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Let us start this story at the point in time when John de Jong, a ship’s steward who had travelled extensively, exhibited signs that his mental health was spiralling.

‘Strange for some time in manner’

P.C. 301 Sidney Foder filed a report stating that he had been called to the house of John de Jong, where he found the man in a ‘nude condition behaving indecently’. De Jong told the officer that he was making cocoa and it is noted that he was talking a lot of nonsense. His wife Elizabeth was present and she stated that he had been ‘strange for some time in manner’, that he wanders, loses himself and thinks he is rich.

This took place at the De Jong home at 67, Vassall Road, Brixton, London which is close to Camberwell.

John was taken to the Lambeth Infirmary. 

On entry to Manor

On February 5th 1912, John was admitted to Horton Hospital from the Lambeth Infirmary. Poor John could give no account as to why he was behaving as he was when the police officer arrived. He said that he had an appointment at the P&O offices, where he believed that he held a lucrative position.  He spoke continuously and in a disconnected manner. We learn that this was John’s first attack and that it had been going on for six months.

What the brother-in-law told us

John’s brother-in-law, Elizabeth’s brother, provided the background history to Horton. John was one of five children. We know that he was ‘moderate’ in education and attended a boarding school. 

There were no previous health concerns until six months previously, when John had begun to forget where he lived. His brother-in-law mentions that he considers that insufficient food has led to his demise, as well as family trouble and worry, although it is not clear what this refers to. There is reference to some insanity in the family on his paternal side.

He says that John had been married for 3 years and there were no children. However, John states later that he has two children and there was a miscarriage of a third.

John had been born in Liverpool and had travelled all over the world as a ship’s steward but had also worked as a draper’s assistant.

John’s Physical Appearance

Let’s form our own image of John. Quite a short man at 5ft 5 inches, weighing in at just 8 stone on admission to Manor. He has a couple of tattoos on his arms. His hair is thinning and light brown, his eyes were hazel and he had a normal sized nose! In all respects, the medical report seems to raise no outward physical concerns.

John’s Mental State

Quite clearly from the records, we can discern that John was confused, he had lost his sense of reason and that much of his conversation was irrelevant. He had many delusions. For example, he believed he had seen his wife the day before and that she was distressed at his absence. He said he could run from London to Liverpool in five hours. He believed that he had been bequeathed a lot of money by his father. He denied criminality, alcoholism and syphilis.

The summary of the assessment concluded ‘hereditary insanity’ and ‘syphilis’.

Thanks to the records, we already know a lot about John. So, using this evidence base, let us go back in time to understand how this man’s life took a turn for the worse and he ended his days in Manor Hospital.

John’s Parents

From other Ancestry trees for this family, we learn that John’s father, Paul de Jong, was born in Bolsward, Holland in about 1841. Later, in his will, we see that his full name was Solomon Paul de Jong but he did not use this name in any records seen except the marriage certificate and his will.

Solomon Paul married Rebecca Burton in 1866 in Liverpool. Rebecca was born in Warwickshire.

Census of 1871 

Paul and Rebecca (recorded with Young as the surname) are living in 136 Canning St, Mount Pleasant, Liverpool.  They have three children, Lucy aged 3, Samuel aged 1 and Mary E aged 5 months. Paul works as a hosier’s shopman.

We know that John was born about 1873 but it has not been possible to locate his birth precisely.

Census of 1881 

The census for 11, West Albert Road, Toxteth, Liverpool in 1881 tells us that John’s father Paul was now working as a draper’s manager and that he had been born in 1841 in Holland. His mother Rebecca was born in Warwick in 1840.

At this time, John had three sisters at home – Lucy born 1868, Mary E born in 1871 and Rebecca born c.1881. John himself was aged 8 years and was born in 1873, which would therefore make him 39 when he died, not 36 as the medical records indicate. There is a further brother, David who is aged 5.

An electoral register for 1885 confirms that the family are still at the same address.

Census of 1891 

The census for 219 Beacon Road, Kirby finds the family still together. Mary E is not listed, begging the question as to where she is. Rebecca is there aged 10. Our John is now 17 years old but he does not have a profession listed.

Where is David?  We find him living with two aunts: Constance de Jong, who is not married and is a dressmaker, and her sister Sophie who is also unmarried.  Both were also born in Holland, like their brother Solomon Paul.  The address is 24 Woolton Road, Speke. 

John travels the world

The author suspects that the following record of John’s travels are just a few of the actual journeys he made. 

There is a John de Jong who sails from Liverpool to Sydney on May 19th 1891 aboard the Drumcliffe. There is no specific evidence that this is our John. The departure date is after the census date for 1891 so it is possible but he was just 17 years old. 

Boston Bound

In 1897 there was a John de Jong aboard a ship bound for Boston from Liverpool. This John is aboard as a clerk. This may be him.

Aboard the Winfredian in 1900

It becomes very evident from the records that John did in fact, as his brother-in-law stated, travel the world.  He is listed as a steward on many vessels. It is also likely that he is listed in North American and Canadian records as incoming passengers. A researcher with access to these records might like to add details to this story.

In 1900, John sailed on the Corinthian and then on the Windfredian.

The Corinthian ran the route from Liverpool to Quebec; launched on 19/3/1900, she left Liverpool on her maiden voyage to Quebec and Montreal on 24/5/1900. It may well be that John was on this voyage.

In 1901, he was on the Derbyshire as a steward and it is listed that he was previously on the Liguria. He is also listed on the Lucania and on the St Celine.

De Jong Family in 1901

John’s family are living in 100 Caldy Road, Hoylake cum Kirby, according to the 1901 Census. Interestingly there is a son named Samuel,now aged 30 years old living with them.. He did not appear in the 1881 or 1891 census. All of the daughters are still at home, none of them married.


In 1902, John, who worked as a waiter, was aboard the Campania and earlier the Rhynland. His address is given as Milton Road, Liverpool which appears in other ship crew records too.

In 1903 he was aboard the Majestic and the Celtic.

Aboard the HMS Prince of Wales in 1904

We find John working as a saloon steward on this ship from January 1st 1904 to June 30th 1904. The captain of the ship was Thomas Roberts. Prior to that John had been aboard the Edenvale.

HMS Prince of Wales was a London-class pre-dreadnought battleship built for the Royal Navy which began active duty in 1902. Shortly after completion the ship was assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet. Prince of Wales often served as a flagship during her career.

Aboard the Ben-my-Chree in 1910

John was aboard this vessel in 1910 and we know from the crew list that he had previously sailed on the Warwickshire. He was a ship’s steward.

TSS Ben-my-Chree (III) was a passenger steamer operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company between 1908 and 1915. It had the reputation of being the best passenger vessel in the Irish Sea – what the Luisitania was to the Atlantic, Ben-my-Chree was to the Irish Sea (Daily Telegraph in 1908)

John stayed aboard the vessel under the same captain in 1911 but in between, he seems to have sailed on the Virginian.  He seems to have been on the Ben-my-Chree until the end of 1911.

The Virginian is interesting because in 1912 it became involved in the Titanic disaster.  When Titanic sank in 1912, Virginian answered her distress call and started steaming toward Titanic, but when Carpathian signalled that she was much closer to the scene, Virginian resumed her original course. One newspaper erroneously reported that Virginian had Titanic under tow, and that all aboard Titanic were safe.

John’s family in 1911

We find the family still at 100 Caldy Road, Hoylake cum Kirby. Paul lives there with his daughter Rebecca and Lucy. Rebecca senior died on February 26th 1911. Her will records,

1912 – John’s health declines

Returning now to February 1912 when John was admitted to Horton Hospital from the Lambeth Infirmary. An observational report about John on February 19th, 1912 says that he is ‘restless, excitable, apprehensive and talks to himself’. He is very emotional. His friends have reported a history of alcoholism. He has spots on his shins.

A conundrum

On March 15th the medical notes say that he was transferred on 13th  ‘to make a vacancy’. 

Then in the Lunatics Register, on March 22nd 1912, John appears to have been discharged from Horton and admitted to Toxteth Park which is in Liverpool. Toxteth is the parish to which costs for John were chargeable.

This is a surprise finding and it makes little sense to our story. There is no evidence in his notes that he was transferred away from Horton. The next date in the medical notes is March 28th. This is curious.

By April 1912, John was deteriorating quite rapidly. He is paralytic and is becoming feeble. By May he is anaemic and disorientated. 

On June 18th, the notes tell us that he is sinking and we are told that a final sick notice has been sent to his friends. According to his chronology, John died on June 23rd 1912 but in another place it says June 22nd.

John was buried on June 28th in Horton Cemetery in grave 1419b

John’s wife, Elizabeth and children

If it were not for the case notes we would know nothing of John’s wife Elizabeth. As yet, there is no evidence of a marriage nor any reference to any children.  However, this only means that more research is needed because they will be hiding somewhere.  Did the couple marry in London? They were living in Buxton which is close to Camberwell in 1912 and they had been married for 3 years. 

John stated that he had three children but the brother-in-law appears to have said that there was no family. This also needs further investigation.

His father, Solomon Paul, died on September 28th, 1919 and indeed was well off, as his son had proclaimed. The beneficiary was the daughter, Rebecca who inherited the equivalent of £1.2 million today.

There is evidence of a descendant’s tree on Ancestry – ‘Allnutt-De Jong’ family – and contact has been made with the owner.

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