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Finding Mary Kelly

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  • Finding Mary Kelly

    In one of the rippercast-episodes about Mary Jane Kelly, Chris Scott concluded that the possibility Mary Jane Kelly was an assumed name is "almost a damn certainty".
    Scott being one of the foremost researchers into the last of the Canonical Five, I can't think of anyone more authoritative than him to make such a statement. Indeed: it almost goes without saying that the use of nom de plumes by unfortunates plying their trade is the rule rather than the exception. The mere fact that Mary was apparently known under several different names might be regarded as an unequivocal indicator that she was no different. What appears fairly certain is an unmistakable reluctance on the part of her contemporaries to swear by the name Mary Jane Kelly.
    Maria Harvey, for example, “knew the deceased as Mary Jane Kelly” while Julia Venturney said: “I knew the deceased for some time as Kelly; Mary Ann Cox said that “she was called Mary Jane”, a sentiment echoed by Mrs. Phoenix who stated: “At the time she gave her name as Mary Jane Kelly.”
    It could be just me, but these statements do not sound like acquaintances fully convinced the deceased name was actually Mary Jane Kelly, and they would be in a position to know. The glaring exception to the rule, of course, is Joseph Barnett, who seemed quite adament that 'Kelly' was her maiden name, 'Marie' and 'Jeanette' being her Christian ones.
    I can't help feeling that Barnett was a bit naÔve, and I also think Mary was quite aware of his naivety, which perhaps was the reason why she entrusted to Julia Vanturney that she (Mary) “(...) could not bear the man (Joe) that she was living with, although he was very good to her."

    But now what? How does one go about searching for Kelly if indeed the name will not help us along? Do we just take the story Joe Barnett told the inquest and reconstruct her on the basis of the alleged facts of her life? Or do we employ a more generalized approach, by which we take the alleged details as relayed by Barnett and put them into some kind of supercomputer?

  • #2


    If we consider the 11 WM victims, how many of them actually used ‘noms de plume’? I wouldn’t include the informal use of a male partner’s surname as a ‘nom de plume’.

    The one who racked up the most names was Alice McKenzie - 17 at last count, although how many of those were her invention isn’t clear.

    Incidentally Chris said of Alice that she was as ‘impervious to research as Mary Kelly’. That turned out not to be the case, and in retrospect we’ve had sufficient info to track her down in plain sight from the outset. Working from her Christian name, her approximate age, her place of birth and her father’s occupation we could have identified her even without the help of the Peterborough Advertiser.

    If you search the 1851 census of Peterborough using ‘postman’ as a key word it comes up blank, but if you substitute Post Office, you get three hits: 2 PO clerks and one PO messenger (i.e. a postman). Sure enough, the messenger, Charles Pitts, had a 6-year-old daughter named Alice. If you then look for an Ancestry Public member tree for the family you find that of all Charles Pitts’ children Alice is the only one whose death date is unknown. That whole process need only have taken a few minutes and at the end of it you would have nailed the ID of Impervious Alice. Of course, you might still have your doubts, but if you plugged away at it until you found the married name of Kinsey and mention in a prison record of a thumb injury similar to that of the victim then it’s game over.

    It really could have been done by an individual in an afternoon. I can’t recall exactly how long it took via the Boston and Peterborough press reports. It was all hands on deck, though, and it didn’t take long.

    Is MJK out there somewhere awaiting a random Mary/gaffer/Carmarthen search to bring her to light?

































    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post


      Is MJK out there somewhere awaiting a random Mary/gaffer/Carmarthen search to bring her to light?


      Interestingly the use of the word gaffer in census job titles apears to be very rare but by far the biggest use of the word is in Merthyr Tidfil, Glamorganshire in 1881 and 1891.
      There are less than a dozen census entries that appear using only the word gaffer* as a search term, without any other field in either 81 or 91.
      The 1871 census doesn't have occupations indexed and searchable as far as I can make out, apart from the Scottish census.
























      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Debra Arif View Post



        Interestingly the use of the word gaffer in census job titles apears to be very rare but by far the biggest use of the word is in Merthyr Tidfil, Glamorganshire in 1881 and 1891.
        There are less than a dozen census entries that appear using only the word gaffer* as a search term, without any other field in either 81 or 91.
        The 1871 census doesn't have occupations indexed and searchable as far as I can make out, apart from the Scottish census.






        Hi Debs,

        I should have known it would have been searched for already. A lot more effort has gone into the search for MJK than there ever was for Alice.


        There was a term used for men, often Irish themselves, who organised the Irish workers in South Wales. I came across it when looking into Biddy the Chiver’s Welsh origins. I wonder if that’s what Kelly’s dad did?

        Gary

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Debra Arif View Post



          Interestingly the use of the word gaffer in census job titles apears to be very rare but by far the biggest use of the word is in Merthyr Tidfil, Glamorganshire in 1881 and 1891.
          There are less than a dozen census entries that appear using only the word gaffer* as a search term, without any other field in either 81 or 91.
          The 1871 census doesn't have occupations indexed and searchable as far as I can make out, apart from the Scottish census.























          Thanks very much for responding, Debra.

          The possible Merthyr-connection (at least in terms of the use of the term 'gaffer') is perhaps more significant than it may seem on the surface.
          As (I believe) Gareth Williams pointed out on several occasions (as did Jon Horlor), the percentage of Irish post-potatoe famine immigrants was highest in the area around Merthyr Tydfil. Not surprising, as it seems to have been the area most noted for pit-related employment (Šnd pit-related explosions) from the mid 1800s onward until about the end of the century when employment oppurtunities waned.
          It should also be noted that by 1851 Merthyr had overtaken even Swansea in terms of population density, and that Irish immigrants in the Borough made up almost ten percent of the local population, which is quite a substantial number, even in comparison to other immigrant-hotspots throughout Wales. Furthermore, it seems English was broadly spoken within the borough, probably because there were many Englishmen from bordering counties working in the ironworks around Merthyr. Not surprising that only a small number of inhabitants spoke Welsh only, which could indicate a higher probability of intercultural marriages between the Welsh and the Irish.

          This might also explain why there appears to have been some ambivalence in regards to Kelly's accent from the time she arrived in London. I believe it was mrs. Phoenix' account where it was noted that there seems to have been "some difficulty in establishing her nationality". It is pure speculation of course, but this ambivilance might be a result of something non-descript in her accent: it appears Mary didn’t seem to have any problems speaking English, while also being able to speak “fluent Welsh”, although she was said to now and then fall back in her native tongue when overconsumption of spirits got the better of her.

          I believe it was Gareth Williams who also pointed out that Barnett could have audibly mistaken the mining village of Cwmavon (in the Borough of Torfaen) for "Carmarthen" or "Caernarvon". Although Cwmavon is located in the Glamorganshire Borough of Torfaen, it's only about 30 miles from Dowlais and Merthyr.

          In any case: of all places within the larger South-Wales area Merthyr would be, in terms of statistical probability, a logical place for her to have grown into young adulthood, perhaps in one of the tight knit Irish pockets strewn here and there around that area, fairly well-defined ‘Irish quarters’ in Merthyr and Dowlais (known collectively as ‘Little Ireland’), so she would have been more than familiar with her parental tongue while also being able, for survival- or for comfort’s sake, to speak adequate Welsh and common English.

          A lot of 'perhapses', I know, but perhaps (sorry) an avenue to explore in some futher detail.

          Greetings, Jur

          Comment


          • #6
            Is there a single contemporary reference to Mary Kelly’s accent? I don’t recall one.

            And I don’t believe Mrs Phoenix made any comments regarding Kelly’s speech. She explained the difficulty in establishing Kelly’s nationality as being due to her on different occasions claiming to be Irish and Welsh.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post
              Is there a single contemporary reference to Mary Kelly’s accent? I don’t recall one.

              And I don’t believe Mrs Phoenix made any comments regarding Kelly’s speech.
              No there isn't any contemporary reference to Kelly's accent. You're quite right.

              I was merely moved to make the observation that the lack of a convincing statement by any of her contemporaries could point to a certain ambivalence to make out anything of Kelly's accent, if she even had one. But, as you rightly point out, it could just as easily point to the fact these contemporaries would not be able to distinguish between accents at all, especially kindred gaelic speech. Indeed, there is no mention of any "accent" in the mrs. Phoenix account, which just reads:

              "There was, however, some difficulty in establishing her nationality. In the first place she stated that she was Welsh, and that her parents, who had discarded her, still resided in Cardiff, from which place she came; but on other occasions she declared that she was Irish."

              The same kind of ambivalence might be deduced from the unnamed city missionary who was quoted as saying "(...) It is not true, as it has been stated, that she is a Welshwoman. She is of Irish parentage, and her mother, I believe, lives in Limerick".

              Only if one presupposes these people would be able to pick out any accent whatsoever, one could make the case, but of course we cannot. One could however argue that a city missionary in his position met hundreds if not thousands of unfortunate residents seeking aid from the mission throughout his years of service, and could quite possibly make such a distinction with some authority.
              Ironically, the only person to make any more or less detailed comment on Mary's speech appears to have been Mrs. Maxwell, who just remarked that Mary "spoke with a kind of impediment."

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post
                Is there a single contemporary reference to Mary Kelly’s accent? I don’t recall one.

                And I don’t believe Mrs Phoenix made any comments regarding Kelly’s speech. She explained the difficulty in establishing Kelly’s nationality as being due to her on different occasions claiming to be Irish and Welsh.
                I have seen no evidence in any of the descriptions of Mary Kelly that she had an accent. As for Chris Scott's inability to conclusively identify "Mary Kelly" and the identical inability by other researchers, my sense is that it stems from the extremely common nature of the name and not from the name being a pseudonym that she had adopted.

                Cheers

                Chris

                Christopher T. George, Lyricist & Co-Author, "Jack the Musical"
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                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jurriaan Maessen View Post
                  "There was, however, some difficulty in establishing her nationality. In the first place she stated that she was Welsh, and that her parents, who had discarded her, still resided in Cardiff, from which place she came; but on other occasions she declared that she was Irish."
                  You may have noticed; Ancestry.com just added Cardiff, Wales, Workhouse Registers, 1850-1920. There are some interesting entries.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by R. J. Palmer View Post

                    You may have noticed; Ancestry.com just added Cardiff, Wales, Workhouse Registers, 1850-1920. There are some interesting entries.
                    Thanks for the heads up!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      It's interesting that the name combination 'Marie Jenetta'comes up at least once in these Cardiff records. Nothing to do with MJK as its early 1900s but still interesting to see the use of those names together in Welsh records.

                      Comment

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