Sophia Whiting 1858-1940

Parents: Edmund Whiting and Lucy Clover
Born: July 1858 in Haverhill(1)
Baptised: ?
Married: John Russell, 25, batchelor, silk spinner, of 11 Holloway Lane, son of Alfred Russell, turner, on 11th June 1884 at St Thomas' Church, Bethnal Green.(2,3)
Children: Annie Russell b.1885 died in infancy(4), Louisa Russell b.1887(9), Hannah Russell b.1889(15), Harriet Russell b.1890(6) died in infancy, Eliza Maud Russell b.1892(8), Ruth Russell b.1894(18) died in infancy, Caroline Russell b.1895(7), John Russell b.1896(19) died in infancy, Emily Charlotte Russell b.1899(5) died in infancy(10). (according to the 1911 census: 9 Children, 2 living and 7 dead.)
Died: 9th July 1940 at St Peter's Hospital, Stepney District, of myocardial degeneration and chronic bronchitis(13)

Bio: Sophia is living at 2 Mount Square, Bethnal Green, on the 1861 census with her parents and siblings. Unlike her sisters Minnie and Caroline, Sophia stayed in London and at the time of the 1871 census is a scholar living at 10 Adelaide Square, Islington, with her Aunt Ruth, who had married Joseph Wood, a shoemaker.

On the 1881 census we see Sophia living at 10 Ann's Place, Shoreditch with the Russell family. She is listed as a servant, and is also working as a machinist.

The head of the household is Alfred P Russell, 57, a wood turner and local to the area. He has a 'wife', Ruth, 44, born in Haverhill, who in all likelihood is Sophia's Aunt Ruth. We know from the 1871 census that Alfred had been a widower before he married Ruth. They have sons Charles, John and Joseph and a daughter Maud. It seems Charles and John were Alfred's children from his previous marriage, but Charles does not appear with the Russell's on 1871 census.

It turns out that John Russell, a silk twister, marries a Mary Ann Whiting in 1884(2,3). John Russell is the witness to the marriage 5 days later of Sophia's sister Elizabeth Whiting and Henry Wastell. This 'Mary Ann' Whiting is living at 3 Virginia Row, which is actually only 4 doors down from Sophia's Aunt Sarah, (Edmund's sister) who was living at no.6 on the 1881 census.

What becomes evident when we look at parish registers and census records from this point onwards is that in fact John married Sophia and that for some reason she is known as Mary Ann on some parish registers, but Sophia on census returns and both at various points on Workhouse Creed Registers!

What is unclear is how the name Mary Ann becomes associated with Sophia. It could be that Mary Ann was part of the name Sophia was given at birth, but with no baptismal record it is hard to check this. Perhaps her birth certificate would tell us more.

The Waterloo Road Workhouse Religious Creed Registers provide a useful insight into the circumstances of the family in the following years. These registers recorded peoples age and abode as well as dates of admission and discharge to the Workhouse, and as the name suggests, religious persuasion. Click on the image at the top of the page to see the entries for the Russell family. Often the ages of the people concerned vary slightly.

What becomes clear for Sophia and John is that they must have experienced a lot of hardship and were frequently in and out of the Workhouse. They were admitted and discharged at different times from each other and their children seemed to be separated from the parents on several occasions, regularly being discharged to the care of South Leyton Union.

Sophia is known as Mary Ann when she has a child, Annie, on 3rd March 1885. The baptismal record(4) shows that her husband John was a silk twister still, and the address they were living at was 79 Virginia Row. John was admitted to the Workhouse from this address on 23rd June 1885 and remained there until 3rd July. Then he was readmitted from 30 Gossett Street on the 13th July and discharged on 1st August. Once more, he returns to the care of the Union on 9th September having been living at 1 Godfrey Place. He is released on 26th September. It seems likely his family moved with him to these different addresses.

On 9th May 1886 Sophia and Annie are admitted to the Workhouse from 41 Virginia Row and over the next two months are discharged and return several times. They are referred to as having 'no home' on the later instances.

On 14th August 1887 records show the baptism of another child, Louisa (9). John's occupation here is shoemaker, and they are living 82 Mount Street. Later that year John is admitted from the Workhouse from 3 Baker Court, Virginia Road. The next year seems a more settled one for the family with no return to Waterloo Road. In 1889 the couple had another daughter, Hannah.(15)

One could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps Sophia and Mary Ann were two different people, especially as John's profession seems to change. However, as we see the names of the children born and the children on the censuses begin to match up and the addresses too, leading us to the conclusion that they are the same person.

She is 'Mary Ann' on the baptismal record of Harriet, who appears aged one on the 1891 census. John's profession is shoemaker. At the date of baptism of Harriet on 24th August 1890(6) they are living at 53 Austin Street.

On the 1891 census both John and Sophia are living at 96 Virginia Row, Bethnal Green. John is now a boot and shoe manufacturer, and Sophia's correct birthplace of Haverhill is given. They have three children, Louisa, Ann (Hannah) and Harriet. We recognize all of these names from previous baptism entries.

When we cross reference the census with the Creed register we have more proof that Sophia was also known as Mary Ann. Here we find that on 10th April 1891 John Russell of 96 Virginia Row was admitted to Waterloo Road Workhouse. On 14th April, Mary Ann, Louisa, Hannah and Harriet were admitted from the same address.(14) Louisa and Hannah both go to South Leyton Union for some reason.

Later in 1891 the family are back at 53 Austin Street, and are admitted yet again to the Workhouse from here. This address was also the residence of Sophia's parents. The Creed Registers show Sophia's daughter Harriet having died in infancy on 12th October 1891.(16)

The Russell family do not appear on the registers of Waterloo Road Workhouse after 1891. This could mean more prosperous times, or more realistically that they came under the charge of a different Poor Law Union.

Eliza Maud Russell is born on 5th August 1892, and baptised on 29th August.(8) Her mother is known as Sophia here, and John's trade is 'boot work'. At this point they were living at 24 Maidstone Street.

Another child Caroline, is born on 16th July 1895(7), and Mary Ann is the given name of her mother. John is a bootmaker. They are living at 7 Dyssell Street, Hackney.

Then, when daughter Emily Charlotte Russell is baptised on 1st October 1899 her mother's name is Sophia.(5) The address of their abode is still 7 Dyssell Street, and John's occupation shoemaker, so here is yet more solid evidence that Sophia was known by two names.

The 1901 census is the first of two where John no longer appears in the household although Sophia is still referred to as being married.

Sophia is still at 7 Dyssell Street on this census, but her occupation is not given. She has three daughters living with her, Eliza, who is 8, Carrie (Caroline), 5, and Emily, 1.

The 1904 electoral registers show a Mary Ann Russell living at 7 Dyssell Street.(11)

The 1911 census entry for Henry and Elizabeth Wastell nee Whiting provides the location of Sophia's whereabouts at this time. Elizabeth was Sophia's sister. We see them living at 22 Hilcott Street, Shoreditch, where Henry is a commode maker, and Elizabeth a button maker.

Living with them is Sophia Russell, match box maker. She is referred to as still being married, and having been married for exactly the same length of time as her sister, 28 years. We also get to find out that she has had 9 children, of which only 2 are still alive. No clues as to where John is at this point.

On the 1920 Electoral register(11) we make an interesting discovery. John is living with Sophia again, this time at 25 Market Row, Hackney. The same for the following year.

In 1922 we see John and Sophia this time also living with Elizabeth and Henry, again at 25 Market Row. In 1923 Sophia is living with Elizabeth and Henry, but John is not present. Lo and behold, we find the death of a John Russell of the correct age in the Bethnal Green district (Hackney and Bethnal Green districts were adjacent with boundary changes occurring around this time) in 1923.(12)

Sophia stays at 25 Market Row until about 1930. The Electoral register shows her here with Elizabeth and Henry and also her daughter Eliza.

Then it seems she moves to 183 Amhurst Road. She's here on the 1934 Electoral roll with her daughter Caroline, and next year at the same address on her own.

On the 1939 Register it seems very likely she was living at 4 Hilborough Road, Shoreditch, in the Cope household with Robert and Kezia Cope and their son Robert. Sophia is listed as a widowed, unpaid domestic worker, and her birth year tallies(17).

Sophia was living at 22 Pownall Road, Shoreditch, when she died of myocardial degeneration and chronic bronchitis aged 81 on 9th July 1940 at St Peter's Hospital, which used to be Whitechapel Union Infirmary(13) She is described as being the widow of John Russell, and the informant was J Fosh (probably Albert Joseph Fosh), of 86 Albion Drive, Shoreditch, Sophia's nephew and son of her sister Ruth. Sophia's address at the time of death was the house that Ruth can be seen living in after the war. St Peter's hospital took a couple of direct hits from bombing during the war, and was forced to close as the result of a hit by a V1 flying bomb in 1944 (20).

Click on image at top of screen to see entries for the Russell family in the Creed Register of Waterloo Road Workhouse


(1) Birth register. 3rd Quarter 1858, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 326.
(2) London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Thomas, Bethnal Green, Register of marriages, P72/TMS, Item 026
(3) Marriage Register. 2nd Quarter 1884, Bethnal Green, Volume 1c Page 646.
(4) London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Thomas, Bethnal Green, Register of baptisms, P72/TMS, Item 002
(5) London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Bartholomew, Dalston, Register of baptisms, P91/BAT, Item 001
(6) London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Philip, Bethnal Green, Register of baptisms, P72/PHI, Item 006
(7) London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Mark, Dalston, Register of baptisms, P91/MRK2, Item 003
(8) London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Augustine, Haggerston, Register of baptisms, P91/AUG, Item 003
(9) London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Philip, Bethnal Green, Register of baptisms, P72/PHI, Item 006
(10) Death Register. 2nd Quarter 1901. Hackney District, Volume 1b Page 279
(11) Electoral Registers. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives.
(12) Death Register. 1st Quarter 1923, Bethnal Green District, Volume 1c Page 136
(13) Death Register. 3rd Quarter 1940, Stepney District, Volume 1c Page 244, GRO PDF cert.
(14) Board of Guardians, Religious Creed Registers, Waterloo Road Workhouse, Bethnal Green, 1887-91, BEBG/290/008
(15) Birth Register. 3rd Quarter 1889, Bethnal Green District, Volume 1c Page 249.
(16) Board of Guardians, Religious Creed Registers, Waterloo Road Workhouse, Bethnal Green, 1891-94, BEBG/290/009
(17) 1939 Register, RG101/0504A/012/18 Letter Code: ATND,
(18) Birth Register. 2nd Quarter 1894, Hackney District, Volume 1b Page 467
(19) Birth Register. 4th Quarter 1896, Hackney District, Volume 1b Page 497