I have written about my 2nd Great-Grandfather, John Carter, and his crimes in previous posts but I thought perhaps a regular Thriller Thursday series detailing the case of his murderous deeds and my research might be most comprehensive and hopefully provide a suspenseful intrigue to tantalize the curious minds of readers! This is the first installment though I have written previously:
Now, shall I begin at the beginning of the story or at the beginning of my research? Two very different commencement points! Perhaps it makes the most sense on a genealogy blog to focus on research. If you remember from my Darkest Black Sheep article I discovered through a passenger list that my Great Grandfather, Thomas Carter, had been a British Home Child sent to Canada with a Fegan’s Home emigration party in 1898. I was determined to trace Thomas’ family in England. It was early days in my online genealogy career and I struggled especially with a name so common as Carter. Luckily, I was able to narrow down the British hometown as it had been indicated in Thomas’ WWI file. But it wasn’t until I started correspondence with a woman named Marjorie Kohli, the author of “The Golden Bridge: Young Immigrants to Canada 1833-1939”, that I was presented with the pieces I needed to finish the frame of this puzzle.
Marj found a family in the England Census, a possible match: John and Elizabeth Carter living Worton Hamlet, Cassington, Oxfordshire. John is an Agricultural labourer born in Watchfield, Berkshire and Elizabeth in Loncot, Berkshire. The children are Annie 1872; Clara 1873; Martha 1879. In the 1891 census they are in Maidenhead, Berkshire and the family now contains Thomas 1882; William 1885 and Nelson 1888.
It seemed a bit of a long shot but I decided to explore this family further. A thorough google search which was a ridiculous needle and a haystack sort of venture remarkable produced “the needle”. An obscure mention of a John Carter, Victorian murderer from Watchfield made my heart raise to my throat but I knew this is impossible! No one finds their run of the mill farm labouring Great-Grandfather is a wife killer! I set out to learn more about this particular John Carter and quickly disprove this outrageous lead.
Fortunate or unfortunate–depending on your frame of mind I suppose–each new piece to this research puzzle only proved the validity of my find! A full picture began to develop as I scoured newspaper articles online, British Newspaper Archives was a fabulous source of information. I collected every name in these articles, the police involved, the witnesses,and the coroner’s name. It was this meticulous searching and the mystery of three dead wives which led me to the coroner’s reports housed at the Berkshire Records Office. Mr. Llewellyn Jotcham, the local coroner first met my 2nd Great-Grandfather in the year 1887 when his first wife–my biological 2nd Great-Grandmother, Elizabeth Thatcher–died from a fall down the stairs. She was “in the family way and was expecting her confinement any day…She had been in a weak state of health…” according to her husband, John Carter in his statement during the inquest. John had left for work and that was the last time he saw her alive.
Her daughter Annie also testified during the inquest describing her mother’s fainting spell and her fall down the stairs to the stone floor below.
I went to her and found she was fainting–she said oh dear–I tried to assist her–to hold her up–she had her hands on the stairs about her–all at once she fell backwards on me and we both fell together to the bottom of the stairs–she fell on the back of her head and on the stones of the room–she did not say anything but only moved her head one time–she did not appear to be sensible–I ran for Mrs. Giffon a neighbour who was working in the hay field–she came with me.
When we got back we found that she had been placed straight on the stones. Mrs Inmans who lives next door was there and I suppose she did it–My mother was dead..
Mr. Jotcham concluded this was an accidental death and to my relief, after reading the reports I truly believe it was….this time!
But my 2nd Great-Grandfather was to meet with Mr. Jotcham again years later with a very different outcome!
Tune in next Thriller Thursday for a new installment…most thrilling of all!