Sunday, 19 April 2015

"To burial of a stillborn child"

Many years ago as I was lifting quarterly death indexes from the shelving at the Kingsway annex to the Birth Marriage and Deaths I was struck by the difficulty of knowing whether the Male age 0 entries for a surname (and female age 0 ) would be capable of resolving as part of a family. The cost of death certificates and the possibility of a child with the same surname  wholly unrelated could be a proverbial "brickwall" to completing all children born to parents. As one of those genealogists who carried out certificate searches in the galleries at Somerset House you may gather I have been around a long time and as the only surviving child to be registered at birth I feel personally on the pain of parents and siblings  knowing what became of those infants who died in pregnancy or at full term.
Before I write about the registration requirements for "Late Miscarriages" and full term stillbirths let me offer another record source to the conventional which has changed my thoughts on nineteenth century registration.
This year I have been transcribing the funeral account books of Dunn who from 1803 arranged funerals from their premises in Market Square Bromley. These accounts are available at Bromley Archives and are an example of the value of exploring archives. It is possible throughout the year range of these accounts to identify children who were still born as the title of this blog indicates a typical entry;some go on to detail the coffin and place of burial both in Bromley churchyard or later in the Bromley Burial Board Cemetery (or in other parishes or cemeteries). Since the account is to be paid the father's surname is included!
The Dunn accounts are lost for a significant volume of post 1837 registration (in one of the various fires at their premises). However the survivals indicate that after initial years of registration compliance difficulties were overcome that the Funeral account still births are located in the Bromley registration district several by name offered by bereaved parent on registration or by gender aged 0. As I have progressed to accounts in the 1870's there is reassuring evidence that both records can help to identify still birth in a family.
If a still birth was before 1992 and before 28 weeks of completed pregnancy sadly it is unlikely that there is any record of the child. My twin sister was delivered at full term and there is no evidence of burial or cremation. My parents were told that the hospital would arrange for disposal of her body and there is no record of her at the local registration district or local cemetery or Crematoria service.
Which is why the records of funeral directors can be so valuable to an archive or researcher. It seems that post 1948 parents bereaved could often be told that hospitals had arrangements and parents were disempowered in the process. It is possible that a hospital had an arrangement for group burial or cremation in which case a record should exist but this was not the case in my own family in the case of my other siblings.
Since the 1980's parents were consulted about arrangments for the funeral and this lead to a change in 1992 to require Cemeteries and crematoria to record as still born children who died after 24 weeks gestation. Cemeteries and cramatoria have been required to keeps records of still born children and those who die after birth but they came into existence usually in the late nineteenth century so surviving funeral accounts are very valuable.
Hospital records do not always detail nor are they kept long enough to be of practical help;hospital closures have also lead to loss of records. Funeral Directors similarly have ceased to be local family run businesses and on takeover by large companies did not always keep or deposit their records in a local archive.
If you are attempting the emotional task of trying to find what became of your child or sibling I can recommend the practical help of Stillbirth and neonatal death charity (SANDS) and the support line. It is comforting to me to know that The SANDS garden at the National Arboretum and services held annually are for my family even though I have been unable to locate my siblings through record sources.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The poetry of Miss Ann Holmes to Hugh Doherty when confined in her father's house

Within the copy of Wilson's Accurate Description of Bromley published in 1797 Bromley Archives reference Bromley Archives Catalogue  there are two handwritten entries of poetry written "by Miss Ann Holmes to Hugh Doherty Esquire whilst confined in her father's house."

"If in that heart so good so pure,
Compassion ever-loved to dwell,
Pity the sorrows I endure
The causes I must not dare to tell.
The grief that on my quiet peeps
That rends my heart that chains my tongue,
I fear twill last me al my days but feel it cannot last me long."
An additional poem is written:
Thro'the bars of my prison I see
The birds as they wanton in aver
My heart how it pant to be free
And my looks they are wild with despair".
(included by Doherty in The Discovery page 132)

Hugh Doherty was the son of John Doherty of Dublin and was related to the Secretary of State George Canning.
Ann Holmes was the child of  a Gentleman named Thomas Holmes and is believed to have been born born in 1786. She had been well schooled and in 1804 had not reached the age of 15 (according to her father's affidavit later introduced to the King's Bench by the Attorney General). Holmes made  Hunter in 1804 owned several substantial properties and was introduced to Doherty,who took the opportunity of being seated next to Ann at dinner to pursue her.
Doherty had entered the 23rd Light Dragoons and was "upwards of 37 years of age". He was awaiting deployment to India and had debts and no "fortune or profession." Doherty formed a relationship with Ann largely through smuggled letters to her at the various Holmes households. Her father when he discovered Doherty's debts and reputation forbade him from visiting Ann and Doherty began the correspondence. He later discovered Doherty's letters and had confined Ann to his house to prevent Doherty attempting to meet or abduct her. The confinement began in 1802.
Ann became a source of concern as she deteriorated ( the letters from Doherty became her obsession) and she became sufficiently agitated to concern doctors called to attend her who were concerned about her refusal to eat and melancholic state. Sir W Farquhar recommended that her mental state be treated by Doctor Simmonds who removed her to his house. She deteriorated mentally to such an extent that she was removed to Fisher House Islington sometimes referred to as Islington Aylum. The house and grounds had been built early in the seventeenth century by Sir Thomas Fisher. It opened as a "madhouse" in 1797 and eventually closed in 1844 being demolished the following year.
Doherty made contact with one of the two Attendants at Fisher House and at Anne's suggestion procured two sleeping draughts for twelve and ten hours the first to render the unwitting Attendant unconscious whilst the other (McNab) released Ann to Doherty  then took the second draft to provide her alibi. The escape took place on 19 April 1802 around 1 am by Doherty's account. Ann had suggested fleeing to Scotland for a clandestine marriage;in the event the couple appear to have legally married in Rainham Essex on 25 May 1802 after banns. The couple had a son. Ann Doherty shortly after becoming Mrs Ann Doherty complained that Doherty was violent toward her these complaints came to her father's attention in 1806 and he began to take legal advice which culminated in the Attorney General's application to the King's Bench who granted a rule to show cause in May 1808.
Doherty accepted £2000 from Hunter under a surety but this was insufficient to avoid his creditors and whilst imprisoned for debt Hunter called in his surety. Whilst imprisoned Doherty published "The Discovery" The Discovery online his account of his relationship with Ann. He also published "Ronaldsha" in his wife's name although in 1808 when read to the court certain passage's were found to be his own attacks on Holmes Hunter.
It is in this context that following the 1797 publication of Wilson the handwritten poems appear subsequently written. The relationship was of course widely publicised. Pride and Prejudice contains a sub plot involving  Lydia the youngest Bennet daughter's elopement with Wickham;she is 15 when the relationship begins  and shows no remorse for the disgrace she causes to her family. The Ann Holmes and Hugh Doherty affair cannot have escaped Jane Austen's attention.