The Number 30 bus to town would drive slowly down a long, straight street of small shops with its pavements thronged with people not socially distancing. I looked forward to the turn at the end for the glimpse it gave of a church that seemed out of place. It was not drab. There was just time to take in its pastel colours, the stone figures in their niches and, on the pediment two curious words in gold, DOMVS DEI.
The seven or eight year-old me probably asked my mother what “domvers” meant. She may have told me, but puzzled fascination persisted until I started doing Latin at secondary school.
I set out yesterday on the trail of a front line worker’s forebears, this being more of an appreciation than clapping on my doorstep. “A” is not a doctor, nurse or care worker but someone putting themselves in a place of danger most days to preserve something of the “old normal”. Where would we be without cheerful checkout ladies at the supermarket?
On 28 April 1811 Susanna CHAMBERS was baptized in the Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Jarrett Street, Hull.
Fifty years later she was a widow, living in Tadcaster with two unmarried daughters and mother Ann, who is described as an agricultural labourer (aged 81). Susanna’s husband, variously Barnet, Bernard, Bryon or Bryan MURPHY, had been an overlooker in several Yorkshire Flax Mills until his death in 1858, aged 52. His younger daughter, Elizabeth, was sixteen in 1861 and a yarn winder in a Tadcaster mill. I have yet to prove beyond reasonable doubt that she is A’s great grandmother. Elizabeth has, so far, made the slightest of impressions on the FamilySearch Shared Tree.
Returning to the House of God. The front page of the Register in which Susanna’s baptismal record appears indicates that the “Chapel” of Saint Charles Borromeo was founded by the “Reverend Peter Francis FOUCHER” in 1798. About twenty years later he returned to France, his homeland. There are two men of the right vintage on the Shared Tree that share his name. One is the father of Adèle, wife of Victor HUGO, but he was getting married in Paris when his near-namesake was overseeing the building of a church in Hull.
John Hendry NORTH, born 1820 in Hull, first married Sarah Doughty SPINK. After bearing seven children between 1842 and 1858 she died in London, but is remembered on a headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard.
John Hendry was 47 years-old when he married Frances Ann Elizabeth SHAILER, 24, in the summer of 1867. Their first child, Arthur Guildford North, was late to the scene – in 1872 – and he didn’t marry Minnie SMITH until he was forty-three.
Even though she was a Smith, I thought Minnie would be easy to find. Initially, I had the information that she was born in 1879 in East Yorkshire. I added 1878 to the search term and Free BMD offered the following girls.
I had a moan about all these Minnies but it didn’t take too long to find a parish marriage entry that gave her father’s name – William Henry.
My family history detective work is sometimes haphazard and the first two-year-old Minnie I found in the 1881 census was a boarder in the Sculcoates household of Harriet SHAKESBY, a married charwoman with an absent husband. I had a picture of her in the original Looking at Filey folder.
Minnie’s mother Ann Smith, though also described as a boarder (and married with an absent husband), was the eldest of ten children born to Harriet HARTLEY and James Shakesby. The couple’s youngest child, Albert (sometimes Albert Edward) was seven in 1881 and probably saw Minnie as a little sister. When he was a few years older he lived as a “street arab”, becoming ayoung man of dubious character until he morphed into an evangelist. In later life he was occasionally a local hero in Filey. He died just a few doors from where I am writing this.
It was with a heavy heart that I discovered that this Minnie’s father wasn’t called William Henry. In 1881 that gentleman was living across the River Hull in the Old Town, about a quarter of a mile from the Shakesbys, with his wife Mary née BEEDHAM, three sons and the no longer problematic Minnie.
You can find the three families on the FamilySearch Shared Tree.
When Jane Maria CORTIS married 45 year-old John Would PARKER in 1876 she still had fifteen years or so in which she might have borne his children. There is a third reason why none appeared. If you look at the two photographs of John posted a couple of days ago he doesn’t appear to be full of the joys. He had cause.
Matilda was his little sister, appearing when he was three years old. They lived on the family farm together for 25 years before she married George ROSE, who also farmed in Ludborough. She gave birth to three children in three years, Matilda Alice (1859), George Byron (1860) and John William (about August 1861).
Shortly after John William’s birth, Matilda Alice caught an infection caused by the Corynebacterium diphtheriae and she died in the middle of November. Diphtheria is a respiratory illness transmitted by droplets. Neither of her brothers contracted the disease. Her father did, and he died a couple of weeks after his daughter.
George Byron died two months before his third birthday. It is not clear if widow Matilda took her surviving boy with her when she crossed the Humber to Hull. Her state of mind may have been such that her mother and older siblings considered her unfit to look after him. In September 1864 she married John Henry LEE , a timber merchant three years her junior. The marriage was ended within a year – by divine intervention.
Had she not been taken, Matilda would have had to nurse her husband through a lingering illness until his death in January 1867, aged 31.
So much misery. But, back in Ludborough, Sarah Parker née WOULD, her eldest daughter Sarah Elizabeth, and yet to be married John Would Parker, gave infant John William Rose a home. The boy was at Manor House Farm in 1871 but when John married and brought Jane Maria home, he moved with Sarah Elizabeth to another house in the village. Sarah, a 57 year-old spinster in 1881, would surely have received help from her mother and brother in guiding the the young man towards adulthood, and perhaps Jane was an influence on him too. Whoever was responsible for his upbringing, they did a good job. He was an undergraduate at Cambridge University in 1881 and later worked as a solicitor for a number of years in London and Brentford. It appears he wasn’t a great success in his chosen profession. The 1911 census finds him at 63 Windsor Road, Ealing, working as a Merchant’s Clerk (in Condensed Milk and Starch). With him are wife Caroline Matilda and their son Wilfrid. (A second child had died in infancy.)
I have made some connections on FamilySearch. You can find John William on the Shared Treeand make your way back to John Would and Jane Maria. I think, maybe, that Jane’s husband had been so traumatized by Matilda’s experiences that he chose to remain childless. (He was executor of brother in law George’s will.) We can only guess what Jane thought of all this but it is understandable that, as a widow getting on in years, she traveled to the other side of the world to be with what was left of her birth family.
When I did some work on the Cortis family a few years ago, I thought John Would had gone to Australia with Jane and suggested as much in a note on the Shared Tree. I should have paid closer attention to the newspaper notice of her death in a Sydney newspaper.
PARKER, John Wold (sic), Age at Death (in years): 63. GRO Reference: 1893 D Quarter in LOUTH Volume 07A Page 429.GRO Index Deaths
A question prompted by The Brothers Cortis (last month) sent me to Ashby Cum Fenby in Lincolnshire over the weekend, to see if I could find more information about the parents of Richard Cortis, the brothers’ father. At the moment “John & Elizth” are on the FamilySearch Shared Tree with Richardand eight other children, none of whom are yet connected to each other.
“Elizth” seems to be Elizabeth SMITH. A February 1765 marriage in Ashby is well-timed for the couple’s first child, Ann, christened in January 1766 and buried two months later. The Ashby Parish register can be found at Lincolshire Archives. The ink has faded but most of the Cortis events can be discerned. John first appears in Ashby in 1761 (as far as I can tell) and is intermittently the churchwarden over the next three decades. At most of his own events he is referred to as “John junr.” His father would, therefore, seem to be John senior whose origins are obscure to me but who dies at the end of the year in which John and Elizabeth marry.
Reading the register carefully, I found all the Cortis children on the Shared Tree and several more. I also noticed that there was a second John Cortis, referred to as “John of Laceby”. This is all well and good – until the entry in December 1791 for the burial of John Cortis, aged 0, son of John junr and Elizabeth of Laceby. A John Cortis married Elizabeth BASNIP of Laceby in February 1791 but without seeing the death of Elizabeth nee Smith recorded some doubt remains. (In 1799 there is a list in a newspaper of subscribers to the Caistor Association in which John and William Cortis of Laceby AND John Cortis of Ashby appear.)
Elizabeth Basnip has issues of her own and it was a relief to be distracted by intriguing entries in the register that cried out to be investigated.
1753 David Langley, a stranger killed by a Fall from a Sycamore Tree as he was taking Rook nests, May 7th buried.
1796 Aug 25th buried Edward Condock aged 14 years. The above Edward Condock received his death by an accidental shot from a Gun in Mr Scrivener’s House. [A Thomas Scrivener shared churchwarden duties with John Cortis.]
And the entry that took me back to my childhood?
The Number 30 bus in Hull used to go to and from Stoneferry along New Cleveland Street, and maybe still does. I was always particularly drawn to the mysterious (in name and nature) Marble and Stone Merchants, Anselm Odling and Sons. One had only the merest glimpse of what went on behind the tall fence but it was the name that fascinated me. And here, perhaps 150 years before the company set up a branch in Hull, I find the forebears (surely) in a small Lincolnshire village. Thanks to the Interweb, I now know it was a large company of diverse activities – and it is still trading on New Cleveland Street, but disappointingly just as “Odlings”.
Another name in the Ashby register that caught my attention – Hewson. The Hewsons may have been the preeminent family in the village and in Louth in 1862 John and Elizabeth’s grandson, William Smithson Cortis, widower, married Susanna of that ilk.
Thomas was about twenty months old when his mother died. His father chose not to marry again so Thomas was raised by older sisters.
As mentioned in an earlier post, of the six Cortis boys who reached adulthood, one emigrated (eventually) to Australia and the other five to America. Thomas seems to have had the greatest difficulty getting to grips with the New World.
He has four Personal IDs on the FamilySearch Shared Tree. Only one gives him parents.
Two show him married to Helen Isabel (or Isabella) WHITTEMORE. Here is one –
Though lacking detail, these two screenshots “tell the truth” – but only part of his story. Helen was his second wife. The fourth ID reveals his marriage to Sarah Jane HERRICK and the three sons they brought into the world. (Two didn’t stay long and Richard died aged 19.)
Poor Sarah. Her pedigree is astonishing – if the Shared Tree is to be believed. Forebear Henry Herrick Snr. arrived in Salem. Massachusetts aboard Lyon and married in the village three years after its foundation in 1626. His son, Henry Jnr., was a member of the jury at the Witch Trials. Her European ancestry is replete with aristocracy and a sprinkling of royalty. I feel sure Sarah would have been told stories at her mother’s knee of the Puritan Plantation – but that she was related to King Henry III of England? Maybe not.
Sarah gave birth to her boys in three different Iowa towns – De Witt, Fulton, and Davenport. Infant Herbert died in Davenport and Harold the following year in Fulton. Thomas was a physician, and clearly an unsettled one. However, the strength of his bond with sister Jane is indicated by these places being between ten and forty miles from the DANNATT family at Low Moor.
Over on Ancestry Sarah has been given an extra child.
Mabel was, of course, Helen’s child and if you look again at the second of the screenshots above you will see Mabel’s son Richard Cortis GREEN.
Richard, nicknamed “Cort”, exchanged letters with the Australian branch of the family and Peter has given me permission to share some of what he wrote about his grandparents. Poor Thomas and poor Helen. The following is part of a 1968 letter transcribed by Peter. Some of it may be fanciful family lore (not true) but this section is so vivid I offer it unedited. (Cort’s handwriting is difficult to read.)
“Cortis Fam. History – very little do I know really —SAM, RICHARD (White Star Line Boston, Hamburg American, NYC). JESSIE (married [Alvey] of US WORLD (Newspaper NYC & Almanac). Carrie Cortis (Sam’s daughter) Daunett –all familiar names.
MUCH EMOTION AND PROBLEMS FOR my mother as [the] penniless daughter of [the] youngest boy (THOMAS THACKERAY CORTIS), by 2nd wife , A WHITTEMORE (family split by US Civil War & impoverished).
Thomas Thackeray had wife & son RICHARD when came to U.S after service as an army surgeon in Sepoy Mutiny & Crimean War. [indeciph]:-siege of Balaclava -who knows – maybe he sparked [could be “spanked”] Florence Nightingale!! (One Brother skipper of R.N vessel in that show).
Next we see him a widower with a teenage son in N.Y.C courtesy of older brothers who got him a job as the port health officer –on strength of fantastic language skills –7 proficient [14 speaking].
We see him making classic mistake of trying to find a foster-mother for son & himself a wife. He married Helen Whittemore. She has social aspirations. Debts mount up. His brothers pay. He gets out of town. Goes to DeWit CLINTON IOWA. Has daughter (my mother) born approx. 1876 (mother always said she was born 1880 & records burned in DeWit Club). Moved Municipalities [indecipherable] again 1882/83. Wife took herself to her room & [never] was seen again –pining for lost gay life in NYC. RICHIE, the son dies of measles and pneumonia about 1885 age about 18. T.T Cortis keeps stiff upper lip. Puts rose in button hole every morning on way to office -wends way on rather faithful mare [indecipherable]. He has 2 strokes and dies in 1896. Mother and her mother Helen Whittemore Cortis =>Chicago. My mother aged about 18? Works for Marshall Field Store. No money. Brothers pay to put H. Whittemore in home (we will never know what her real trouble was), mother went to NYC. $500 were left from Dr T.T’s estate –that kept by SAM –much anguish as mother thought was for her education – wanted to be a Dr. (Father fixation etc etc etc).
You see why I’m ready to dump the whole U.S part of the clan. EXCEPT FOR ONE THING –old T.T tried & did KEEP THE FAITH. His illustrious eldest bro. was obstetrician to the old Queen VICTORIA herself & trained T.T. He T.T did most of his doctoring before [indecipherable] & GOD [indecipherable] Penicillin—which event –so help me have wielded as a giver of life & [kept?] death away from my crew.”
“Eldest bro” was William Smithson, who left Filey after 1861 and was enumerated in Kennington, less than three miles from Buckingham Palace in 1871. If the then fifty year-old doctor followed his journey-to-royal work today he would pass the Florence Nightingale Museum, which has re-0pened in, spookily, St Thomas’ Hospital. I doubt anyone would ever have spanked Florence, or Mary Seacole, but in a long report on 1856 New Year celebrations in Crimea that mentions both Angels of Mercy, there is this –
Cort’s memory of young Richard doesn’t fit the Shared Tree information but it is interesting that Thomas returned to Iowa after a spell in New York City. Jane’s place must have been a refuge for him. Richard died in St Peter, Minnesota; his father not far away in St Paul.
Thomas is also represented on WikiTree with a variant middle name. I signed up to be a “WikiTreer” yesterday so that I could connect him to his folks in Hull – and marry him to Sarah Jane.
Six sons of Richard CORTIS and Jane SMITHSON reached adulthood. Five crossed the Atlantic and ended their days in the United States after experiencing mixed fortunes. From information received and uncovered thus far, it appears that the first young man to Go West was Richard John in 1856. He had married Jane Hannah MAPLES in Hull in 1850 and they sailed from Liverpool with two infant boys. When they were caught by the 1860 US census they had been joined by Harold Graeme (aged 6 months) – and RJ’s brother Samuel Smithson. I don’t know for sure if the other three brothers had made the crossing by this time but eight years ago I was offered a reason for them all leaving home.
Here is a post from Looking at Filey, 6 May 2012 – in full, errors included but footnoted. (The archived Looking at Filey has still not been made available again at The British Library. The web links should still “work”.)
Photographer unknown, no date1, courtesy Elizabeth Kennard
Richard John2 CORTIS senior, born about 1788, was a master mariner and later a shipping agent. He also owned the Minerva public house hard by the River Humber. (Recent photos here, here, and here.) With Jane SMITHSON he had at least ten children. I had found eight of them on FamilySearch but Elizabeth supplied two more – Henrietta, who died in infancy, and Joseph who was killed in Tennessee during the American Civil War. Seven Hull born children made it to adulthood but none breathed their last by the Humber. Six3 died in the United States and one in Australia. Elizabeth asked me what happened in Hull around the 1850s that prompted a whole brood to fly a long way from the nest. Despite being a Hull lad, I didn’t have a clue and so asked a man I hoped would know. Peter Churchexplained that 1849 was a cholera epidemic year and some of the city’s water came from Spring Head in Anlaby along an open channel which passed Spring Bank cemetery where 700 cholera victims were buried. Minerva opened in 1851 and Richard John CORTIS senior was responsible for “masterminding the trans-migrants passing through Hull from mainland Europe to America”. I reckon he was therefore in a good position to advise his children to seek a healthier life across the Atlantic and to facilitate their journeys.
The odd one out was William Smithson CORTIS who was enumerated in Queen Street Filey in 1851 with a wife, three children and three servants. Ten years later he was a widower in a mixed John Street household containing three of his children, a widowed sister in law and nephew (on his wife’s side), a pupil in his medical practice, four servants – and his old dad, 74 year old “Richard, formerly Master Mariner.”
The Cortis presence in Filey comes to an end at some time during the next ten years, before 1869 probably because the old master mariner dies in Hull that year, his age given as 83. Two of his Filey born grandsons made their way to Australia and William Smithson went out there too, dying in Manly in 1906.
I wonder if any letters passed between Filey and the United States. Was the man on the horse (above) aware of his older brother’s passing in Australia, four years before his own death?
Elizabeth has told me that Richard John Junior worked as a shipping agent for the White Star Line and did well enough for himself to have four servants and a coachman in the house. The photograph was taken in Brooklyn, New York City, which is not, as Elizabeth writes, “a noted pastoral green, horse riding area any longer”. (William GEDNEY pictured Brooklyn as I imagine it.)
Date about 1895.
I do not think Richard senior had a middle name.
Five brothers and, perhaps, sister Jane.
Elizabeth’s photograph came with the following information attached.
Richard J Cortis 1823-1910, an Englishman who with his wife Jane (Maples) came to NY City permanently about the middle of the 1850s. He was the father of Jessie V. Cortis (1865-1937) who married Wm. Kennard in 1889. The maternal grandfather of Wm. Cortis Kennard (1893-1975) and the great grandfather of Richard Cortis Kennard (1920- 2001.
R J Cortis always kept a horse or two in Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY and this picture taken about 1895 shows him on his horse “Rex” at the Cortis home, 66 Lennox Road, Flatbush, which the Kennard family and R J Cortis left in 1908 for 1722 Albemarle Rd, a home built by Wm M Kennard.
I mentioned on Tuesday that Elizabeth CORTIS 2 [K2BK-F63] had a full complement of siblings on the FamilySearch Shared Tree. That ten children at least were born to master mariner and hotel keeper Richard and Jane nee SMITHSON is confirmed in a brief newspaper notice.
I had forgotten about the twins.
The youngest Cortis child on the Shared Tree as I write this post is Thomas Thackrah. He was about 18 months old when his mother died.
Jane would have given birth to the twins towards the end of April. A simple search for christenings brought nothing so I looked through the Holy Trinity register from late April to September. Still nothing. I found them in the Holy Trinity Burials registers at Find My Past.
I don’t know who entered the world first but Ann departed after nine weeks in the vale of tears. Harriet stayed for seven months.
(Harriet’s entry is at the bottom of the register page – I have added the header in Photoshop, so this is not a facsimile of the original document.)
Betsey still had a sister and seven brothers. Jane was the only one of Richard’s children enumerated with him at The Minerva Hotel in 1851. She was 25 years-old and single but married Philip HORSLEY, a Doncaster farmer, three weeks later. I couldn’t find records of children, their whereabouts at subsequent censuses or records of their deaths. It is an easy assumption to make that they emigrated – either blazing a trail to North America or following the Cortis brothers Richard John, Joseph, Samuel Smithson, John Charles and Thomas Thackrah to New York City and destinations beyond. Joseph gave his life for the Union but the others may all have married and made it to the Twentieth Century. Betsey’s eldest brother William Smithson, and those of his children who reached adulthood, “went the other way” to Australia. More about the adventurers another day.
Elizabeth was the first child born to Richard CORTIS and Jane SMITHSON. As I write, she may be found in two corners of the FamilySearch Tree multiverse.
Seven sources are attached to her record and they all truly belong to her. Three are marriage sources and a FamilySearch transcription of one of them records her age in 1845 as 21, giving a calculated birth year of 1824. The Holy Trinity (Hull) marriage register doesn’t specify the age of the bride or groom.
This source is valuable in giving her residence and her father’s occupation. Richard by this time had given up seafring and was keeping The Minerva Hotel, a stone’s throw from the River Humber.The naming of three Cortis witnesses – Elizabeth’s parents and sister in law -is also helpful. (Mary Jane had married Elizabeth’s brother, Dr William Smithson Cortis the previous year.)
A Sculcoates Parish christening source indicates that Elizabeth was 27 years-old when she married.
A “possible duplicate” indication on Elizabeth 1’s page takes us here: –
Elizabeth does not have children yet – but has the correct birth year, her mother and a full complement of siblings.
Elizabeth 1 appears to have lived for 66 years, dying in Bramley. A few days ago I found a Billion Graves photograph of her headstone in Hull General Cemetery. I imagine it is not far from her father’s grave. It clearly indicates she died in 1857, aged 39.
So, who was the Elizabeth HUTCHINSON who died in 1890? Maybe the wife of gardener Thomas Hutchinson, born Elizabeth HALDENBY. In 1881 this couple and several children were enumerated in Hunslet, which is six or seven miles from Bramley.
After the early death of “our” Elizabeth, Charles Hutchinson re-married – but he waited thirteen years to do so. This is surprising, given that Frederick was twelve and Alice Maria just six when their mother died. Charles died in 1875, aged 58.
Frederick became a successful builder and was able to retire in his late thirties, but shortly after giving birth to their seventh child his wife Kate died aged 38. Frederick chose not to marry again but the 1901 and 1911 censuses show he had two umarried daughters and three servants to run his household.
It seems that descendants of Elizabeth 1 may have contributed information about her to the Shared Tree, so I don’t want to make any major changes. I hope it will be a pleasant surprise for them to discover Elizabeth 2’s remarkable birth family. Or Betsey as she was known when she married.
Towards the end of 1810, the British vessel Neva was captured by the French. Richard CORTIS, second in command, found himself a prisoner of war.
Fifty-nine years later, a mariner called Richard Cortis was laid to rest in Hull’s General Cemetery. There is a photograph of his headstone at Billion Graves. He was eighty-three years old and so, if he is one and the same, would have been only 24 when living at Napoleon’s pleasure.
On census night 1861, Hull mariner Richard was with his son William, Filey’s doctor, at No.1 John Street. The household of twelve also contained three of Richard’s grandchildren, Jane Maria, 15, William Richard, 14, and Herbert Liddell, 5. The lives of all three, and their father’s, would end in Australia. Sadly, Richard did not live to see Herbert become a World Cycling Champion.
Last month, out of the blue, I received a set of photographs from Australia that included a picture of Richard.
This appears to be a hand coloured studio photograph – so Richard would have had to be approaching sixty when it was taken. On the evidence of the kepi on the table, the uniform is French. Does this connect him to the other Richard? Were the French so impressed by Richard’s bravery that they honoured him with this dress uniform and sword upon release from prison? And many years later, after the invention of photography, he could still fit into it.
I am not going to speculate further on this image. Richard’s exploits and qualities as mariner, ship owner, hotel keeper, local “prime mover” – and father – are impressive enough not to need a tale of derring-do and showmanship. But doesn’t he look handsome?
My thanks to Peter for sending the photographs. I will share the others over the next few weeks.
A Reduction in UK COVID-19 Deaths
There were 5,299 fewer UK deaths recorded at Worldometers today. The muppets at Public Health England have been forced to acknowledge the nonsense that Britons catching the supposed disease could never be cured, ever. Weeks and months after appearing to recover, Covid would nonetheless appear on certificates, whatever actually caused their deaths. A dumb, dishonest way to boost scamdemic fatalities. This at-a-stroke 11% drop in Covid deaths has not changed the rankings posted yesterday. Deaths per million have fallen from 686 to 608 but the UK keeps the top spot in my Table.
There are more apparently lethal countries: Belgium (854), Peru (657), Spain (611). There are a few “safer” countries than New Zealand, including Uganda and Vietnam (0.2 per million), Sr Lanka (0.5), Rwanda and Mozambique (0.6).
(If you are offended by my use of the term “muppets” for UK Regime Health Advisors please see Skepticat’s take on The Second Wave.)
Something pushed William HUNT from his birthplace in deepest Lincolnshire and across the Humber; and then perhaps he was pulled a little further north to Scarborough. He married Jane Elizabeth ROBINSON there in 1869. She had also moved north from her birthplace in Hull, but only about forty miles, a third of the distance William had travelled from Wainfleet.
The census enumerator in 1871 found them in Hoxton Road, a narrow street of terraced houses not far from Scarborough Prison and the Workhouse. William, 23, was working as a plumber and glazier; Jane Elizabeth, 28, had William Henry, approaching his first birthday, to care for.
A second boy, Charles, was born in Scarborough shortly after the census but the family then moved a few miles south to Filey, where first daughter Martha Ann arrived on 24 August 1872. She was followed by brothers John Robinson and Alfred late in 1873 and 1874.
When the census was taken in 1881, the Hunt household contained five children, but John Robinson and Alfred’s places had been taken by Jane Davison and John Alfred Harold. The missing boys had died within days of each other in January 1875. I couldn’t find a cause but suspect one caught a childhood disease, perhaps scarlet fever, and gave it to the other. The worried parents baptized Alfred at the Ebenezer Chapel on the thirteenth. John Robinson died a day or two later and was buried on the sixteenth. Alfred followed him to the grave on the twentieth, after just 9 weeks of life.
A year after the 1881 census a third Hunt child was taken in the most distressing of circumstances. Newspapers couldn’t agree on where the coroner’s inquest was held but were otherwise on the same page.
On the same day, the Scarborough Mercury, offered this:-
DEATH FROM AN OVERDOSE OF SWEET NITRE
On Saturday last an inquest was held at the Crown Hotel, Filey, before Mr. J. M. Jennings, on the body of Martha Ann Hunt, aged nine years, who died very suddenly on Friday. The mother said that she only gave her daughter two small spoonfuls of sweet nitre. She had purchased one ounce and the remainder was in the bottle. The medical officer said that there was about six drachms left and that two drachms had been given to the child. The jury returned a verdict that deceased “Died from an overdose of sweet nitre incautiously administered by its mother.”
The verdict must have put a terrible burden of guilt upon Jane Elizabeth. New England Popular Medicine (1848), accessible on Google Books, says: –
…The dose is from one to two drachms. A tea-spoonful may be given, every two hours, in a severe fever, in water or in any other simple liquid. The sweet nitre relieves spasms and nervous strangury.
The book also states: –
There is hardly a medicine in more common use than the sweet spirit or spirits of nitre, nor one which is more deservedly popular.
A hundred years or so after Martha Ann’s death, the American FDA banned the over-the-counter sale of sweet spirit because its use had become associated with fatal methemoglobinemia.
The loss of three children was more than enough to persuade the parents to move away from Filey. FamilySearch offers evidence that the Hunt family crossed the Atlantic aboard the City of Chester in 1888. Two of the children married in the United States and the Shared Tree shows that William and Jane Elizabeth had at least five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Sadly, they endured another loss in America. Firstborn William Henry died in New York at the age of twenty-one. The span of the parents’ lives – and details of their forebears – have yet to be determined.