What happened to abandoned children?

Discussion in 'Criminal Ancestors' started by TonyV, Nov 13, 2014.

  1. TonyV

    TonyV He who cleans up after his ancestors...

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    My great grandfather and his first wife had 2 sons and a daughter before his wife died of tuberculosis in May 1867. They were clearly a poor family financially. It appears that the disease had blinded her before she died so her final months must have been terrible both for her and for her children aged 13, 5 and 3 at the time.

    Less than a month after her death her husband tied the 5 year old to a chair and attacked him so savagely that the neighbours had to intervene to save him. He was tried and sent to prison for 4 months. So the 3 children were left within a few short weeks with no mother and a father in prison. They would have been living in a rented hovel and reliant on their father for food and rent.

    They had recently returned to live in Leicester where the father was born but his father had died several years before and his mother died in the same year these events took place. So his paternal family was not able to help. His wife's family were not from the area and I have not found any sign of them in my research.

    I don't know what happened to the children in the time he was in prison but not so much later the boys acquired their own criminal records, probably trying to survive. But I wondered whether anyone has knowledge of or an insight into what might have happened to such children in Victorian England?
     
  2. Mealymoo

    Mealymoo A Busy Lizzy

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    Hi Tony, sorry I can't offer an educated answer, I'm sure you, like me, are able to 'assume'...............abandon children in 1867 had little social care it was the year Barnado's was founded, the waifs and strays society wasn't founded until 1881. If they were lucky they may have been taken to the workhouse. Other options are incomprehensible. Your story is extremely sad, I felt emotional reading it.
     
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  3. Archie's Mum

    Archie's Mum Always digging up clues

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    I don't know what to say, so I shall say nothing except that I am extremely sorry Tony. Did you find them later in life?
    I would be interested in hearing their story.
     
  4. Archie's Mum

    Archie's Mum Always digging up clues

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    A bit of research finds that there was 3 options.
    Orphanage...crowded and unsanitary. Often led to a life of crime.
    Adoption....often led to neglect especially if they were adopted 'above their station'
    Educational Institution....unsanitary, overcrowded and again often led to a life of crime.
    So all in all these little fellows had next to no chance.
    Lastly another option is not worth even contemplating but sadly could be the case.
     
  5. thalauafu

    thalauafu R.I.P.

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    I don't know when it started, but many children were shipped to Canada and Australia. Might be an option.
     
  6. AnnB

    AnnB Editor in Chief who is Hot off the Press!

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    My first thought would be the workhouse. If there were other family members (however remote) I suspect some effort may have been found to get them to take the children. There were also industrial schools where destitute or 'difficult' children could be sent. They could have gone anywhere. One of my other half's gt gt uncles, born up in Camberwell, was sent to an industrial school in Liverpool.

    What a sad tale

    Ann
     
  7. MollyMay

    MollyMay Knows where to find the answers!

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    Another thought, he 13 year old may have been put to work, or as Ann says into an Industrial School (one of my London family ended up in Macclesfield - never to be seen again), the younger ones into the custody - I cannot use the word care - of the parish.
    What a sad story.
     
  8. Amle

    Amle Well-Known Member

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    Tomorrow I am going to the Foundling Museum in London I wonder if that will tell me anything helpful.
    In the afternoon I am going to the Charles Dickens Museum as they are both close by.
    In the cities I can imagine some children just on the streets. Workhouses were very crowded in those days, getting admitted was not that easy.
     
  9. Bay Horse

    Bay Horse Can be a bit of a dark horse

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    A very sad story indeed. :( I had family who were abandoned, and the workhouse took them in. I've often wondered whether they were dumped at the gates or whether they were found trying to survive at home once their parents had disappeared in different directions. There, they were split up - one later sent to sea (maybe look at the different naval records?) another boarded out and appearing in the census under the family's surname.
     
  10. TonyV

    TonyV He who cleans up after his ancestors...

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    Thank you all for your thoughts and indeed sympathies. I should have made myself a little clearer so I'll continue the story. I hope not to bore you.

    In November of the same year (1867) the older son (aged 13) was caught stealing and sentenced to a month in prison followed by 5 years in a reformatory. The latter turned out to be a hulk called HMS Akbar moored a mile off shore in the River Mersey (do a search if you're interested in the reformatory hulks, it's very instructive). By February 1868, his father had finished his 4 months in prison but was again hauled before the court to answer the accusation that he had failed to pay for the upkeep of the son in the reformatory ship. In those days you obviously had to pay for your naughty children to be incarcerated! He pleaded that on the money he made and with his expenses there was none left to pay upkeep, and he got off!

    So I should have made clear that it was just the 4 months while the father was in jail that I was concerned about.

    Some of you may have read more of this story because I've published it before. The father re-married and he and his family by his first wife and his new family by his second wife (she had 2 illegitimate sons and a third probably sired by my great grandfather a few months before they married) were all living together in 1871. This included the son who should still have been on the reformatory ship but who for whatever reason didn't serve his full 5 year sentence. Some of the reform school kids did escape but I prefer to believe that he got time off for good behaviour. My grandfather, born in that year was the first acknowledged son of the second marriage.

    In 1881 my GGrandfather had changed his family's names and had moved to Nottingham, I can only assume that he was in hiding from some criminal act. By that time the older boy had married and started a family of his own but he too had changed his name for the purposes of the 1881 census so he must have been involved in whatever nefarious activity his father had been up to.

    By 1881 the younger son had left home for good but he was caught stealing in the same year and sent to prison for a short time. He had already been found guilty of a felony before that which is why his larceny, a lesser misdeed, was punished by a prison sentence.

    Two years later in 1883 the father had brought his family back to Leicester where they had another son. But by 1891 he had moved them again to Northamptonshire and was again living under a false name, a different one; you have to wonder don't you? His second wife had died the year before, she too died young! I could find nothing more on my great grandfather until he died in 1899, except ironically that he appeared as a witness to someone caught stealing.

    Also in 1891 the older son was the main witness in an inquest. He and his own 12 year old son and a workmate had been on a day long bender at a pub in the city. The three of them set off to walk home the several miles to their
    two homes but the workmate never made it. He was found 4 weeks later drowned in a canal on the route home. Evidence given by my great uncle and corroborated by his son was that all three of them had passed the canal and the last he saw of his workmate was when the they parted company at a fork in the road. The jury however was clearly puzzled as to why the workmate had apparently retraced his steps and thrown himself into the canal and they returned an open verdict!

    The younger son by the first wife committed more offences until he found a wife in Wellingborough who was happy to marry a puny 4'10" criminal because she had an illegitimate child and for a time at least he had a job. By 1901 however he had been admitted to the local workhouse where he was described as epileptic (I often wonder whether the beatings caused it). By 1911 he had been declared insane and admitted to the local asylum.

    The asylum was taken over as a hospital during the First World War and he was moved to another asylum in another county many miles away from his family. He died there of tuberculosis in 1917. His asylum record shows that he was frequently involved in fights both with other inmates and with staff. As soon as died his widow married her 'lodger' who'd been living at their home for several years.

    It all sounds very Dickensian doesn't it and I am intensely curious about what my great grandfather and his older son did to cause them to try to escape vengeance of one form or another in 1881 and again in 1891, but I've not been able to find anything in the papers of the day.

    Although my grandfather would probably have been aware of quite a lot of this - he was born in 1871 - he had died long before I was born of encephalitis lethargica which was a worldwide epidemic in the 1920s but which most of us know nothing about these days.

    I suppose that this story is indeed sad but I knew nothing about it until I started my family history and of course it has taken years to put together the bits and pieces. So I had a great grandfather who was clearly very unpleasant but my life has been pretty fortunate and uneventful so far so I don't feel any adverse legacy from him and to me it is simply a very interesting element of my family history. We've all said, haven't we, that it is the black sheep we find who are the most interesting characters in our backgrounds.

    The younger son was clearly a victim and my suspicion is that he ended up in an asylum because he was so badly treated as a child. How times have changed I'm tempted to say, except that the news this evening of senior establishment figures abusing children shows that the French are right "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose".
     
  11. Archie's Mum

    Archie's Mum Always digging up clues

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    Just come in to give the dicky hip a rest from gardening for a while and got quite engrossed in your post. How intriguing! Sad? Yes!
    You are correct about the black sheep though. We (or he) has a murder or two and I find their stories most engrossing.
    I guess the more things change the more they stay the same, re abuse in institutions and other things as well!
     
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  12. AnnB

    AnnB Editor in Chief who is Hot off the Press!

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    What a story Tony - as you say, almost like a Dickensian novel......have you thought of writing it up? With all your research and hard work to find the facts, it would make a riveting tale.

    Ann
     
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  13. TonyV

    TonyV He who cleans up after his ancestors...

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    Hi Ann

    I have written some of this up in a personal history of my family intended as a record for current family members if any of them decide to take an interest in family history. Most of my genealogy is on my laptop and I have no confidence with the pace of technological advances that it would still be readable after I pop my clogs. So leaving a paper record seems to have a better chance both of being read and of surviving the change to holographic media (or whatever follows magnetic).

    I think that most of what I've written above is based on reasonably factual evidence, if you can describe newspaper reports as such. But I've had to make some assumptions and my wife constantly nags me that if I assume I make an ass out of you and me. Don't know what she's talking about:). I can only assume that she thinks that I'm an idiot.

    Tony
     
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  14. Findem

    Findem The Fearless One

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    Aren't all husbands considered to be idiots of varying degrees of idiocy, why should you be treated different to the rest of us?
     
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  15. thalauafu

    thalauafu R.I.P.

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    Awww! Come on Findem! I don't think men (read that as husbands) are idiots! We really couldn't do without you, even though we might say so from time to time! ;)
     
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  16. Archie's Mum

    Archie's Mum Always digging up clues

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    Men idiots? Please! Who ever said that?
    No, they are just wired differently and some women tend not to get that.
     
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  17. TonyV

    TonyV He who cleans up after his ancestors...

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    Findem, mine wasn't a special pleading for men or husbands to be considered brighter than they are. It's just a woman thing. A sense of personal inferiority often leads to a need to try to make out that the person they believe is superior to oneself is in fact less clever than he seems to be. Oops the wife's coming, better pretend to be looking at a comic or even reality TV!
     
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  18. Ma-dotcom

    Ma-dotcom A Bonza Little Digger!

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    Can't anyone-male or female accept that there are people of lesser intelligence out there but not necessarily married to one's self? We are so-oo different, that doesn't mean lesser in any respect. Enjoy what we have now regardless of IQ test results, when you no longer have said person, it's too late to suddenly appreciate worth...yep, I know..joking..even so, respect what you have now. (or trade it in!)
     
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  19. gillyflower

    gillyflower Always caring about others

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    That is so sad. Yes they could have ended up in a life of crime - picking pockets - maybe prostituton as soon as they were old enough - begging this list unfortunatekly goes on. Perhaps shame caused him to change his name - in the hope it would bring him some luck. We all have skeletons in our cupboards of varying sizes and it is good that you gave us this story about some of yours
     

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