During his research for the book ‘Jack the Ripper: The Final Chapter’, Paul Feldman unearthed a branch of Maybricks living in Peterborough. The curious thing here was how the Maybrick name came to be in that family. Records show deaths and marriages using the Maybrick name. The line seemingly starts with ‘Margaret Minetta Maybrick’, born in London. The problem we have here is that this person has no such birth record under that name. It was assumed by Feldman that Margaret Minetta could be one of the elusive illegitimate children of James Maybrick and Sarah Ann Robertson.
What do we know about Margaret Minetta Maybrick? We find her first as Margaret Woolston on the 1911 census, living with farm labourer Mark Woolston in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire. This is based on oral information passed on from Annie Maybrick (Margaret’s youngest daughter) to Paul Feldman’s team. However, Mark Woolston (as written on the census) was actually Mark Wollaston, born in 1859 in North Witchford in Cambridgeshire.
There is no mention of Maybrick yet, but more on that later. Interesting things to note are the claimed age of Margaret and the length of the marriage being six years.
The age gap, even at 37, between her and Mark Woolston would have been 15 years. Also, it could be argued the convenience of being married for six years and having a 5-year-old daughter could avoid any uncomfortable questions. If we were to take this at face value alone, it would suggest they married when Mark Woolston was 44 years old, and Margaret was 31, just before then giving birth to Elizabeth in 1906. Except there is no marriage record. Naomi died soon after this census, and her death was registered as Naomi Maybrick.
NOT ALL is AS IT SEEMS
Ten years later, in 1921, we find the children are enrolled in the local workhouse in Whittlesey. The parent with them appears to now be someone called ‘Elizabeth Maybrick’ who is apparently born in London and is 40 years old. This would mean she was born in 1881. She also claims she is single. Eldest daughter Elizabeth was most likely working at this point and was not in the workhouse. We also see the arrivals of Ruth, Jack and Annie, who were all born during the intervening decade. I have no reason to believe at this point that Mark Woolston was not the children’s biological father. However, Annie herself believed that her mother was not Margaret / Elizabeth.
A Mark Woolstone apparently died in the county lunatic asylum in December 1916. I would speculate that with Mark now gone, Margaret / Elizabeth felt most comfortable publicly being known as a Maybrick, as too her children. Less than a year after Mark’s death, Margaret took her children on the 15th of November 1917 and baptised them all with the surname Maybrick and the middle name of Woolston. This act suggests to me that Mark Woolston may not have been comfortable with Margaret’s use of the surname Maybrick, but after his death, it would appear she no longer held back from using that surname.
The family oral history does note a few strange things, which I will not go into great detail about in this post. If you buy ‘Jack the Ripper: The Final Chapter’, you will find them there. For example, her grandson Peter Jepson claimed Margaret had a strong cockney accent and had apparently always known that she had originated from Whitechapel. The family said that Margaret was also known as Elizabeth. This was before the 1921 census became publicly available to support that point. Eldest daughter (also) Elizabeth took Peter Jepson (her nephew) as a child in 1948 to London for the day and showed him around Whitechapel, claiming that one day that area would have great significance to their family.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
I followed the same route Feldman’s team did. Except, he did not have Margaret Minetta Maybrick’s full date of birth, but I did. Thanks to the 1939 register.
Margaret Minetta Maybrick went on to marry twice after the death of Mark Woolston. Her first marriage was to Charles Mattin in 1925, and then to Edward Coney in 1942. These marriages were already known. However, the above record was not made public until 2015, so the date of birth was unavailable to Feldman’s team at the time.
There is a cross through the surname and her new married name written because the register had to be kept updated on any changes up to 1952. Hence, a new marriage name three years later appearing. This new information interests me because her birth date is 19th June 1881.
ROUGH AROUND THE EDGES
Feldman’s team focused on the other surname, which often appeared as her maiden name on the children of Margaret’s birth records. It was sometimes spelt as Edges, Edgis or Egges. A search against the name Margaret Edges in London brought up some interesting results. This census record from 1891 in Chiswick stood out.
We can see that Margaret Edges on this record is listed as being born in 1882. James, her father, is listed as a Widower and a General Labourer in a boatyard. He has a birthdate of 1845. I decided to look for the previous census record for 1881.
We can reasonably assume that this is the right family. James’s occupation is different but still very manual and labour-intensive. The birth year is only a year out, but we also have Jessie Edges, and her birth year matches the other record to give us enough belief it is the right family. James’s wife is called Elizabeth, which may explain why Margaret occasionally liked to use it as her own name. So far, so good. The census was taken in April 1881, so if Margaret Edges is Margaret Minetta Maybrick and was born in June 1881, then we are on the right track. Note that both James and Elizabeth were born in London – we will return to that. What about the birth record of Margaret Edges?
BIRTH OF A MAYBRICK?
The transcribed baptism record for Margaret Edges seems to match up quite well against all of the information thus far.
A couple of things to note. We do not have the birthdate yet, and James seems to be also known as Jacob James. However, a baptism on the 7th August 1881 is positive regarding the research and trying to match up the birth dates. The civil record has even less information and no mother’s maiden name. As there is no official way of knowing the exact date of birth from these records I could find online, I ordered the birth certificate from the GRO.
As I waited for the GRO to send Margaret Jane Edges’s birth certificate, I decided to look into Jacob James Edges a little more. My first step was to see if I could find a birth record for him in around 1845 in London. I was not expecting what I found.
Jacob James Edges was born in St. George in the East, just inside the Stepney census district and 600 metres from Whitechapel station. This means if we can connect the birthdate of Margaret Minetta Maybrick with that of Margaret Jane Edges, then the family were right to believe they had Whitechapel connections at the very least. But the big question remains, where did the name Maybrick come from?
EDGEs OF WHITECHAPEL
Exploring the family of Jacob James Edges, I soon discover that his connection to Whitechapel and the surrounding area is not fleeting. His father, Jacob Edges and mother, Jane Sumner, were both from the area and actually had seven children. Jacob James was the oldest. There was also William (1847), Jessie Jane (1849), Emily (1851), Benjamin (1854), Mary Jane (1857) and Elizabeth (1859) – all born in St. George in the East. Not only that, but Jacob James’s uncle Joseph also went on to have many children born in the locality. Whitechapel, in the mid-late 1800s, was awash with Edges.
It seems only Jacob James ventured out of East London completely to find himself in Chiswick.
WHO WAS LIZ?
On paper, Margaret Minetta Maybrick’s mother would be Elizabeth. However, there is a death record in 1887 for Elizabeth Edges in Brentford, Middlesex. This would tie into the fact that James Edges declared himself a widower in the 1891 census, but who exactly was she?
In his book, Feldman declares this to be Elizabeth King. I believe this was discovered using one of the other children’s birth certificates, where her maiden name was listed ask King-Underwood. There might be a marriage in 1881 in Hoxton of James Edge and Elizabeth Underwood (Thanks to Debra Arif of JTRForums) – but I am not convinced they are the same people.
KINGS OF THE EAST?
I believe I found the Elizabeth King referenced in Feldman’s book – born in Whitechapel in 1843, but not much else on her. I believe her parents to be William King and Elizabeth Underwood, who married in Shoreditch in 1841.
COME WHAT MAY
Paul Feldman’s team also uncovered the birth of Winifred May Edges in 1902 in Kensington, London, whose mother was Margaret Edges. She sadly died just a few months later that year in November. I decided to order the birth certificate.
Interestingly, Margaret’s nephew Benjamin Edges (son of her brother James Jacob) was born in Kensington, and even more, interestingly, her niece (Benjamin’s sister) was born Lily May Edges in 1910, this time in Lambeth. Coincidence that these locations also have workhouses in the vicinity?
THE BIRTH OF WINIFRED MAY
The birth certificate for Winifred May was the first certificate to come from the GRO. I have a copy of it below:
As stated by Feldman in his book, the father’s details have been deliberately omitted. The details we get from this are that Margaret gave birth to Winifred May in the Kensington Infirmary, where she also stated she was residing at the time. It mentions an address of 61 Elgin Crescent, which is in Ladbroke Grove. I checked the census against that address for 1901, but she was not listed at that address then. Further research revealed that it was a boarding house run by the Anderson-Smith family.
As stated on the birth certificate, she was most likely employed there as a Domestic Servant at some point in 1901-1902. We still have no idea what happened to her from 1902 after the death of Winifred until she appeared on the 1911 census as Margaret Woolston in Whittlesey.
THE DEATH OF WINIFRED MAY
Winifred May’s death certificate below states that on 17th November 1902, she died from ‘Marasmus Convulsions’ at St. Pelagia’s home on Bickerton Road in Islington. It’s a form of severe malnutrition. She was just five months old. The home was a Roman Catholic-run establishment for mothers of illegitimate children. They were expected to stay for 12 months, but the death of her child presumably released her from that obligation.
We find her grandfather James Jacob Edges of Whitechapel, was in the workhouse at the age of 52 in 1871.
Margaret’s sister Maud Mary Edges is found living in a ‘Home of Rest’ in Dover in the 1901 census.
Below is an extract from a newspaper article about Margaret Edges’ brother James Jacob Edges at age 30 in 1914, deserting his family and then being imprisoned for a month for doing so.
We know that Margaret Minetta Maybrick also was in and out of the workhouse in Whittlesey. This all adds up to an obvious picture of poverty and hardship across the family. These struggles were, of course, common for the time. We still do not know how the name Maybrick came to be in Margaret’s line.
Eventually, the birth certificate arrived for Margaret Jane Edges, and around the same time, I was also provided with the parish baptism record.
Both documents confirmed what I suspected to be true all along. Her birth date was indeed 19th June 1881 – the exact same date of birth as Margaret Minetta Maybrick. They were one and the same.
MARGARET NOT A MAYBRICK
We can now come to the conclusion that Margaret Minetta Maybrick was NOT the illegitimate child of James Maybrick and Sarah Robertson. Based on the records, there is no evidence at all to support that theory. I also have reason to believe from the JTRForums that there is a DNA link between the Edges family of Whitechapel and one of Margaret’s descendants. She was an Edges, but her links to Whitechapel were, at the very least, real.
WAY OFF THE MARK?
There could still be a chance that the Mark Wollaston I found born in 1859 in North Witchford is not the Mark Woolston on the 1911 census. If Mark Woolston is our missing link Maybrick to Peterborough, the next questions are how and why? That will have to be a search for another day.
JACK THE RIPPER: THREADS
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What if ‘Jack the Ripper’ was a cotton merchant from Liverpool? What if the diary or watch, purported to be James Maybrick’s, is genuine? This gripping fictional tale is a circumstantial exploration of James Maybrick being ‘Jack’.
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