Samuel Whiting 1861-?

'Charge of Fowl Stealing at Hornchurch', Essex Standard, 8th December 1888, p2, issue 3026.

'Fowl Stealing at Upminster', Essex Standard, 3rd December 1887, p6, issue 2974.

Parents: William Whiting and Elizabeth Jacobs (1)
Born: 1861(2)
Baptised: 29th September 1861 at St Mary's Church, Withersfield? (1)
Married: ?
Children: ?
Died: ?

Bio: Samuel was the first legitimate child of William and Elizabeth Whiting.

His birth is registered in Withersfield in 1861(2). What is slightly confusing is that there is no baptism recorded for him, yet there is one for a William Whiting son of William and Elizabeth in that year. There is however, no GRO birth record for William, unlike the one for Samuel. A confusion with names? I would suggest they are one and the same person. There is a son called William born in 1876.

At any rate, Samuel is the name given on the census in 1861. He is listed as being 2 months old and lives in Withersfield with his parents and half-siblings John and Susan.

The next census in 1871 finds the family still in Withersfield with Samuel's father William working as a labourer. The family now has four new additions, with a quota of seven children in total. John, Susan, Samuel, Caroline, Sarah, George and Mary Ann. Samuel is shown as a scholar here.

One interpretation of the evidence we have for Samuel after this point suggests his descent into criminal delinquency, but as is sometimes the case with tracing ancestors the problem we have with later sightings of him is proving a link back to his place of origin that will confirm his identity beyond reasonable doubt.

So what do we have? On the 1881 census there is a Samuel Whiting of the correct age, birthplace given as Haverhill, single, working as a labourer and staying as a boarder at the 'Britannia' Pub in Hornchurch, Essex. This was a large Inn which stood on the corner of High Street and North Street and was said to be one of the oldest buildings in the town. It survived until the late 1930's.

On this census, the Inn is run by Eliza Bridge, 56, a beerseller born in Mountnessing, and with her is her niece Eliza Sewell, 14, and two visitors, James Sewell, 79 who is a widower, and Sarah Steward, 63. There are four boarders, all single labourers, other than Samuel. They are Herbert Reeves, 30, Francis Williams, 33, Christopher Finch, 29, and Charles Tunbridge, 30.

The only other Samuel Whiting with a Haverhill connection was a fair bit older than this Samuel and he is accounted for on this census. It seems to me to be a good fit for the Samuel from Withersfield. Haverhill was, after all, the closest large town and it does not seem that unusual that he might refer to it as his place of origin for census purposes.

After this, the census-trail runs dry. No more entries for a Samuel Whiting of an appropriate age from the Withersfield/Haverhill area.

What we do get, however, is the mention of a Samuel Whiting from the Hornchurch area indicted on 29th November 1888(3) for the charge of stealing two live fowls. (see newspaper article on the left) It is interesting that he was previously going under the alias Holmes. The judge is outraged because apparently Samuel has already served 12 months in jail for a similar offence and that this offence was actually committed earlier than the one for which he had already served time. The result is he gets a cursory sentence of a few days after which he is to be discharged.

Could this be the same Samuel as was staying at the Britannia? The age is the same, as is the Hornchurch connection and the occupation of labourer. It seems likely.

What becomes clear is that Samuel Whiting was previously going under the name Alfred Holmes, and it is this pseudonym with which he is tried and convicted for fowl stealing with an accomplice in Upminster the previous year.(4) (second newspaper article at left). At the time of this conviction at the Chelmsford Quarter Sessions on 29th November 1887 under the name of Alfred Holmes it is mentioned he had a previous conviction for felony.(6)

It transpires that he had also served two calendar months of hard labour in 1884 for stealing three live turkeys. His alias here had been Alfred Holmes, but his correct name was given as Samuel White. He was convicted on 3rd January 1884 at the Havering-Atte-Bower Sessions in Essex.(5)

If this person is indeed our Samuel Whiting then it is no wonder he is so hard to pin down. Not only had he been using other names, but as the first newspaper article stated he had been absent from the area after his 1887 offence.

There is no further trace of Samuel I can find. If the fowl-stealer was indeed him, maybe he reinvented himself again. Name-changing might have become a hard habit to drop.

It is interesting that there is no mention of a son Samuel when his widowed mother Elizabeth's kin are recorded by the Risbridge Poor Law Union on 17th May 1907.

To be continued...

Newspaper extracts courtesy of British Library Newspapers. Click to enlarge.


(1) Suffolk Baptism Index, SFHS, Clare Deanery 1813-1900.
(2) Birth Register. 1st Quarter 1861, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 371
(3) 'Charge of Fowl Stealing at Hornchurch', Essex Standard, 8th December 1888, p2, issue 3026. C19th British Library Newspapers.
(4) 'Fowl Stealing at Upminster', Essex Standard, 3rd December 1887, p6, issue 2974. C19th British Library Newspapers.
(5) Criminal Registers 1791-1892, Class: HO 27; Piece: 197; Page: 208.
(6) Criminal Registers 1791-1892, Class: HO 27; Piece: 192; Page: 206.