GeneaBloggers

Monday, 15 August 2016

Blogs as Genealogical Sources


Many people publish their family history stories or research on a blog, or some other type of Web site. Why aren’t these searched by the large genealogical providers? Is there a problem, or simply a lack of vision? This should be a win-win possibility.

Apparently, some time ago, Ancestry used to search blog material, but their concept had a number of fundamental problems:

  • The material was searched without the permission of the owners.
  • The content was copied and so diverted traffic away from the original blogs.
  • The search was based on simple name matches, or other word matches.

So isn’t there a way of doing this with the permission of the owners, and not by copying the material to a separate location, and better integrating with their normal search function? Yes of course there is!

I actually made a suggestion to them that they allow members to voluntarily list the links to their blog or Web articles, together with relevant meta-data for the referenced individuals and their relationships. This meta-data would be essential if their search had solicited information from the end-user such as a name, place-of-birth, date-of-birth, parent names, spouse name, etc.

So what’s different here? Well, the meta-data allows a more functional search operation, and doesn’t require them to copy and pre-index the raw text of the articles. Also, the end-user would be directed to the actual blog rather than a copy of it if they selected an associated match. All Ancestry would retain is the URL link and the associated meta-data, and no copying also means no copyright issues.

Surely, this sounds like the win-win that it should be. Ancestry would have more sources to search, and for zero cost other than for providing the corresponding software; members get increased traffic on those blogs from other researchers, thus increasing collaboration. Lastly, it would be entirely voluntary and so there would be no licensing issues. A search through a new category of, say, “Members’ Articles” (or implied by “Search All Records”) would show links to online articles that are relevant to the current search criteria.

 So why can't this be done by simply attaching an article to an existing tree?

  • The author may prefer to write research articles rather than maintaining trees.
  • The article may already be published on a separate site or blog.
  • The article may reference people from several distinct families, and so a single tree would not suffice.
  • Some references may be to "incidental people" where no lineage information is available, and yet the article could provide invaluable historical context for them.

Also, you would still need meta-data to support a genealogical search rather than a plain text search. For instance, in my previous blog A Sad Career, I could indicate that Ellen Poland also went under the names Helen Polin and Elenor Polin. Also, that her parents were Owen Polin (aka MacPolin) and Rosanna Polin (aka Poland, and with many given-name variants). As well as providing basic “facts” such as names, date-of-birth, etc., the meta-data would also indicate relationships to other individuals referenced in the corresponding article such as a spouse or parents. This FOAF (Friend of a Friend) concept will one-day be a basic tenet of Web sites and blogs, but for now it would have to be done by the genealogical provider.

Obviously there would have to be a way of avoiding misuse, such as offensive material or advertising, but that sort of moderation must already occur in their message boards.

This suggestion follows quite naturally from previous work I have been involved in with STEMMA.  Our Days of Future Passed — Part II discussed the importance of narrative generally, and especially of marked-up narrative. Before that, What to Share, and How - Part II tried to explain how a STEMMA file contained different types of data, including lineage and other relationships that could be used as meta-data. However, the watered-down scheme presented here is achievable now, using standard technologies.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

A Sad Career



Some stories are told because they’re interesting, or because they’re relevant to our families or our histories. But some stories are told because they want to be told. What do I mean by this?

I want to try and tell the story of a young woman from the 19th Century whose life had descended a self-destructive downward spiral. Her young life was in chaos until it was finally taken away from her at the age of 31, but what might have driven her to this? Who was she, and where did she come from?

The story begins in 1871 with two relatives of mine: Edwin (38) and Hannah (34) Elliott, living at 1 Bag Lane (Court 3), Derby. Edwin was an iron-works labourer. Lodging with them was a 20-year-old Ellen Poland, a cotton mill hand from Nottingham.[1] Ellen was no relation to Edwin and Hannah that I’m aware of, but a distant cousin of mine, Jim Elliott, said he had noticed several newspaper references to her, mostly in the context of drunkenness and prostitution, and that she might be worth researching.

Although the census indicated that she was born in Nottingham in c1850, I could see no obvious birth or baptism for her. Also, I couldn’t see her in the preceding census years. Clearly I was going to have to work at this. She was in the subsequent 1881 census, though. She was boarding, along with several other lodgers and boarders, at 3 Providence Court, Nottingham, just below York Court off Millstone Lane, and her occupation was a silk mill hand.[2] Unfortunately, this was also the year that she died and so the census alone wasn’t going to reveal much about her.

Luckily, there was more than enough material reported in the newspapers to get a picture of her life. The following is a chronological list of the mentions of Ellen in the Nottingham and Derby newspapers.

[1861, Nottm.] Ellen Poland, about eleven years of age, and Margaret Burne, about twelve, were charged with stealing a small fancy basket, the property of Mr. Wm. H. Watts, 9, Angel Row. — A shopman of Mr. Watts's identified the basket as part of of [sic] his master's property, and pointed out to the Mayor the private mark. — The Mayor said that he should remand the two girls to Wednesday. Mrs. Poland asked if the Bench was going to remand her child without making any inquiries? — P.c. Birken said he was told that the prisoner Burne had brought a basket home, which he believed was stolen. He understood she was out all night with a pipeclay boy. — The girl Poland said "she was sleeping in a pump next her house." She could have gone home if she liked. Margaret Burne asked her to take the basket, and lent her her [sic] cloak and then she took it. It was on Thursday. — The children were remanded to Wednesday.[3]

 [1865, Nottm.] Ellen Poland and Esther Hallett, two young women, were charged with stealing a pair of boots, the property of Mr. Samuel Smith, Exchange Row, Nottingham. It appeared that on the 28th of July the prisoners were taken into custody at Radford on a charge of stealing a pair of boots, and Inspector Ratcliffe noticed that one of them was at the time wearing another new pair, and on interrogating them they told him they been purchased at Nottingham, He afterwards made inquiries in Nottingham, and found that they had been stolen from the prosecutor's shop. The prisoners were committed to prison for a month on the first charge, and they had been brought from the county prison this morning. They pleaded guilty to the present charge, and were committed for two months.[4]

Her wildness was evident even from the age of eleven. These two early reports were in Nottingham, but somewhere between 1865 and 1867 subsequent reports switched to Derby. Their content also switched from theft to drunkenness, riotous behaviour, and prostitution.

Prostitution in c1880
Figure 1 – Prostitution in c1880.[5]

[1867, Derby] Ellen Poland, a prostitute, was charged with being drunk and riotous in Devonshire-street, at a quarter to two this morning. — She was cautioned and liberated.[6]

[1869, Derby] Ellen Poland, a prostitute, was charged with having been guilty of riotous and indecent conduct on the London-road, at one o'clock that morning. — Police-constable Lowe found the prisoner near the top of St. Peter's-street first; he cautioned her to go away as she was drunk and screeching, but she did not do so, and he locked her up. — The prisoner had been many times previously convicted, and was now sentenced to 14 days' hard labour.[7]

[1869, Derby] Ellen Poland, a prostitute, was charged by police-constable Martin with behaving in a riotous and indecent manner in Bag-lane, at a quarter to one o'clock on Sunday morning. She was very drunk. — One month, with hard labour.[8]

[1870, Derby] A woman of loose habits, named Ellen Poland, admitted being helplessly drunk in Bag-lane on Thursday evening, and was fined 5s. and costs.[9]

[1870, Derby] Disorderly Conduct. — Ellen Poland was sentenced to one month's imprisonment with hard labour as a common and disorderly prostitute.[10]

[1872, Derby] Ellen Poland, charged with having been helplessly drunk in an entry in Copeland-street, at four o'clock on Thursday morning, was set at liberty on promising to go home to her mother at Nottingham.[11]

Notice that the Court made her promise to go back to her mother. Although Ellen was 22 by this time — an adult — they clearly decided that she needed guidance and a stable home given her previous record.

[1872, Derby] Ellen Poland, an old offender, was charged with being drunk in Sadter-gate [Sadler-gate], between nine and ten o'clock on Wednesday morning, and using obscene language. — Police constable Wright proved the case. — Committed for seven days with hard labour.[12]

[1875, Derby] A Young Woman Charged With Assault. — Ellen Poland, a young woman, was charged with assaulting Joseph Toplis. — Police-constable Robinson was in Albert-street on Saturday night, when the defendant said she would give Toplis into custody, but had no sooner uttered the words than she struck Toplis on the mouth. — As the complainant did not appear prisoner was discharged.[13]

Although the next report was from Nottingham again, it was not related to the previous court judgement, some three years before, and was an isolated report. What it shows is that she had not run away from home entirely, and that she did return on occasion.

[1875, Nottm.] Ellen Poland, for being drunk and disorderly in Leen-side on Saturday evening, on pleading guilty was fined 10s.[14]

[1876, Derby] A Confirmed Drunkard. — A woman named Ellen Poland was charged with being drunk and disorderly in the Corn Market, on Friday night. This being her seventeenth appearance, she was committed to prison for 321 days, with hard labour.[15]

[1876, Derby] Her Nineteenth Appearance. — Ellen Poland, an abandoned character, was in custody for being drunk in Sadler gate on Saturday. — This was her nineteenth appearance for drunkenness, and she was committed to gaol for 14 days' in default of paying a fine of 10s. and costs.[16]

The following incident was widely reported between the 8th and 19th of August 1876: A client of Ellen’s was found dead in her bed one morning. This must have bestowed some notoriety on her.

[1876, Derby] A navvy named Henry Porter was found dead in bed at a house of ill-fame in Willow-row, Derby, last Sunday week. It appears that the man has for some time been at work on the new line of railway which is being constructed by the Great Northern Company at Breadsall. He came to Derby Saturday afternoon, and in the evening met with a prostitute named Ellen Poland, at a beerhouse kept by a man named Hemmings, in Bold-lane. They visited a number of public houses together, and the man became greatly intoxicated. On Sunday morning Poland was greatly alarmed to find the man lying by her side quite dead. A post-morten examination of the body was made on Monday evening. The deceased is a native of Rothley, near Leicester, and has been in the army. He is between 30 and 40 years of age. On Tuesday, the Coroner or Derby held an inquest upon the body. Mr. William Lliffe, surgeon, who had made a post-mortem examination of the body, said there were no marks of violence upon it, and the cause of death was rupture of the auricle of the heart, which was the verdict of the jury.[17]

To the courts, however, her notoriety was due to the sheer number of her convictions.

 [1876, Derby] An Old Offender. — Ellen Poland was charged with being a common prostitute, and with disorderly conduct in Siddals-road, on Tuesday night. Since 1867 she has been before the Bench 20 times. — Sentenced to 14 days' imprisonment, with hard labour.[18]

 [1877, Derby] Ellen Poland was charged with being drunk in Cheapside. — Police-constable Macdermott said the prisoner was very violent on being apprehended. — Having been convicted 21 times previously, she was fined 20s. and costs, or one month's imprisonment, with hard labour.[19]

 [1877, Derby] Ellen Poland and Kate Caveney, in their absence, were fined 10s. and costs, or 14 days' imprisonment, for loitering in Sadler-gate. — Poland has been convicted 13[?] times before and Caveney three times.[20]

Her final newspaper mention was in 1881, at the age of 31, and it described the coroner’s inquest into her sudden death. Her death was in her home town of Nottingham, and so presumably on one of her home visits.

 [1881, Nottm.] Last evening Mr. A. Browne, Deputy Borough Coroner, held inquest at the Ten Bells Inn, Narrow-marsh, upon the body of Ellen Poland, 31 years of age, who died suddenly. — Rosanna Poland, living at 6, Newcastle-street, stated that she was the mother of the deceased. For some time she had been at Derby, having never lived at home continuously since she was eleven years of age. Witness could never keep her at home and had spent a fortune upon her. She was educated at one of the best schools in Nottingham. During the last twelve months witness refused to see the deceased, although she knew she came to Nottingham on Saturday. She believed the deceased had been in the habit of drinking to excess, although she had not seen it herself. — Harriet May, living at 30, Lee's-yard, stated that the deceased had lived with her since last Saturday. The deceased had been drinking ever since, and had been in a more or less state of intoxication nearly the whole of the time. On the previous day she was not so bad, having only had two cans of ale. About two o'clock in the afternoon she went to bed, saying she felt unwell. About half-past six o'clock the same evening, however, witness found the deceased lying dead on the bed. She told witness she had been living with a young man at Derby, that she had left him through having had some words, but that as he bad been very kind to her she intended going back. — Mr. Thomas Geraty, surgeon, stated that he did not know the deceased during her lifetime. Since her death he had made a post-mortem examination of the body. She appeared to have suffered from chronic drunkenness, and her heart was diseased. Her stomach was chronically inflamed, and to all appearance she was a person who had been much addicted to drink. Her liver was becoming diseased in consequence. The immediate cause of death was an obstruction to the flow of blood to the heart. Drink would accelerate this, although it might happen in the case of a person who did not take intoxicating liquor. At the same time, the deceased was gradually dying through the effects of drink. He did not think she was a person who drank regularly, but spasmodically. — The Deputy Coroner said it was a very painful case. The mother of the deceased seemed to be a very respectable woman, and very naturally felt the case very keenly. At the same time, the jury must do their duty. A verdict was returned that the "Deceased died through excessive drinking."[21]

There are several interesting aspects to this report. Firstly, it provides a name and address for her mother. However, it also says much about her life: she was not particularly deprived, having been educated at “one of the best schools in Nottingham”; she was not an habitual drinker, but rather drank to excess on specific occasions (what we’d now call binge drinking); she was in some sort of steady relationship with a man; there was clearly an issue between Ellen and her mother as there was no recent contact, even though she visited Nottingham each Saturday. Note that in the 1881 census, Ellen’s address was only about 200 yards to the east of her mother’s address.

Pub scene, 1879
Figure 2 – Pub scene, 1879.[22]

Looking for the address of 6 Newcastle Street in the 1881 census reveals a widow named Hannah Poland, which may have been an informal version of her given name (Rosanna) or an enumerator error. She was a milliner, born c1825 (age 56) in Newry, in the north of Ireland, on the border between counties Down and Armagh.[23] There were still many questions, such as who was her husband, where were the family before the 1871 census, and why did Ellen go to Derby?

Her mother wasn’t at the same address in 1871, and her name didn’t immediately show up in a search. However, a breakthrough was provided by the baptism transcriptions for Nottinghamshire. An initial search for variations of Rosanna Poland yielded the following group of baptisms, in the Nottingham St. Barnabas R.C. parish, under slight variations of the surname.

Birth
Baptism
Given name
Father’s name
Mother’s name
29 Aug 1844
31 Aug 1844
Daniel
Owen Poland
Rosa Anne Carr
6 Mar 1849
8 Mar 1849
John
Owen MacPolin
Rose Ann Carr
7 Apr 1850
14 Apr 1850
Helen
Owen Polin
Rosan Carr
6 Mar 1852
14 Mar 1852
Daniel John
Owen Polin
Rose Ann Carr
8 Mar 1854
13 Mar 1854
Mary Ann Eliza
Owen Polin
Rose Carr
24 May 1856
1 Jun 1856
Alice Mary
Hugh Polin
Rose Ann Carr
Table 1 – Polin/Poland baptisms at Nottingham St. Barnabas.[24]

Despite the name variations, they are obviously for the same couple, and there we see Ellen’s baptism, under the variation Helen Polin.

As reported in My Ancestor Changed Their Surname, this Roman Catholic parish routinely included the mother’s maiden name, and so it appears, at first sight, as though the couple were not married. Carr is a known Irish name but why the Poland/Polin duality? I eventually found that Poland is a variant of Polin, which is in turn an Anglicised form of the original Irish Mac Póilín,[25] It is uncertain whether Hugh was a transcription or clerical error, or an accepted pseudonym; it does not show up anywhere else in this research.

Knowing the names of both husband and wife meant it was then possible to find they were married in 1843,[26] and that would mean that Daniel was probably their first-born. Interestingly, there was no parish record of this marriage and so it was probably just a civil registration. This might be explained if they were newly-arriving Roman Catholics and hadn’t settled in an associated parish.

This all yielded more name variations than you could shake a stick at, but it was enough to find the family in the earlier census years.

Name
Role
Status
Sex
Age
Birth year
Occupation
Place of birth
Owen
Head
Mar.
M
53
1818
Travelling draper
Co. Down, Ireland
Rocean
Wife
Mar.
F
48
1823

Co. Down, Ireland
Mary A.
Daughter

F
15
1856

Nottingham
Alice
Daughter

F
13
1958
Cap hand
Nottingham
Owen
Son

M
11
1860
Cap hand
Nottingham
Table 2 – 1871: Polin family. Trent Street, Nottingham.[27]

Owen’s occupation of “travelling draper” may explain why Ellen spent many years in Derby, about 15 miles west of Nottingham. Mary A. must be the Alice Mary in the baptism data. The given name of Owen’s wife, here, could be a very badly spelled version of Roseanne, or a phonetic attempt at the Irish name Róisín (pronounced “roh-sheen”).

Name
Role
Status
Sex
Age
Birth year
Occupation
Place of birth
Owen
Head
Mar.
M
45
1816
Travelling draper
Co. Down, Ireland
Roseanna
Wife
Mar.
F
37
1824

Co. Down, Ireland
Ellen
Daughter

F
11
1850

Nottingham
Mary A.
Daughter

F
8
1853

Nottingham
Alice
Daughter

F
6
1855

Nottingham
Owen
Son

M
1
1860

Nottingham
Table 3 – 1861: Polin family. St. Ann's Road, Nottingham.[28]

Name
Role
Status
Sex
Age
Birth year
Occupation
Place of birth
Owen
Head
Mar.
M
50
1801
Lace dealer
Co. Down, Ireland
Rosa anne
Wife
Mar.
F
28
1823

Co. Down, Ireland
Anne
Daughter

F
4
1847

Nottingham
Elenor
Daughter

F
11m
1851

Nottingham
Bridget Welch
Servant

F
20
1831
House servt
Co.Mayo, Ireland
Table 4 – 1851: Polin family. Kent Street, Nottingham.[29]

So, to add yet another name variation, Ellen may also have been known by Elenor. Children such as John and Daniel were missing from these earlier years and so it must be assumed that they died before 1851. Notice that they had a house servant, implying that they weren’t poverty-stricken.

If Owen and Rosanna married in 1843 then we might expect to see Rosanna in 1841 under her maiden name, but that doesn’t appear to be so. Owen was a “traveler”, aged 36, living on Clare Street in the household of an Arthur O’Hare. Also in that household were who appeared to be his brother and sister-in-law, Peter and Margaret, both 25 years old.[30] However, Rosanna was using the surname Poland — her preferred version of Polin — living on Parliament Street as a 24-year-old “F. S.” (female servant) in the household of Thomas Bishop.[31] Although the census implies that she was a native of Nottingham, it is clear that she was the same Rosanna.

Whatever the reason for her using her married name ahead of time, this information shows that they were already in Nottingham by 1841. This is important because it means they hadn’t left Ireland as a result of the famine hitting Co. Down in 1845.

Finally, let’s return to the newspapers and see what can be found about the parents. The following reports were all in the Nottingham and Derby papers.

[1849, Nottm.] Inquests Before The Town Coroner. — … On the same day [26th ult.], at the Horse and Chaise, on the body of John Polin, infant son of Owen Polin, of Kent-street, travelling draper. The deceased had been unwell since its birth, and on the morning of the inquest it was found dead in bed. Verdict, "Natural causes." [32]

This must be the John Polin listed in the baptism data, above, and so he would have only been about two months old.

We’ve already seen that Owen was a travelling draper, but his business ran into difficulties during 1853.

 [1853, Nottm. Insolvents] Owen Polin, Nottingham, dealer in drapery.[33]

 [1853, Nottm. Insolvents] Owen Polin, Nottingham, dealer in drapery, County Court, Nottingham.[34]

[1853, Nottm.] In the Matter of the Petition of Owen Polin, formerly of Kent-street, afterwards of Chandler's-lane, both in the town of Nottingham, Lace Dealer and Dealer in Drapery, and now in lodgings at Mr. Dickinson's, in Newcastle-street, in the said town of Nottingham, Dealer in Drapery, NOTICE is hereby given, that the County Court of Nottinghamshire, at Nottingham, acting in the matter of this Petition, will proceed to make a Final Order thereon, at the said Court, on the 29th day of September instant, at nine o'clock in the forenoon precisely, unless cause be then and there shewn to the contrary.[35]

 [1853, Nottm.] Owen Polin of Chandler's Lane, Nottingham, draper. This insolvent received his final order, the opposition adjourned from the last court day being withdrawn.[36]

Owen appeared to be out of work for a number of years, and the couple were obviously under some stress.

[1854, Nottm.] An Aged Offender. — Ann Moore, 65, Cross Court, was charged with stealing a number of articles of wearing apparel, the property of Owen Poland. Remanded until Friday.[37]

[1856, Nottm.] Assaulting a Wife. — Owen Polin, 40, describing himself a traveller, living in Kent Street, was brought up by policeman No. 47, who apprehended him last night about eight o'clock, near his own house, for being disorderly and assaulting his wife.
The officer said that while on duty in St. John's Street, a person came to him and said he was wanted in Kent Street, where a man was beating his wife with the poker. He went accordingly, and found on arriving at the spot that the complainant wished to go into the house and the defendant was keeping her out; and he began to beat her again in his presence. He saw nothing of a poker.
Defendant: I had had a little drink.
The Mayor: That is no mitigating circumstance, but rather makes your case worse.
The complainant, who had a black eye, said that her husband came home in a state of intoxication, and she remonstrated with him, telling him he ought not to come home in such a state, especially when he was out of employment. The defendant then immediately struck her. She said she never saw the poker, and asserted that the blow was given with his fist. She did not, however, wish to press the charge to a conviction against him, but hoped that the circumstance of his being brought before the magistrates would act as a warning to him.
A young woman, who was present as witness, said, in answer to the bench, that she saw the defendant with a poker in his hand. He did not actually strike her with it, but would have done so had she not evaded the blow and ran away. Upon missing her he slipped down and cut his head against the door.
Complainant: When he gets a little drunk he is really like a lunatic.
The Mayor: Has he beaten you before?
Complainant (with some hesitation): No, sir.
The Mayor: That is such a feeble "no," that I have much doubt whether it is so.
At the earnest request of his wife the bench said they would not convict him under the Aggravated Assaults Act, but would order him to find sureties to keep the peace for three months, and pay the costs, amounting to 10s.[38]

Rosanna worked as a market trader handling fabrics such as lace. Although we cannot be certain that Owen was similarly involved, there is a later report about him working without a hawker’s licence.

 [1857, Nottm.] Breach of the Peace. — A very decently-dressed woman, named Rosanna Polin, appeared in answer to a summons charging her with having committed a breach of the peace in the Butter Market on Saturday last. It appeared that the defendant is a peripatetic [travelling] lace merchant, frequenting Nottingham market, her stock-in-trade being displayed within the circumference of an umbrella, and her announcements that she is selling real Honiton [lace] at "a penny a yard" are not only of an extremely vociferous character, but they frequently cause a crowd of people to assemble around her who do not conduct themselves in the most orderly manner in taking advantage of the "opportunity of purchasing goods at an alarming sacrifice;" and this would seem to have been the case on Saturday last. In answer to the charge, Mrs. Polin said she had sold lace in Nottingham market for the last twelve or thirteen years, and as long as other people continued to call out the wares they had for sale, she would do the same. The magistrates recommended her not to persist in that course. They did not wish to press the case, and if she would pay the expenses, express contrition, and promise not to offend again, they would allow the matter to drop. The clerk to the magistrates told her that she could also be proceeded against for committing an offence against the Bye Laws, which stipulated that if any party, except an auctioneer or other licensed person, shall cry goods for sale, he shall be liable to a penalty. The defendant, who did not appear to like the idea of giving up what she deemed to be her rights, ultimately complied with the conditions named, and was discharged.[39]

[1857, Derby] Stealing Ribbons. — Mary Moore, a respectable looking young woman, was brought up charged with stealing some pieces of ribbon from the stall of Rosanna Poland in the New Market on the day pervious. — Police-constable Stanesby deposed that on the afternoon previous prosecutrix came to him and charged the prisoner with having robbed her stall of some ribbons. He took her into custody, and on searching her under her arm he found concealed the pieces of ribbon produced. — prosecutrix  resides at Nottingham, and having to attend the market of that town on Saturdays she was not present to give evidence to-day, consequently the prisoner was bailed until Monday, on which day it was stated she would be present.[40]

The above report shows that they travelled to Derby to trade in the markets there.

 [1857, Nottm.] A decently attired young girl complained to the borough magistrates on Tuesday, about a Mrs. Rosanna Polin having found and retained 1s. 6d. of her money. Mrs. Polin has a stall in the market where she disposes of ribbons, lace, &c. It will perhaps be remembered that a short time ago she was brought before the magistrates and punished for calling attention to her commodities in rather too vociferous a manner. The complainant in the present case stated that on Saturday night she was standing at Mrs. Polin's stall, looking at some ribbons. She made no purchase, but after she had proceeded a few yards from the stall she found her money was 1s. 6d. short, and on returning she heard that Mrs. Polin had picked up 1s. 6d. from amongst the ribbons. Mrs. Polin refused to give this up when requested, asserting that it must be her own money, as she herself was three shillings short. — The girl's statement was confirmed by other witnesses. — Mrs. Polin entered into a long explanation, with a view of showing that the money she had found was really her own. — The Mayor said he had no doubt but that the girl had lost her money as she stated, and that Mrs. Polin had found it, and he therefore advised her to return the 1s. 6d., and at the same time expressed his regret that he could not make an order for some compensation to be awarded to the witnesses for their loss of time. — After some hesitation and remonstrance the 1s. 6d. was restored to the owner.[41]

[1857, Nottm.] Charge of Assault. — Mrs. Rosannah Polin, a lady lace merchant, carrying on business in Nottingham market and elsewhere, who has figured before the magistrates on one or two recent occasions, again made her appearance — bedecked in all the hues of the rainbow, her raiment displaying a most extraordinary combination of colour; being, in fact, an "awful swell" — to answer the charge of having assaulted her neighbour, Mrs. Bridget Hughes, on Saturday the 30th ult. From the statement of the complainant it appeared that, about one o'clock in the morning of the day named, the defendant paid a visit to her (the complainant's) house while in “a state of beer," and as she entered her husband told her to shut the door after her, instead of doing which, however, she set it wide open. Mrs. Hughes closed it, and Mrs. Polin opened it again. This performance was repeated several times: words ensued, and, as is very frequently the case, blows followed, Mrs. Polin being the aggressor. It was elicited by Mr. Cowley, jun., who appeared for the defendant, that the latter went to the complainant's house respecting a small account due to her, and that, when she was about to leave, Mrs. Hughes planted herself against the door, and prevented her. Considering both parties equally to blame, the magistrate directed the costs to be divided, and they were discharged.[42]

[1860, Nottm.] Rosanna Polin then stepped forward and charged Mary Caffray [accused of pick-pocketing in previous paragraph] with assaulting her. She stated that she was sitting in a public-house near Midland Railway Station, when the accused came in and asked her why she (prosecutrix) had said she had been convicted of a felony, at the same time striking her a severe blow in the face, and discolouring her eye and cheek. — Mary Caffray admitted the assault, but urged as a justification that Rosanna Polin, as soon as she attempted to purchase some articles in the shop, said "That woman has been convicted of felony;" to which she replied, "Very well, and if I was, take that," at the same time striking her in the face. — The bench ordered the accused to enter into her own recognisance to keep the peace for three months.[43]

 [1861, Nottm.] Owen Polin, of Nottingham, was charged by police constable Thomas Gibson with hawking without a license, at Kirkby-in-Ashfield, on the 21st inst. Fined £2 10s. and costs, or one month's imprisonment.[44]

During November 1861, there was a lengthy report of a case, tried before a petty jury, of Harriett Picard stealing three pieces of net lace. Also, of Sarah Guest and Maria Guest receiving the lace, knowing that it was stolen. Rose Ann Poland was mentioned several times as offering to sell the lace.[45]

[1862, Nottm.] Rosanna Poland appeared to answer the charge of having on the 30th April, unlawfully assaulted and beaten Sarah Wakefield. The parties are stall keepers in the market, and on the day in question a "row" took place between them, as to the other one taking up new ground usually occupied by the other..According to the testimony of a gardener named Lowater, who has a standing in the market, he heard and saw an altercation between the parties, during which Mrs. Poland made use of the most obscene and filthy language towards Mrs. Wakefield. — John Key, framework-knitter, also deposed to Mrs. Poland's misconduct. — Mr. brothers, superintendent of the market, stated that Mrs. Poland's conduct had been so bad, that she had been ordered to leave the market. — The bench said she must pay expenses and find sureties to keep the peace for the next three months, or in default go to gaol.[46]

In 1865, Owen Polin also appeared on an election poll-sheet for the Nottingham Exchange Ward. He was described as a traveller of Trent Road.[47] This is significant because until 1867 you had to be a property owner in order to vote.

 [1874, Nottm] Extraordinary Behaviour Of a Drunken Female — Rosanna Poland was charged by P.c Toon with being drunk and disorderly in Trent-street, Canal-street. It appeared that the prisoner was in a state of intoxication, and was throwing glasses at the persons passing by. She used some disgusting language, shouted at the top of her voice, and said she would let them know she had come home. She also threw a chamber utensil on a gentleman passing by, and flung everything she could lay hold of into the street. — This being her ninth appearance at the Court, she was sent to gaol for a month with hard labour.[48]

From these reports, it can be seen that Owen had his own business, although it floundered, and that he owned property. Combined with the fact that they had a house servant, and that Rosanna claimed Ellen was sent to “one of the best schools”, then we know that the family were not poor. However, these last reports also demonstrate that Rosanna had a rough edge to her, and had appeared in court some nine times herself. They would appear to have been a family intent on social climbing, although their roots were showing.

Ellen’s episodic drinking could be linked to a desire for fun and friendship when she felt none at home. Her “sad career” in prostitution may have helped with her subsistence but could also have begun as a relationship issue. The trouble in her final relationship with an unnamed man in Derby may have upset her to the point where she finally drank herself to death.

Her father died in 1877, aged 64,[49] four years before her own death, and her mother in 1889, aged 68.[50] They were both interred in Nottingham's privately-run General Cemetery, thus supporting the picture of their good finances. The records for their burials yield considerable information about deaths of young children in their family.

The memorial inscription database yields the following details.

Name
Death
Age
Sec.
Inscription
Ann Polin
9 Apr 1853
7y
06

David John Polin
30 Nov 1852
9m
06
Son of Owen and Rose Ann POLIN
Daniel Polin
26 Apr 1849
5y
06
} Beloved children of Owen and Rose Ann POLIN
John Polin
26 Apr 1849
7w
06
}
Table 5 – Memorial inscriptions for Polin family.[51]

However, the associated burial register provides yet more names.

Name
Burial
Death
Rosannah Poland
18 Oct 1889
Unrecorded
Ellen Poland
19 Dec1881
Unrecorded
Owen Polin
31 Oct 1877
Unrecorded
Thomas Daniel John Polin
7 Aug 1859
2 Aug 1859
Ann Polin
12 Apr 1853
9 Apr 1853
Daniel John Polin
5 Dec 1852
30 Nov 1852
John Polin
28 Apr 1849
25 Apr 1849
Daniel Polin
28 Apr 1849
26 Apr 1849
Margaret Polin
3 May 1847
1 May 1847
Table 6 – Burial register details for Polin family.[52]


Take a step back from this sad story and consider what I’ve done in this article. Ellen Poland was not a known relative of mine, but she was certainly a relative of someone out there now. This bit of genealogical journalism has tried to tell her story — her short story — for whoever may be interested, and for any relative who may be seeking her. But is it genealogy? It obviously uncovers part of a family history, but not my own.




[1] 1871 England, Wales, & Scotland Census", database with images, Findmypast (www.Findmypast.org.uk : accessed 10 Aug 2016), household of Edwin Elliott  (age 38); citing RG 10/3564, fo.18, p.30; The National Archives of the UK (TNA).
[2] 1881 England, Wales, & Scotland Census", database with images, Findmypast (www.Findmypast.org.uk : accessed 10 Aug 2016), household of William Slater  (age 29); citing RG 11/3356, fo.140, p.10; TNA.
[3] “Police Office, Nottingham: Stealing a Basket”, Nottinghamshire Guardian (29 Oct 1861): p.5, col.4.
[4] “Police Office, Nottingham: Monday: Boot Stealing”, Nottinghamshire Guardian (1 Sep 1865): p.3, col.4.
[5] "Prostitution", line engraving, Police Gazette (c1880); original caption: "I can laugh, I can dance, I can sing with glee, oh, I feel just as young as I used to be - You're a darling - Don't think I'm old: You won't, will you, my pretty one".
[6] “Borough Police Court: Friday”, Derby Mercury (22 May 1867): p.3, col.1.
[7] “Police Court, Derby: Friday”, Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal (5 Feb 1869): p.7, col.3.
[8] “Derby Police Court: Monday: Obscene Language”, Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal (8 Oct 1869): p.7, col.4.
[9] "Derby Borough Police Court: Friday", Derby Mercury (30 Nov 1870): p.3, col.3.
[10] “Derby Borough Police: Monday”, Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald (3 Dec 1870): p.6, col.2.
[11] "Derby Borough Police Court: Friday", Derby Mercury (7 Feb 1872): p.2, col.2.
[12] "County Police Court: Thursday", Derby Mercury (16 Oct 1872): p.2, col.2.
[13] “Derby Borough Police Court: Monday”, Sheffield Daily Telegraph (18 May 1875): p.3, col.5.
[14] "Town Hall, Nottingham: Monday: Drunkenness", Nottinghamshire Guardian (2 Jul 1875): p.2, col.1
[15] "Derby Borough Police", Sheffield Independent (26 Jun 1876): p.4, col.4.
[16] “Derby. — Borough Police Court, Monday”, Derbyshire Courier (22 Jul 1876):  p.7, col.1.
[17] "Sudden Death in a House of Ill-Fame", Derbyshire Courier (19 Aug 1876): p.7, col.4.
[18] “Derby Borough Police Court: Wednesday”, Derby Mercury (20 Dec 1876): p.2, col.2.
[19] “Derby Borough Police Court: Monday”, Derby Mercury (2 May 1877): p.2, col.6.
[20] “Derby Borough Police Court: Friday”, Derby Mercury (27 Jun 1877): p.2, col.7.
[21] “Local And District News: A Sad Career”, Nottingham Evening Post (17 Dec 1881): p.3, col.3.
[22] "A Sunday Afternoon in a Gin Palace, drawn from life", The Graphic magazine (8 Feb 1879).
[23] 1881 England, Wales, & Scotland Census", database with images, Findmypast (www.Findmypast.org.uk : accessed 11 Aug 2016), household of Hannah Poland  (age 56); citing RG 11/3357, fo.112, p.32; TNA.
[24] Nottinghamshire Family History Society (NottsFHS), Parish Registers Baptism Transcriptions, CD-ROM, database (Nottingham, 1 Jan 2013), database version 6.0, entries for Ro% Carr in Nottingham St. Barnabas RC parish.
[25] “Poland (Surname)”, Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poland_(surname) : accessed 11 Aug 2016), “Etymology”.
[26] Transcribed GRO Index for England and Wales (1837–1983), database, FreeBMD (http://freebmd.rootsweb.com/cgi/seach.pl : accessed 12 Aug 2016), marriage entry for Owen Polin and Rosanna Carr; citing Nottingham, 1843, Jun [Q2], vol. 15:833.
[27] 1871 England, Wales, & Scotland Census", database with images, Findmypast (www.Findmypast.org.uk : accessed 12 Aug 2016), household of Owen Polin  (age 53); citing RG 10/3524, fo.60, p.1; TNA.
[28] 1861 England, Wales, & Scotland Census", database with images, Findmypast (www.Findmypast.org.uk : accessed 12 Aug 2016), household of Owen Polin  (age 45); citing RG 9/2460, fo.137a, p.33; TNA.
[29] 1851 England, Wales, & Scotland Census", database with images, Findmypast (www.Findmypast.org.uk : accessed 12 Aug 2016), household of Owen Polin  (age 50); citing HO 107/2132, fo.178, p.4; TNA.
[30] 1841 England, Wales, & Scotland Census", database with images, Findmypast (www.Findmypast.org.uk : accessed 12 Aug 2016), household of “Arther Ohare”  (age 35); citing HO 107/870, bk.3, fo.11, p.15; TNA.
[31] 1841 England, Wales, & Scotland Census", database with images, Findmypast (www.Findmypast.org.uk : accessed 12 Aug 2016), household of Thomas Bishop  (age 70); citing HO 107/870, bk.15, fo.26, p.1; TNA.
[32] “Local Intelligence”, Nottinghamshire Guardian (3 May 1849): p.3, col.5.
[33] “Insolvent Petitioners”, Morning Advertiser (6 Aug 1853): p.7, col.6.
[34] “Examination of Insolvents: 25”, Aris's Birmingham Gazette (15 Aug 1853): p.4, col.8.
[35] The London Gazette, issue 21473 (6 Sept 1853): p.2468.
[36] “Local Intelligence: Insolvent Debtors' Court”, Nottinghamshire Guardian (29 Sep 1853): p.5, col.6.
[37] “Police Office, Nottingham: Wednesday”, Nottinghamshire Guardian (19 Jan 1854): p.3, col.4.
[38] “Police Office, Nottingham: Saturday”, Nottinghamshire Guardian (17 Jul 1856): p.2, col.5.
[39] “Police office, Nottingham: Wednesday“, Nottinghamshire Guardian (13 Aug 1857): p.5, col.6.
[40] “Police Office Derby, Saturday”, Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal (14 Aug 1857): p.7, col.2.
[41] “Local Intelligence”, Nottinghamshire Guardian (27 Aug 1857): p.5, col.4.
[42] “Police Office, Nottingham: Monday”, Nottinghamshire Guardian (10 Sep 1857): p.7, col.3.
[43] “Police office, Nottingham: Saturday: Assault”, Nottinghamshire Guardian (1 Mar 1860): p.7, col.2.
[44] “Police Intelligence: Bilking the Revenue”, Nottinghamshire Guardian (30 May 1861): p.3, col.6.
[45] “Nottingham Borough Sessions, Yesterday: The Lace Stealing Case”, Nottinghamshire Guardian (5 Nov 1861): p.5, col.3/4. Also Nottinghamshire Guardian (8 Nov 1861): p.3, col.1.
[46] “Police Intelligence: Neighbours' Quarrels”, Nottinghamshire Guardian (13 May 1862): p.5, col.3.
[47] Poll sheets: Exchange ward“, Nottinghamshire Guardian (21 Jul 1865): p.9, col.3.
[48] “Police Intelligence: Wednesday”, Nottinghamshire Guardian (30 Oct 1874): p.6, col.5.
[49] FreeBMD (accessed 12 Aug 2016), death entry for Owen Poland; citing Nottingham, 1877, Dec [Q4], vol. 7b:163.
[50] FreeBMD (accessed 12 Aug 2016), death entry for Rosannah Poland; citing Nottingham, 1889, Dec [Q4], vol. 7b:175.
[51] NottsFHS, Memorial Inscriptions: General Cemetery, CD-ROM, database (Nottingham, 1 Aug 2010), database version 6.1, product version 2.0, entries for surname Polin;
[52] The central database for UK burials and cremations”, deceased online (https://www.deceasedonline.com : accessed 12 Aug 2016), entries for grave for Owen Polin, 1877.