Saturday, 8 October 2011

Lost in London - 4: Tracing an ordinary London family

 

 

To illustrate how much can be found about ordinary London families, I am including the following examples relating to my own Bluett and Fritz ancestors. They were poor Irish and German immigrants but the documents I have uncovered show that they actually lived extraordinary lives. The photographs of Mary Ann Bluett and Julius Fritz included in the family tree, above, came to me from hitherto unknown, distant cousins. We only made contact because my tree was online. 

 

LOL 3a

 

This article is from the Times of 15 May 1846. There was a family tradition that Thomas Bluett had been shot in London but the details were completely wrong. As a result, I researched without success for 18 years. Yet I found Thomas easily as soon as the Times Digital Archive came online. That one newspaper published nine separate articles about the shooting, arrest, death, autopsy, inquest and trial. There was also a classic thundering Times leader following the acquittal of the perpetrator, John Graham. Many other national and regional papers also published articles. From all this material I discovered that Thomas had been born in Ireland, whereas I had been searching for him in Devon & Cornwall for years!

 

LOL 4a

 

This article is from the Times of 11 June 1846. It provides wonderful information about Mary Bluett, née Langley, and her daughter Mary Ann Bluett, later Fritz. The second half of this article refers to Mary's previous residence in Hong Kong and to her having returned home on a ship whose Captain was subsequently tried at the Old Bailey, with Mary Bluett giving evidence. Armed with these clues and in collaboration with a cousin, found via the internet, I researched an amazing story of travels on three continents, confidence tricks, abandonment, mutiny, celebrity and crime.

 

LOL 5

 

Successive censuses showed that Julius Fritz had been born in Prussia but became a British Subject. I found his naturalisation papers in the National Archives and they gave me much valuable information about his origins, family, occupation and residence. They even gave me the name of his father in Prussia - Heinrich.

 

LOL 6

 

Cousins I found via the internet had a tradition that Julius was a Freeman of the City of London. I was initially sceptical as there was no such story in my branch of the family. But it turned out to be true and they were able to supply me with a copy of his application for the Freedom. This also gives the name of Julius' father - but as Ferdinand -and the information that he was dead by September 1876.

 

LOL 7

 

17a Fetter Lane, London was the Fritz family home and the location for Julius' tailoring business and second-hand china shop. Julius also let rooms to lodgers. It was a slum and was demolished in 1887. But it had been the home of the poet John Dryden in the 17th century and so it was sketched by several artists immediately prior to its demolition. A number of these pictures were found on the internet by a cousin, using Google. Members of the family are shown at the windows in this illustration. In another, a shop sign for J Fritz, Old China Dealer, can clearly be seen. 

 

LOL 8

 

This article is from the Times of 28 May 1878. It reports an affray involving one of the lodgers at 17a Fetter Lane, Mrs Amelia Lewis, in which Mary Ann Fritz (nee Bluett) and one of her daughters got caught up. They later gave evidence in court. Ordinary people frequently appear in police reports in this way.

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