A Minnie Problem

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.

A page from Albert’s Autobiography, courtesy an anonymous donor

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.

Sarah Doughty North née SPINK

Minnie North née SMITH

Albert SHAKESBY (and Minnie Rogers née SMITH)

Tree 50 · Martin’s Ravine

The Well-Behaved Embezzler

Eight years separated Henry SPINK and his wife Martha DOUGHTY but a few months after he reached his allotted span in 1858 Henry died. Martha followed suit in 1867.Mid-way between their passings, in December 1863, daughter Sarah Doughty died in London. She is remembered on her parents’ stone but was buried in South Hackney, London.


Sarah left six children, aged five up to 20, and a husband in Wakefield Jail. Convicted of embezzlement in April that year, he was transferred to Portland in the summer of 1864.

Sentences for embezzlement in Victorian Britain varied from less than a year with hard labour to 7 years or more – with transportation.

John Hendry NORTH was sentenced to 5 years penal servitude and because of the rocky nature of Portland, I expect there was a hard labour component. His quarterly reports indicate that his behavior as a prisoner ranged from Very Good to Exemplary, which may account for him marrying Frances Ann Elizabeth SHAILER almost a year before he was due for release.

His sentence may initially have been a stiff one because he stole a lot of boodle. He had worked for the Hull Banking Company for 20 years, “had always borne a good character” and confessed to the crime the moment he was challenged about “the deficiency”. He wrote the following memorandum to his employers:-

Sir, With great regret and sorrow, I beg to inform you that my cash account as assistant cashier to the Hull Banking Company is deficient to the extent of £3163 15s. 2d., which sums I have at various times surreptitiously extracted from the company’s cash drawer, which is under my charge and control, and applied to my own purposes, – Yours, &c., J. H. NORTH.

The purposes specified were “the education of his children, the support of his family, and to meet losses by railway speculations”. The sum taken is today worth from about £260,000 (real price of commodities) to £2.4 million (income value).

I wonder if Sarah or her parents had any suspicions. Martha’s death was registered in the same quarter as John Hendry North’s marriage to a woman 23 years his junior. I hope the old lady was unaware of his liaison, 250 miles or so away in the Great Wen.

In 1871 John’s occupation was given as “Verger of St Paul’s Church, Old Brentford”. Ten years later he declared himself a “Retired Banker’s Clerk”. Frances rose a little from Milliner and Dress Maker to Dress and Mantle Maker, giving board to two dressmakers, who were perhaps her employees.

John and Frances had two children, Arthur Guildford and Ethel. The few records I have accessed so far give no indication that the children from his first marriage played a part in his life after release from prison.

John had a presence on FST already. I have added his second wife and a few sources but there are quite a few duplicate IDs to merge.

Today at Speakers’ Corner

Tommy Robinson hasn’t made the BBC News web pages yet but amidst a certain amount of chaotic pushing, shoving and shouting he managed to read Martin  Sellner’s speech, as he had promised to do. As far as I could tell from the rough video footage available (as I write), nobody was hurt, and nobody was arrested. A hard-won victory for Free Speech then. Thanks be to God, Allah, the British police, the government – and all the people who turned up to listen and support ‘oor Tommy’.

Meanwhile, the BBC is informing its viewers/readers that the Russians are stockpiling chemical weapons in Syria. Boris Johnson says so. Chemical weapons will be deployed in Gouta soon, I expect. Russia and Assad will get the blame but the perpetrators will, more than likely, be the terrorists that the Syrian government is trying to remove from the country. Something the United States is doing its worst to prevent.  What a crazy world we live in.