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Vertical Tree View – Ancestry

We are fortunate to have a photograph of John and his Reception Order and medical notes from the London Metropolitan Actives. 

John’s parents – and a tragic death

John is named John Tyson, after his father and paternal grandfather.

John’s story starts with his parents, John Tyson senior and mother Caroline Charlotte Judd.

John Robert Tyson senior was born in Kensington to John Tyson and his wife Mary Ann Symons in the 4th quarter of 1843.

John and Mary had married in the parish church in Paddington on 25 December 1842.  I found eight children born to the couple. However, I could only find the registration of John Robert, I could not find any of the rest of the family being registered or any baptisms online. 

Caroline was born in Westminster 1841, the eldest of eight children I found to parents Richard Thomas Judd and Caroline Newman. The couple were married on 8 June 1840 at St John the Evangelist, Waterloo Road, Lambeth. Richard and his father before him were Accoutrement Makers, specialising in making Army Caps. 

John and Caroline were also married in St John the Evangelist Waterloo Road, Lambeth, on 23 July 1865. John signed his name and Caroline gave her mark with an X. The witnesses were Robert Javis, who gave his mark with an X and Eliza Wade. John is a distiller and both parties gave York Road as their abode. 

The couple make their home across the Thames from Lambeth to the Grey Coat area of Westminster. 

Booth’s maps

Two years later on 22 September 1867 Caroline was giving birth to twin boys. But not all was well. Tragically Caroline died the next day after 24 hours of convulsions. Mary Tyson, John’s mother, was present at the death at number 1, Union Court, Grey Coat Place, near Rochester Row.  Mary also registered the death.

Caroline’s death certificate

The twins’ birth certificates. The date of registration was 26 September 1867. This shows our John was born at 10.45pm and Thomas at 10.50pm. Registered by their father.

Life must have been very difficult for John senior,  losing his wife and having to manage twin boys. A few days after the birth on 27 September, the boys were privately baptised at St Stephen’s, Rochester Row, Westminster.  We don’t know who took the babies to be baptised with all that was happening to the poor family but Thomas was baptised as Henry.

If things were not hard enough, on 19th October poor Henry died for want of breast milk. It seems unthinkable today that such a terrible thing would happen to a baby. Heartbreaking. There are questions in my head as to why. The boys were baptised very quickly after birth. Was it felt they wouldn’t survive? They were possibly underweight being twins. I assume John had a wet nurse. Did Henry also? Maybe he couldn’t suckle? We will never know. 

Henry’s death certificate reads his age was 3 weeks but he was nearly 5 weeks old, in York Road workhouse (Petty France)

 I am unable to find any Petty France workhouse documents. It came under St Margaret’s and St John’s Workhouses built on the site of Vandons Almshouses in York Street. There was a report in the Lancet 1866 on St Margaret’s and St John’s workhouses. It states that the medical facilities appear to be rather limited and claim that the Petty France establishment was found to be entirely unfit for the management of severe cases of disease, with seriously ill patients being transferred to Kensington House with great cruelty frequently shown in the manner of their removal.  The report noted that the building, although of fairly recent construction, has been “condemned as thoroughly unfit for its purposes and is to be pulled down”.  The workhouse remained for another ten years and closed on 25th March 1876.

It was unpleasant to read as my own grandfather was born there on the 9th January 1872, just over 4 years after Henry died. 

Taken from the History of the workhouse by Peter Higginbothem

The 1870s

In 1870 grandmother Mary Tyson died. This must have been another blow to John senior with young John to be cared for. 

The 1871 Census finds John senior, a widower, in the home of his father John, also a widower. Fortunately, John’s sisters are still at home so they are able to help with young John’s upbringing. They are living at 36 Coburg Row. This runs parallel to Rochester Row near Grey Coats Place. 

Grandfather John is aged 57 and John senior is aged 27, both are labourers. Sarah is aged 21, Mary is aged 14 and Alice is aged 8. Also included in the census are grandchildren Eliza aged 8 and young John aged 3.

John senior found himself a wife, a widow called Elizabeth McKean née Stubbings, born 24 December 1846. They married on 20 June 1875 at St Mary’s Church, Lambeth. Elizabeth had only been married for 2 years when her husband John Hendry Bruce McKean died in 1870.  

1881 Census  

In the 1881 Census we find the Tysons living in a new abode, 54, St Margaret Terrace, close to Rochester Row, Westminster. John senior is now aged 35, a labourer, Elizabeth his wife is aged 34 and young John is now aged 14 and a scholar. There were 3 other families residing at this address. Some of Grey Coat Place still remains along with alms houses, while other parts have been redeveloped.

The death of John senior

On 3 July 1885 John died of Pulmonary Phthisis, of 11 months duration. He was 41 years old. The address given was 20 k Peabody Building, Orchard Street, Elizabeth was present at the death and is the informant on the register. 

I checked the 1891 census for 20 k Peabody buildings and Elizabeth was no longer residing at this address. 

I am unable to find John or Elizabeth after the 1881 census. Extensive search using similar sounding surnames proved unsuccessful. 

Death of Grandfather

On 22 June 1894 John’s grandfather died of Pneumonia in St George Union workhouse. His address was St Margaret’s Terrace and he had been in and out of the workhouse infirmary for several years. He was laid to rest on 27 June in Hanwell Cemetery. 

1908 – John’s health in decline

Sadly, this is the first record found for John in adulthood. He was transferred from Lambeth infirmary to Horton Asylum on 6 July 1908.

I have managed to find John’s reception order from Lambeth board of guardians in the unindexed register on ancestry .com. It reads as follows –

Dated 6 July 1908. Signed by N W Hubbard JP. (Nathaniel William Hubbard)

Statement of particulars signed by the receiving officer. F S Barham? (Hard to read signature).

John Tyson age 40. Single, occupation nil, C of E.

Abode, Rowton House Vauxhall (a men’s lodging house)

Fits, yes. 

Danger to others, yes, Strikes out at others. 

Relation, Aunt, Mary Mills, 12, Everett Street, Nine Elms.  

This is confirmation that I have the correct family as Mary née Tyson is the sister to John senior. 

The medical statement is dated 3 July 1908, Lambeth Infirmary. 

Signed by M H Quarry, (Marcus Henry Quarry, medical superintendent)

He was admitted in a filthy state. He is very noisy shouting, saying or singing(?) incoherently, has no idea as to time or place. He hears voices calling him now and is very violent when prevented from going to them. 

Alfred Finch, attendant at Lambeth Infirmary states: he is very strange and excited, struggles with those about him and shouting that he is going to be killed. 

In the admittance to Horton Asylum 6 July, John’s history has been left blank, possibly because he could not remember, or perhaps they did not ask him.

The medical notes are the same as above:

Condition on admission. (It’s very difficult to read this document). Signed by R C Turnbell

His bodily condition is poor, nourishment, poor. He is 5ft ?ins, weight 6st 13lb.

Dark brown hair and beard. Eyes Brown. 

Motor impairment – general weakness. Co-ordination poor.

His speech is slurred. Hesitating. Difficulty with commands.

Reacts badly to light.

Teeth irregular.

Most of the medical notes are quite illegible. From what I can read John is in a poor state when he arrives into the care of the workhouse and Asylum.

His consciousness is clouded, badly orientated as to place and time. Mistakes identities. Very confused in his accounts of himself.

He is underweight and has Epilepsy. He is confused, has hallucinations and hears voices, can be violent to others. 

On 13 July, J R Lord notes that John was a twin and was possibly prematurely born. 

As the months pass his seizures increase. In October he falls out of bed whilst having a seizure. Thankfully he doesn’t suffer any injuries.

6 October it’s written that ‘he is confused and irrational and shows much congenital defect’.

3 December he is transferred; he is troublesome and abusive. 

He may have gone to the infirmary as on the 30 Jan he was transferred again to make space in the infirmary. Whilst there his seizures increased and he was bedridden for a few days. 

3 February he was again in bed, with cold extremities and vomiting. On 15 February he was back in bed again with eczematous ulceration of the right groin. On 24 and 25 he had a violent seizure which left him unconscious for hours. An enema was given and he was put into a padded room. He recovered at 11am and though sullen and dazed, he returned to the dormitory. 

His health continued to decline during the next few months.

14 June he was seen by J R Lord who wrote:

He is the subject of General Paralysis of the Insane. 

He is dull, slow and somewhat resistive and cannot give a coherent account of himself and takes no interest in anything. He is wet and dirty in his habits; He has frequent Epileptiform Seizures. He is in impaired health. His pupils are unequal and do not react to lights. His swallowing is impaired and his knee jerks are greatly exaggerated. 

By the 24 July John is in a single room on a milk diet. He has Oedema (not sure where – his face is mentioned but I am unable to read all the writing).

By 29  July he has a high temperature and congestion of lungs. 

On 11 August he is getting worse, he has redness on the sacrum and has been placed on an air cushion.

Sadly, on the 12 August at 12.30am John died. A Post Mortem is held and reads as follows.

John’s cause of death was General Paralysis of the Insane, Miliary Tuberculosis of the Lungs for some months. 

He was buried in Horton Asylum on 17th August 1909 in grave no 473a. He was aged 42 when he died. 

Author’s notes

It’s been unfortunate that I haven’t been able to find John in the 1891 and 1901 Censuses. The blank page of John’s history in his admission notes has again left us without any knowledge of John’s adult life. It seems he was so confused he probably could not give them any meaningful information.

The medical notes refer to a possible premature birth and congenital defect. Does this relate to his seizures? Perhaps there was something else that is not legible in his notes. Were there complications from birth with his brother Henry, more than presumed on his death certificate?

Although John was the only living child of his father, he had several paternal and maternal aunts and uncles. 

I have researched the family and his grandparents on both sides were dead before John reached 21. He may have been close to his parental aunt Mary, but he wasn’t staying with her in the 1891 and 1901 Census returns although her address and not his stepmother’s was given in the admission notes as the relative to inform in the instance of death.

I haven’t been able to find Elizabeth. I have looked for her remarrying and in the death records without any success. It is curious that she was baptised in her adulthood after John senior died and she used her maiden name. 

Aunt Emma Woolaway née Judd (John’s mother’s sister) was married and her single brothers were living with her and her husband. Emma died at 33 and her husband remarried and the brothers seemed to be in and out of the workhouse thereafter so there was no home for John. 

There is no occupation recorded on his death certificate or his admission record yet his address was given as Rowton House, Vauxhall which was a working man’s lodging house / hostel. It cost 6d a night in the 1890’s and by 1908 it was described as being able to hold 480 working men. So, I assume John had a job to have been able to pay for his bed. There are also no records of him being destitute and having to resort to the workhouse.

This is a sad story of a man who may have had health and mental issues from birth yet who seemed to have been able to work and keep himself afloat until these issues overtook him. Tragically,  there was no alternative or medical assistance that could save him from his inevitable death. 

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