I have been looking at various lines of investigative research, for no other reason than to try and answer some of the open questions that still hang around the whole James Maybrick connection to Jack the Ripper. One such question was “Where did Sarah Robertson actually start her life?” We have lots of conflicting birthdates and even birth locations as the censuses go on. However, I will address those issues in a later post. This one is about where did she actually come from.
One of the posters on the casebook.org forum, who is fair to say would be very much on the opposite side of the fence of my views, gave me the missing piece of the jigsaw to a particular puzzle I had been trying to solve. In the interests of full disclosure and honesty, I shall state that if it was not for RJ Palmer’s post on the subject it may have taken me a very long time to reach the same conclusion, if at all. His discovery of Christiana Robinson on Flag Lane in the 1841 census in Sunderland with a daughter called Sarah was the turning point. It would be wrong of me to not at least acknowledge that fact.
IT NEVER FELT QUITE RIGHT
Anyone with an interest in the life and times of James Maybrick will have suffered the same frustrations as I have. Who was Sarah Robertson’s family? She first emerges in the 1851 census as Sarah Ann Robertson who is living with her aunt in London. This being Christiana Lindsay Robertston, who at the time, was married to Londoner Charles James Case. Prior to that various researchers have hit brick walls in trying to pin down her birth and any record of her prior to this. It has been a puzzle for almost 30 years.
A TAYLOR’S TALE
I often wondered if Roberston was actually Sarah’s registered birth name. On that basis, I was trying long shot searches against anyone called Sarah Ann born in and around 1837 in Sunderland – in the vain hope I’d hit something. Turns out, I might have. Sarah Ann Taylor was registered as a civil birth and details were very sparse. The only thing I had was the mother’s maiden name which was Roberston. To confuse matters even more for me, other Sarah Taylors were born in Sunderland around 1837. When I started pulling at those threads I could not differentiate them. There were no clear distinctions. The only other possibility with this record here is that her father was someone called Taylor. However, I kept on hitting brick walls.
WHEN DOES SARAH ANN ROBERTSON FIRST EMERGE?
From 1851 we are able to track Sarah Ann Robertson / Maybrick through the censuses, right up until her death in 1927. The timelines from this point on are well documented in many books. However, we had no idea where she was prior to that. In the 1851 census she can be found living in London, the Whitechapel census district in fact, with her aunt Christiana Case, who had married Londoner Charles James Case. The marriage record for Christiana and Charles can be traced back to the same Christiana Lindsay Robertson born in Sunderland in 1817. Daughter of Alexander Hay Robertson and Sarah Pell. Researchers naturally assumed that one of Christiana’s siblings was Sarah Ann’s parent. But alas, more dead ends.
HOW DO WE CONNECT THE DOTS?
This is the piece of the puzzle that I had been missing as described at the start. I had a Sarah Ann Taylor in 1837 with a mother called Roberston but no way to connect the dots. In 1841 the census recorded that Alexander Hay Roberston was living on Flag Lane in Sunderland. His daughter Alice was living with him and her birth records show her father was Alexander Hay Roberston and her birth year matches hers on the census. So even though the 1841 census does not include Hay explicitly in the census itself, we can reasonably deduce it is indeed the same man. Birth country and year also help the case for him being Alexander Hay Roberston.
Okay, so we found Christiana’s father, but we cannot find Christiana or Sarah Ann. This is where RJ’s info came in useful. He found that a few doors down on the same street, a Christiana Robinson lived with a daughter called Sarah Robinson and a son called George Robinson. The ages match up fairly well for both Christiana and Sarah, but now we also have a George in the mix. A simple misspelling of the surname it would seem by the enumerator.
BY GEORGE WE HAVE IT!
So the more eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed we still do not have our connection to Sarah Ann Taylor. It seems via her brother George, we do. There is no birth record for a George Robinson born in Sunderland which seems to match this George in the 1841 census. However, if we look for George Robertson we find a George Frederick Taylor Robertson born in 1840 whose mother’s maiden name is Robertson. Well isn’t that curious?
WHY GO FROM TAYLOR TO ROBERTSON?
The simple answer is the children were most likely born out of wedlock. The father is a Mr Taylor. I don’t believe there was a deliberate deception in using Robinson instead of Roberston, but just a simple mis-spelling. It would appear the father was very much out of the picture at this stage in 1841.
RUBBER STAMPING IT
The only way I could get this theory conclusively proved was to get a copy of the official birth certificate of Sarah Ann Taylor.
It seems we have the confirmation we need. Not only that, we now know the father was John Taylor. This name interests me for other reasons, but that will be a post for another day.
ONE MORE THING…
Sarah Ann Taylor’s birthday on the birth certificate is the 2nd of August 1837. In the mid-90s during the course of investigations undertaken by Paul Feldman for his book, a bible was discovered with an inscription. It is said to have come from Sarah Ann Maybrick’s possessions. It reads as follows…
To my darling Piggy. From her affectionate husband J.M. On her birthday August 2nd 1865.BIBLE BELONGING TO SARAH ANN MAYBRICK
JACK THE RIPPER: THREADS
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