Emily Licence, the daughter of a blacksmith from Suffolk. I have no clues as to how or where they met. At the time of the 1901 census they were living at 12 Charles Street in Colchester with Jack's sister Harriet, her husband Henry Malone and another married sister, Rose Anthony. Jack was employed as a general labourer and Emily was working as a 'tailoress'.

Their first and only child, Emily, was born in Colchester in 1902. That same year, Jack's brother Henry died from dysentery in South Africa while fighting during the Boer War. Jack must  have been acutely aware that he might well have had the same fate if he hadn't been discharged from the army.

Jack and Emily were living at 3 Smiths Yard in Colchester when the 1911 census was taken. Jack had work as a bricklayer's labourer and Emily was still tailoring. 

Two years later, in the summer of 1913, Emily died. She was only thirty-five. I've heard that their daughter, ten year old Emily, went to live with her paternal aunt and uncle, Eliza (Whybrew) and William Beales, but have no record of this.

Enlists again in WWI

Army Veterinary Corps staff treating a wounded horse, c1917 
(photo from National Army Museum)

When World War 1 began, Jack enlisted in the Royal Army Veterinary Corp, as a private, with the service number SE510. This was the same corp as his brother William.  The RAVC was responsible for looking after the many horses and other animals used by the army. Jack apparently served overseas from October 1914, but was discharged in February 1915, for reasons unrecorded. Perhaps his deafness became a problem again. 

He must have been devastated when William was killed in France just weeks before the war ended. Perhaps this contributed to the impression I have of him from distant family, of an unsettled, hard-living man. There are hints, too, that he didn't have a good relationship with his parents, but again, no record of this survives.

After the war

In 1920 he was awarded the Victory Medal and British War Medal, medals which were given to most returning soldiers. After that, tracing Jack becomes difficult. In 1927 his daughter Emily married George Sydney in London, but I don't know whether Jack attended the wedding. 

He appears next in the 1939 register, created by the British government just before the Second World War. Jack was living at 12 Childwell Alley with "Jessie Whybrew", born in 1878. A note against her name says 'Ward', suggesting that was her maiden name. 

But there's no record of them having married. In fact Jessie Ward was quite possibly still the wife of Edward Ward. At the time of the 1911 census, Jessie and Edward Ward were living at 4 Childwell Alley with their children. Edward was a hawker and a returned soldier.

The 1939 registered records that Jack, now aged sixty, was incapacitated, but gives no details. He died two years later in 1941. His daughter Emily and her husband George both lived on to a good age. They had three children. Whether Jack ever met his grandchildren is another unknown.