John Cornelius O’Connor – The Hunt Takes An Unexpected Turn, As His Truth Unfolds.

History is a mighty drama,
enacted upon the theatre of times,
with suns for lamps and eternity for a background.

As I delve into the past, revisiting the lives of names written upon dusty documents, those names capture my soul and pull fondly on my heartstrings. 
They no longer are just random names scribbled on census records or birth, marriage and death certificates, they are part of me, they always have been. 
Tiny fragments of them pulse through my blood, they twinkle in my eyes, and are part of my character. 
They are blood of my blood, my family.
And as I continue to write their life stories, in turn they have become a part of mine. Without knowing it, they are in the full front of my own history, my own story and while some say, 

“ We must not dwell in the past, it’s the future we must live for. “

I feel we should honour the past, because there wasn’t a future without them, as there will be no future without us.

“A generation which ignores history has no past – and no future.”

Thoughout my research I’ve come across documentation that has changed what we believed to be our family’s history. And though it may feel as if I’m trying to change history, I’m merely shedding light on what history through documentation is telling us.
I can’t change history, I don’t want to change history. I can only change the future. I’m working on that by delving deep into my ancestry, piecing together those tiny fragments of documentation, to remember and honour the ones whom came before, the ones whom gave us life, while they struggled with the hardships of history.

Over the last few months I have discovered many new truths about my forebears, and I feel that by writing their stories, I am indeed throwing torment into what we believe to be the life story we were once told by our very much loved lost ones. 
In truth it pains me to write the truth, as I know it may upset a few of my living relatives but I feel deep within my soul that I should honour them by telling their truths and documenting their lives as best I can, not just for us living but for future generations.

Please understand I do not do this lightly, I do not want to hurt anyone. So please if you feel like you would rather not know, please don’t read any further.

You may have noticed it’s been a while since I shared a life story or anything else on here but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working towards probably the most important post or should I say life story, to date. 
I have been working tirelessly since I received an email from a gentleman called Will, back on the 8th November 2022, about the ominous John Cornelius O’Connor. 
Will, had stumbled across Intwined, while researching the O’Connors for a friend. 
Receiving Wills email, was one of the best things to come out of 2022, it had been a very hard year for me on many levels and I found myself slipping deeper and deeper into depression, self doubt and loathing, mainly down to a misunderstanding that happened at the beginning of the year.  
Working with Will, for the last few months, researching John Cornelius and his family, gave me so much more than a common interest and a theory to prove, in a way my new found friend and research partner, relit the flame in my soul that had become an also impossible to see, burning ember. He gave me a new lease on life and hope. Hope that the O’Connor truth was in grasp and a major step forward in untangling the O’Connor Canadian mystery. 
With lots of hard work, toing and froing,  more research, purchasing certificates and other documentation, I soulfully believe we have cracked part of the mystery.

As you may already read, our John Cornelius O’Connor, always gave his birth date as the 29th February, 1872 and said he was born at sea. 
He always celebrated his birthday on, Saint Patrick’s Day, unless it was a leap year, were he would celebrate it on the 29th February. 
Johns birth date and location has always been a massive brick wall in mine and others research, as no one has ever found any documentation for his birth on the 29th February, 1872, or any official documentation to prove he was born at sea, until the 1921 census, which would have been filled in by his own hand. 
I very much wish, proof of the date of birth, 29th February, 1872 and evidence of him being born at sea, would fall in to my lap. Until then, I have to follow the official paper trail and what I feel wholeheartedly believe to be his truth. I hate that I have to look past the information my wonderful Nan has told me about her Grandfather, my great, great grandfather, because deep within my soul, I know there has to be truth in those family stories/facts, I just can’t find any evidence in the form of documentation.
It really does sadden my heart and soul but I made my Nan a promise, to find out where our family came from. I’ve dedicated my adult years to making I wish come true.

I hope my findings will not upset any of our O’Connor descendants, especially my Nan, who soulfully loved and adored her grandad John. As I soulfully love her.

I will warn you now, that John was rather a lovable rogue. A lovable rogue, whom I am sincerely proud of him and honoured to be of his blood.
Life for the Irish and their descendants was beyond hard, and in times of hardship, one must do what one feels fit, to get by. My heart bleeds for those who had to step outside their normal character, so they could survive. I honour and stand by their courage, heart and determination.

So let me tell you his life story, or should I say, what we have discovered so far about John Cornelius O’Connor life.
Without further ado I give you,

The Life Of,
John Cornelius O’Connor,

On Thursday the 20th of March 1873, at Number 14, Albert Road, Canning Town, North Woolwich, Kent, England, John Cornelius O’Connor was born to Patrick John O’Connor, who we believe his real name was John Patrick O’Connor and Ann O’Connor nee Arter. 
Ann registered his birth on the 21st April 1873, in Woolwich. 
Ann gave her husband Patrick John’s occupation as a Labourer and their abode as, Number 14, Albert Road, North Woolwich. 

Please understand I am not saying that John wasn’t born at sea, but for ease, his parents may well have just given their home address, as where he was born.
That still leaves the mystery of his date of birth. 🤔
I am 99.99% sure that the birth certificate, is the correct birth certificate for John, as we know his Sister, Annie Dorothy O’Connor, (whom you can read about here.) was born to Patrick John O’Connor and Ann O’Connor nee Arter. 
Annie’s daughter, Johns niece, the Late, Rose Cranham, confirmed her mothers date of birth, so going off this information and the official documentation I have for Annie and other documentation I have for John Cornelius, I believe without a shadow of a doubt, that John’s birth certificate is correct one. 
I know it’s all very confusing, isn’t it but I knew deep within my soul we are on the right path.
Please don’t shot the messenger, I am only showing your his life through documentation. I am not judging or saying that he was a liar, I’m just sharing official documents, that we have found for him. Let’s get back to it, shall we.

John’s brother, Thomas O’Connor was born on Sunday, the 3rd of March, 1878, at Number 53, Devas Street, Bromley, Poplar, Bow, Middlesex, England.
Ann O’Connor registered his birth on Wednesday, the 3rd of April 1878.
She gave her husband John’s occupation as a Labourer and their abode as, Number 53, Devas Street, Bromley.

And John’s sister, Annie Dorothy O’Connor, was born on Thursday the 27th of March, 1879, at number 6, Shirley Street, Canning Town, Plaistow, West Ham, Essex, England.
John and Annie’s Mother Ann, registered Annie’s birth on Friday the 2nd of May, 1879.
She registered Annie as Ann O’Connor and gave their residential address as, Number 6, Shirley Street, Canning Town, Plaistow, West Ham, Essex, England and her husbands occupation as a Dock labourer.

The opening of the Royal Victoria Dock in 1855 accelerated the development of the area creating employment and a need to house dock workers and their families. New settlements around the dock developed, starting with Hallsville, Canning Town and Woolwich, and later the areas now known as Custom HouseSilvertown and West Silvertown. The new settlements lacked water supply and had no sewage system, leading to the spread of cholera and smallpox.

The open sewer in Canning Town, c.1888

The casual nature of employment at the docks meant poverty and squalid living conditions for many residents, and in 1857 Describing the slum housing conditions and its effect on the health of local residents, Henry Morley wrote:

“Rows of small houses, which may have cost for their construction eighty pounds a piece, are built designedly and systematically with their backs to the marsh ditches; …to or three yards of clay pipe “drain” each house into the open cess pool under its back windows, when it does not happen that the house is built as to overhang it… In winter time every block becomes now and then an island, and you may hear a sick man, in an upper room, complain of water trickling down over his bed. Then the flood cleans the ditches, lifting all their filth into itself, and spreading it over the land. No wonder that the stench of the marsh in Hallsville and Canning Town of nights, is horrible. A fetid mist covers the ground… the parish surgeon… was himself for a time invalided by fever, upon which ague followed. Ague, of course, is one of the most prevalent diseases of the district; fever abounds. When an epidemic comes into the place, it becomes serious in its form, and stays for months. Disease comes upon human bodies saturated with the influences of such air as is breathed day and night, as a spark upon touchwood. A case or two of small pox caused, in spite of vaccination, an epidemic of confluent small pox, which remained three or four months upon the spot.”

The first workers’ homes built in Canning Town around 1850

On the eve of the census, Sunday the 3rd of April, 1881, John his parents Patrick and Ann and siblings Thomas and Annie, were residing at, 77, Scott Street, Canning Town, West Ham, London & Essex, England. Patrick was working as a Dock Labourer and John was a Scholar.

After the opening of the Great Eastern branch railway line between Stratford and North Woolwich in 1846, and the opening of the Royal Victoria Dock in 1855, Canning Town expanded rapidly and densely across Plaistow marshes. Most people now moved to Canning Town to work in the docks, or in businesses related to the docks. In 1881, two out of three of the population of the borough of West Ham had been born elsewhere. The population doubled again between 1881 and 1901, and by 1911 nearly 300,000 people lived in the borough, making it the seventh most highly populated borough in England. The area had a higher proportion of children in the community than anywhere else in England. The population was also the most multi-cultural in Britain, including people from Ireland, Germany, India, Malaysia, China and Japan and from a wide range of Eastern European, African and West Indian countries.

John’s Brother, Daniel O’Connor was born on Tuesday the 1st November 1881, at Number 8, Montesquieu Street, Plaistow, Canning Town, West Ham, Essex, England.

Ann registered his birth on the 2nd December 1881. She gave Johns occupation as a Dock Labourer and their abode as, Number 8, Montesquieu Street, Plaistow.

John’s sister, Rosina Margaret O’Connor, was born on Saturday, the 29th of January, 1884, at their home, Number 72, Bidden Street, Canning Town, West Ham, Essex, England. Their mum, Ann O’Connor nee Arter registered her birth on the 13th March 1885. Ann gave her husbands name as, John Connor and his occupation as Dock Labourer. I am 100% sure this is the right birth certificate for Rosina as her late daughter Rose confirmed her date of birth. The thing that confuses me is her middle name. We were lead to believe it was Margaret but her birth certificate gives Blanch. However it is very common for the Irish Catholics to give a different name on birth certificates and baptism records.

Daniel died on the 1st May, 1884, at the, The London Fever Hospital, Liverpool Road, Islington, Middlesex, England, aged 2 years and 6 months. His cause of death was, bronchitis, infantile diarrhoea, convulsions, and scarlatina (scarlet fever).
His Mum, Ann O’Connor, of 35, Tucker Street, Canning Town, registered his death. She gave John’s occupation as, a labourer.

The London Fever Hospital (LFH) was founded in 1802 at 2 Constitution Row, Gray’s Inn Lane, just north of Guilford Street, under the official title of The Institution for the Cure and Prevention of Contagious Fevers. It had 15 beds, and was staffed by three nurses, a medical officer, an apothecary and a porter. Typhus was the main disease treated, but smallpox and scarlet fever were also prominent. The Hospital admitted 550 patients in its first two years, and also cleaned and fumigated their homes. In 1815 the Hospital moved to take over a parochial smallpox hospital on the site of what is now King’s Cross station. At that time it had 60 beds, and 60 more were added later. By 1842 the hospital was admitting about 1500 patients a year with typhus and malignant scarlet fever. The fee for treatment was £2 2s, unless the patient had a subscriber’s letter, in which case it was free. Admission was restricted to servants and the ‘decent poor’. Paupers were sent to the workhouses and houses of recovery, while wealthier patients were nursed in their own homes. In 1849 the hospital moved once more, to its permanent site, a 200 bed building with over four acres of land in Liverpool Road, Islington. A succession of well known physicians were on the staff, including Sir William Jenner, who was assistant physician from 1855-1861 and the epidemiologist, Charles Murchison, who was successively assistant physician, physician and consulting physician from 1856-1879. 
In the twentieth century, as many of the infectious diseases of the past began to pose less of a threat to public health, the LFH took on more of the work of a general hospital. By 1938 the isolation block was no longer required and was replaced by a private wing, raising the number of beds to 209. During World War Two, beds at the LFH were allocated for casualties from hospitals that had been damaged in air raids. The Royal Free Hospital was allocated 100 beds, and the City of London Maternity Hospital was given 30. In 1948 the LFH joined the Royal Free Group and became the Royal Free Hospital, Liverpool Road Branch. It contained 130 beds for general cases, though the wards were actually used for obstetric, gynaecological and paediatric cases, apart from 23 additional beds in the private wing. In order to perpetuate the name of the LFH, the remainder of the hospital’s funds, about £10,000, was used to establish the London Fever Hospital Research Fund, used specifically for research into the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. The Liverpool Road site was closed in 1974, but the Royal Free still has a Liverpool Road Division on the Pond Street site, specialising in women and children’s services. 

Sadly less than four years later, John’s Father John Patrick O’Connor, on the 3rd of January, 1887, at Number 1, Montesquieu Street, Plaistow, Canning Town, West Ham, Essex, England, aged 38, from, Bronchitis.
Johns, widow A. Connor, registered his death on the 4th January,1887.
She gave her husbands occupation as Dock labourer and her abode as Number 1, Montesquieu Street, Plaistow.

It very much looks like our John, had met a lady named Mary Ann Bradley and it wasn’t long until she was in the family way.
And on Friday the 31st of January, 1890, at 24 Rendel Road, Plaistow, Canning Town, West Ham, Essex, England, Mary Ann Bradley gave birth to a daughter whom she named Ada Elizabeth O’Connor.
Mary Ann registered her birth on the 18th April 1890, in West Ham.
Her birth certificate shows no information about her father’s but her marriage certificate gives her fathers name as John O’Connor.
Ada later married Adolphus John Goodhew, son of Frederick William Goodhew.

A warrant for John’s arrest was issued on Monday the14th of April, 1890.
John was taken into custody on the same day, Monday the 14th of April, 1890, for trail at the Old Bailey Criminal Court for Breaking and entering as well as theft.

And on the 21st April 1890, John was found guilty at The Old Bailey, Londons central clinal court, for stealing tea, ginger beer, and other articles and was sentenced to Four Months’ Hard Labour at HM Prison Holloway.

We found the following information, about his petty crime.

398. HENRY LONG (17), JOHN O’CONNOR (17), HENRY FRITH (16), and GEORGE MACK (15) , Breaking and entering the shop of Ann Franksen, and stealing tea, ginger beer, and other articles, her property. 

MR. LAWLESS  Prosecuted.

ANN FRANKSEN  . I am a widow, of 6, Pickford Terrace, Victoria Dock Road—I keep a small shed on the pier head of the Victoria Docks, which I use as a shop in the daytime—on 13th April, about 8 p.m., I locked it up safely and left, leaving my articles safe there—I am ginger beer, cakes, tea, coffee, bread and butter, and meat occasionally—before halfpast five next morning I was communicated with—I went and found the shed had been broken open; half the window had been taken out, and part of the chimney and roof had been taken off—I missed 1 lb. of tea, tobacco, ginger beer bottles, and a corkscrew, 5s. 7d. worth of goods, and a number of things were broken—this tea-caddy is mine—the shed had four sides and a roof, a doorway and four windows.

WILLIAM JOHNSON  . I am lock man at the dock pier head—on the early morning of 13th April, about half-past four, I was passing this shed—I noticed the windows were broken, and the roof and chimney-pot’ off—I gave information to the police, and went with them, and searched Cory’s lobby, a shed for men to use going off to work; it is about eighteen yards from the shop—I found the four prisoners there; O’Connor and Long on the top of the cupboard under the ledge of the door, and the others behind the stove, the match-boarding of the shed—I found between Long and O’Connor 1 lb of tea and this tea-caddy, which Mrs. Franksen identified—alongside of them on the cupboard I found a bottle of ginger beer, which she also identified—I found nothing on Mack and Frith—I picked up a piece of cheese; Mack said it did not belong to Mrs. Franksen.

HENRY TAYLOR  (Policeman K 184). I went with Johnson on this morning to the shed—the window was broken, and a portion of the roof off—we then went to Cory’s lobby, and found the four prisoners—the lobby is kept locked, and the key is kept by Cory’s watchman—the prisoners had got into it down the chimney, because it had not been opened since seven o’clock the previous night—I found this corkscrew inside the lobby; Mrs. Franksen identified it—we found a lot of ginger beer bottles.

Mack, in his defence, said he know nothing of the robbery; that he found the door of Cory’s lobby open, and went in about twelve o’clock, and teas there when the robbery woe done. Frith said he did not get doom the chimney; he was in the lobby when the offence was committed.


LONG †, O’CONNOR †, and FRITH †— GUILTY  .— Four Months’ Hard Labour each.

Before Mr. Justice Hawkins.

The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, commonly referred to as the Old Bailey after the street on which it stands, is a criminal court building in central London, one of several that house the Crown Court of England and Wales. The street outside follows the route of the ancient wall around the City of London, which was part of the fortification’s bailey, hence the metonymic name.
The Old Bailey has been housed in a succession of court buildings on the street since the sixteenth century, when it was attached to the medieval Newgate gaol. The current main building block was completed in 1902, designed by Edward William Mountford; its architecture is recognised and protected as a Grade II* listed building.[1] An extension South Block was constructed in 1972, over the former site of Newgate gaol which was demolished in 1904.
The Crown Court sitting in the Old Bailey hears major criminal cases from within Greater London. In exceptional cases, trials may be referred to the Old Bailey from other parts of England and Wales. As with most courts in England and Wales, trials at the Old Bailey are open to the public; however, they are subject to stringent security procedures.

Prison Holloway was a closed categoryprison for adult women and young offenders in Holloway, London, England, operated by His Majesty’s Prison Service. It was the largest women’s prison in western Europe, until its closure in 2016.
The construction of Holloway Prison, to the designs of James Bunstone Bunning, began in 1849 and was completed in 1852 to form the City of London House of Correction, opening in October 1852. As built, it had three wings for males and one for females and juveniles. It was the main prison for the City of London and had cost £91,547 10s 8d. There were 436 cells, 283 for males, 60 for females, 62 for juveniles, 18 refractory cells, 14 reception cells and 14 workrooms. 
In the period 1881-1882, B&C wings were extended to provide 340 new cells and in 1883-1884 a new hospital wing was constructed.
Remand prisoners were sent there and perhaps the most famous of these was Oscar Wilde. Female suffragettes were also imprisoned in Holloway.  The prison was known locally as “Camden Castle” for obvious reasons – see picture below.

Holloway Prison was built by the City of London on land bought as a potential graveyard during the 1830s cholera epidemics. As transportation of criminals abroad ended, and the use of the death penalty was massively reduced, new prisons were needed to cope with growing prisoner numbers.
‘Holloway Castle’ was a grand and imposing building, which dominated the landscape. At the forefront of prison design at the time, its six wings radiated from a central point, so prisoners could be observed at all times without knowing when they were being watched. An inscription on the gateway read, ‘May GOD preserve the CITY of LONDON and make this place a terror to evil doers’.
Prisoners were to be reformed into useful members of society, through hard work and time spent in silent reflection with God.
Prisoners’ work included the treadwheel, picking oakum, basket-making, gardening and laundry.
The 1877 Prisons Act centralised prisons and decreed they should be made harsher in order to deter people from breaking the law. By the end of the century the prison had become a grim place, punitive and infested with vermin.

A view of Holloway Prison, north London, circa 1855.

In 1902 Holloway Prison became the London prison for women. This followed the closure of Newgate Prison and a new policy which separated male and female prisoners. A crèche was added where babies could be kept with their mothers until they were a year old.
Most of the women held at Holloway were serving short sentences for drunkenness, vagrancy or prostitution. Work at the prison was deliberately domestic – sewing, cooking, cleaning and laundry for the prison–giving time for the women to dwell on their sentence.
In 1906 the first suffragette was imprisoned at Holloway Prison, as she refused to ‘recognise laws in the making of which woman had no voice’. By 1914 hundreds of suffragettes had been imprisoned at Holloway, arrested as they fought for the right for women to vote.
From 1909 many suffragettes went on hunger strike to demand their rights as political prisoners. As stories of suffragettes on hunger strike appeared in the press the government authorised force-feeding by prison doctors. The prisoner would be held down, a tube fed into the mouth or nose and food poured into the stomach. This caused pain, suffering, and humiliation. It led to a public outcry and huge embarrassment for the government.
When the First World War broke out in 1914 all suffragettes were released from prison and the majority of militant activities were suspended.

Suffragettes in their cells at Holloway Prison, waving through the bars. Circa 1909. (Photo by Daily Mirror)

I sincerely hope his time in Holloway, wasn’t too horrific from John, as I am convinced he was only trying to do right by his family, by either selling the stolen goods to help his family and Mary Ann Bradley and their daughter Ada Elizabeth.
Or he believed he was helping to put drink and possibly food in their bellies.
Living in Canning Town, the so called slums, must have been incredibly hard and I’m sure he would have wanted to help anyway he could.
Millions of people lived in desperate conditions, often on the verge of starvation. Likely on the wages John and the other Irish got got, it would be impossible to afford a really proper celebratory meal for a birthday or Christmas etc. So unfortunately a lot did turn to petty theft just to be able to experience something like that once in a decade maybe. 
Did you know, there were laws for years that prevented Catholics from going to university, or working as lawyers or doctors, and prevented any education in Catholic religion or latin (which you need because masses weren’t in English until the 1960s). So Irish Catholics didn’t really have much chance for self improvement, unless they ‘gave in’ and converted to Protestantism, as some did, or going abroad, to the Caribbean or the Americas. Catholics were not even allowed in the British Army until I think the 1750s. This meant a lot served abroad in Catholic states like France, Spain etc. They were referred to as ‘The Wild Geese’.

It is believed that all over London and possibly other parts of the country, had signs hung in shop and other businesses windows, like the ones below. Which is beyond cruel and disgusting. I can’t even write the words, as they make me sick to my stomach.

No wonder the archives of full prison record for petty theft. They really had no choice if they wanted to survive.

On the eve of the census, Sunday 5th April 1891, John, his Mother, Ann and Sister Rose, were residing at, 14 Poplar Street, Canning Town, West Ham, London & Essex, England. John was working as a General Labourer and his Mum, Ann as a Factory Hand. Ann is listed as Married still even though she was a widow.
Rose is listed as Kare but it’s clear to see that this is a transcription error.

Somewhen between April 1891 and March 1893, John married Mary Ann Bradley, daughter of, Robert Bradley and Ann Bradley nee Smith. At present unfortunately we haven’t come across a marriage record for them.

It wasn’t long until, John and Mary, welcomed their first born son, into the their home, hearts and family. They named him, John Cornelius O’Connor.
John Cornelius, was born on Monday the 20th of March, 1893, at Number 34, Charlotte Street, Tidal Basin, West Ham, Essex, England.
His Father John, was a Coal Porter at the time of his birth.

His Mother Mary Ann registered his birth on Monday the 8th of May, 1893, in West Ham.

John Cornelius’s son, John Cornelius O’Connor, born 1893

The following year, John’s Mum, Ann O’Connor nee Arter, died on 7th of October, 1894, at West Ham Union Workhouse, Leytonstone, Essex, England.
Ann died from, Cancer of the Pancreas and Stomach.
A post-mortem was taken.
E Hall, assistant master of the Union Workhouse, registered her death on the 12th of October 1894.

West Ham Union Workhouse was a workhouse in Leytonstone, built in the village of Holloway Down between 1839 and 1841 and run by the West Ham Poor Law Union. That Union covered several parishes in what is now Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest. West Ham Borough Council took over its running in 1930 and renamed it the Central Home Public Assistance Institution (or Central Home for short), using it as a home for the infirm, aged and chronically sick. In 1948 it formally became a National Health Service hospital under the name of the Langthorne Hospital, which remained open until 1999.
The workhouse’s main original block, its chapel and its lodge are all Grade II listed buildings, whilst the workhouse and hospital lands have been redeveloped.

John and his family, laid his Mum, Ann O’Connor nee Arter, to rest, on Tuesday, the 09th of October, 1894, at West Ham Cemetery, 133A Cemetery Road, Newham, London, England. Ann was buried in an open grave with 10 other people. Her grave reference is RG/59879.

John and Mary Ann welcomed their second son into the family. They named him, Thomas Patrick O’Connor. Thomas Patrick was born in the July-September quarter of 1895, in the West Ham district of Essex, England.

Heartbreakingly for John and Mary Ann, their baby boy, Thomas Patrick O’Connor, died on Saturday, the 5th of October, 1895, when he was only 1 month old.
Thomas died from, Tabes Mesenterica, (tuberculosis affecting the mesenteric lymphatic system) at Number 37, Brunel Street, Canning Town, West Ham, England.
His Father John, was working as a, Coal Porter, at the time of Thomas Death.
His Mother Mary Ann, registered his death on Monday the 7th of October 1895.

John once again found himself in trouble with the law and found himself and two others at trail at West Ham Police-court, on Monday 20th April 1896. John were charged on remand and sent to the Old Bailey for trail, which would later be held on the 18th May,1896.

On Saturday 25 April 1896 the West Ham and South Essex Mail Newspaper printed the following article about John’s run in with the law.

John O’Conner, George Spratt and George Stone, Canning Town coal porters, were charged before Mr. Banellay on Monday with being concerned in stealing a bottle of brandy, a bottle of rum, 15lb. of cheese and 21 fowls from the “City Arms,” Victoria Dock-Road, the property of Harriet Rebecca Pain.
Mr Fred George prosecuted.
At about half-past two on Sunday morning Constable Waller saw O’Connor and another man in Scott Street , Canning Town, They carried parcels, and when questioned said they contended fowl and cheese, which they had brought at the top of the “Marsh.” They were told they would have to go to the station, as that tale would not do, and on the way became violent, and one excepted. O’Connor was, however, detained, and found to be in procession of three fowl and a lump of cheese. Afterwards, in company with Constable Piper, Constable Waller, having noticed feathers outside Stone’s house, demanded admittance. In a kitchen drawer was found a big slice of cheese, and under the bed two dead fowls and two spirit bottles, one labelled brandy and the other rum. Stone was arrested and later on Constable Piper went to Elphick-Street and found there five dead fowls and two pieces of cheeses. Inquiries showed that 21 fowls had been stolen from the “City Arms” on Saturday afternoon, of which the 11 recovered were part, and the brandy and rum bottles and cheese were also recognixed by Mr. Hughes, the manager, as having been stolen from the bar.
The three men were remanded, O’Connor and Stone saying they would plead guilty to stealing 13 but not 21 fowls.

The, West Ham and South Essex Mail newspaper, also printed an article on the 02nd May 1896, it reads,

John O’Connor, George Sprott and George Stone, Canning Town coal porters, were charged on remind on Monday with being concerned in stealing a bottle of brandy. a bottle of rum. tslb. of theme and 21 fowls from the ” City Arms,” Victoria Dock-Road, the property of Harriett Payne. Mr. Fred George prosecutors. The facts were given last week.
There was a conviction against O’Connor, and the three men, who asked to have the case dealt with summarily, were committed for trial to the central Criminal court.
Subsequently Mr. Fred George asked if the magistrate would direct the police to deliver the property found to the prosecutor. Some of it was perishable.
Mr. Baggallay : The prisoners have gone for trail. If I had dealt with the case I could have made an order, but now I have no control over it.
Mr. George : Then I must supply the police with coops for the fowls. (Laughter.)
Mr. Baggallay : They will be profitable keeping. I suppose-laying?
Inspector Gilbert : The fowls are all dead, your worship.
Mr. George : Oh I thought they were alive. They will certainly not keep till May 18th, sir. (Laughter.)
Mr. Baggallay : Not in the hands of the police?
Inspector Gilbert : And the cheese is “going.” (Laughter.).
Mr. George : The police are clearly in a difficulty.
Mr. Baggallay : Well, they must get out of it as best they can. I can’t help them.

And the Barking, East Ham & Ilford Advertiser printed the following article,

At the West Ham Police-court on Monday, John O’Connor (24). George Spratt (26), and George Stone (42), coal porters, of Conning Town, were charged with being concerned stealing bottle of brandy, a bottle of rum, 151bs. Of cheese, and 21 fowls, from the City Arms, Victoria Dock-Road, the property of Harriett Rebecca Payne. – Mr. F George prosecuted. – P.-c. Waller stated that at half-past one on Sunday morning the prisoner O’Connor and another man were in Scott-street, Canning Town. They each carried a parcel, which was found to contain fowls and cheese, and the men said they had brought them in Dock-Road. They were told that they must go to the station, whereupon they became very violent, and the second man escaped, while O’Connor was with difficulty got to the station-house. Outside a house in Scott-street some feathers were noticed, and the police found the Spratt lived there. In a kitchen drawer was a big piece of cheese, and under a bed were two dead fowls and two spirit bottles. Further inquiries resulted in the arrest of Stone, at whose house were found five dead fowls and two pieces of cheese. – The prisoners were committed for trial to the Central Criminal Court.

And the Essex Newsman Newspaper printed,

At the West Ham Police-court Monday John O’Connor, 24, George Spratt, 26, and George Stone, coal porters,” Canning Town, were charged with being concerned stealing a bottle of brandy, a bottle of rum, 151bs. Of cheese, and 21 fowls, from the City Arms, Victoria Dock-Road, the property of Harriett Rebecca Payne. – Mr. F George prosecuted.
Police constable Waller stated that at about half-past one on Sunday morning, April 19, the prisoner O’Connor and another man were in Scotts-street, Canning Town. They each carried a parcel, which was found to contain fowls and cheese, and the men said they had bought them in the Dock-road. They were told that that tale would not do, and they must go to the station, whereupon they became very violent, and the second man escaped while O’Connor was with difficulty got to the station house. Outside a house in Scott-street some feathers were noticed, and the police demanded the admittance found that Spratt lived there. In a kitchen drawer with a big piece of cheese, and under a bed to dead fowls and two spirit bottles. Further in proper inquiries resulted in the arrest of Stone, at whose house were found five dead fowls and two pieces of cheese. – The prisoners were committed to trial at the Central Criminal Court.

On Monday the 18th of May, 1896, John was tried at Old Bailey, London (c.c.c. (west ham pol. ct.)).
He was accused of simple larceny and was sentenced to 5 months imprisonment, at Pentonville Prison.

John was discharged, as a habitual criminal, on the 17th October 1896.

The interior of a courtroom at the Old Bailey in 1897. From Criminal London: A Pictorial History from Medieval Times to 1939 (2002). © Mark Herber
The interior of a courtroom at the Old Bailey in 1897. From Criminal London: A Pictorial History from Medieval Times to 1939 (2002). © Mark Herber

What I found extremely interesting about the above article was the Appearance Marks section, which states, John, had a dot third left finger; long so end of nose and right jawbone; A., dot, woman on ball, and two wings left arm ; star left and wreath right wrist, ship and crown right upper arm.
This could be the answer to knowing if this really was our John Cornelius O’Connor. I so very much wish, someone was still alive who knew if he had these markings.

Pentonville prison in London was the most famous prison that was run as a separate prison. It was designed specially with wings radiating from a central hall. These wings allowed for individual cells for prisoners. Similar designs were then used in 54 other prisons, including Ruthin. Ruthin prison’s 4-storey Pentonville-style wing was built in 1878.

It was originally constructed for the purpose of rehabilitation and, from the beginning, implemented the ‘separate system’ aiming to reform prisoners prior to transportation to Australia.
As part of the separation system, prisoners were only allowed out of their cells for exercise and church services. Even whilst exercising, they had to wear masks whilst exercising to prevent them recognising each other and to make communication almost impossible. Likewise, special chapels were built with stalls to keep prisoners physically separate and unable to converse.

An example of the seperation system in a prison chapel.

The separation was noted even at the time to have a detrimental affect on the inmates mental health. An official report admitted that for every sixty thousand persons imprisoned in Pentonville, there were 220 cases of insanity, 210 cases of delusion and 40 suicides.

John and the other Pentonville prisoners had to engage in 6 main types of work:
❖Some work in Pentonville was ‘useful’ work that would hopefully help prisoners find honest employment when they were released.
❖Useful work included making clothes on a weaving loom in their cell.
❖Some work, however, involved pointless tasks that were deliberately boring and repetitive.
❖Pointless work included oakum picking, which involved unravelling and cleaning old rope.
❖Prisoners might spend their time pointlessly walking a giant treadwheel.
❖Prisoners might also have to turn a crank handle 10,000 times a day.

As for punishments at Pentonville Prison, after the1860s punishment was made harsher, in 4 key ways:
❖Electric shocks for those who didn’t work hard enough.
❖Bread and water diets.
❖More time in solitary confinement.

I wonder how time spent in such a damn awful place would have changed John, and also his relationships in the outside world.
I sincerely feel very sad about his time serving in Pentonville, life and making ends meet must have been incredibly hard to drive him to crime, just so he could feed his growing family. Maybe his time in Pentonville and the struggles he faced beforehand, was the reason he never let his family, friends and neighbours, go hungry, later in his life. He would sail out into Southampton waters on his boat, and bring home enough fish to feed everyone. His kindness makes me extremely proud of him.

After Johns release, John and Mary Ann, didn’t waste anytime, re-kindling their flame, and after a very short time Mary Ann, was once again pregnant.
On Tuesday the 22nd of June, 1897, she gave birth to twin boys, at 4 Cameron Street, New Beckton, East Ham, Essex, England.
They named them Daniel O’Connor and Thomas Patrick O’Connor.
Daniel O’Connor was born at 3.35am,
Their Father John, was working as a General Labourer, at the time of their births.
Mary Ann registered Daniel and Thomas’s births on the 17th August 1897.
She signed with an X.

I will order Thomas Patrick’s, birth certificate when fund allow.

Daniel and Thomas were baptised on the 30th of June, 1897, at St Mary Magdalene, East Ham, Essex, England.

St Mary Magdalene, East Ham, Essex, England.

St Mary Magdalene’s Church, East Ham is a parish church in East Ham, east London, dedicated to St Mary Magdalene.
Its nave, chancel and apse date to the first half of the 12th century and the tower probably to the early 13th century but partly rebuilt in the 16th century – it is claimed to be the oldest parish church still in weekly use in Greater London and is listed at Grade I.

Sadly Thomas Patrick, died on Wednesday the 13th of August, 1898, aged 13 months from Tabes Mesenterica, Asthma, a form of tuberculosis that destroys that lymph nodes, possibly from contaminated cows milk.
He died at their home, number 10, Cameron Street, New Beckton, East Ham, Essex, England.
Mary Ann was present and registered his death on Friday the 15th of August, 1878.
She gave her husband John’s occupation as a Coal Porter, Their Abode as, 10 Cameron Street, New Beckton, East Ham, Essex, England.
She did not sign with an X this time.

John and Mary Ann, laid Thomas Patrick to rest, on the 17th August 1897, at at St Mary Magdalene, East Ham, Essex, England.

A few short years later, John and Mary Ann, were was again expecting. I’m sure Mary Ann, must have been feeling very anxious after losing two of her sons, Thomas Patrick and Thomas Patrick O’Connor. Pregnancy always brings so many emotions and fears, add to those the fear of losing another child, Mary Ann’s pregnancy must have felt extremely long.

On the 17th June 1900, at their home, 49 Frederick Road, Custom House, West Ham, Essex, England, Mary Ann, gave birth to twin boys.
They named them, Steve Patrick and Timothy Doolan O’Connor.
Timothy was born at 6.10am.

Heartbreakingly Steve Patrick, only lived for just over a month.
Steve Patrick, died on Wednesday the 1st of August, 1900, at 17, Marten Road, West Ham.
He died from, Debility From Birth.
Mary Ann registered Steve’s death on Wednesday the 8th of August, 1900.
She gave her husband Johns occupation as a Coal Porter and their abode as, 49 Frederick Road, Custom House, West Ham, Essex, England.

Steve Patrick O’Connor, was laid to rest, at West Ham Cemetery, Newham, London, England.

To bury your baby must be the most heartbreaking thing, one can ever do.
How John and Mary found the strength to stand at his graveside and watch his tiny coffin be lowered into the ground is way beyond my comprehension.
I sincerely hope they had a good network of family and friends around them to lean on.
I also hope that John didn’t feel alone in his grief, men are so very often forgotten when a child is lost. They grieve the same as the mother but even in this day and age, I feel a father’s grief is over looked and they don’t seem to get the same love and support as the mother of the child.
It is beyond heartbreaking, to have to grieve alone, especially while trying one’s utmost to stay strong and support your wife/partner and your other children.
We mustn’t forget the grief that Timothy must have been feeling but not understanding.
Steve and Timothy had always been together from the moment of conception until baby Steve drew his last breath.
Being a twin myself I fully understand what separation from your twin, can do to ones soul. There are no words to describe the loss and torture it brings but to lose them through death, with no hope of reuniting must be indescribable. And for someone so young as Timothy was, not understanding the feelings of loss, must have been unbearable to say the least.
I hope John and Mary Ann found a way to comfort him.

Unfortunately the Grim Reaper was still lurking in the shadows.
Five months after loosing his son, John’s wife Mary Ann died on Thursday the 10th of January, 1901, at their home, 49 Frederick Road, Custom House, West Ham, Essex, England.
Mary Ann died from Pneumonia, 5 days, at the age of 33.
Her death certificate gives the age of 28, which going by her birth date on her birth certificate, she may have known her age. Or possibly John wasn’t sure about what age she was. This has proven to be very common throughout my family history research.
John was present when Mary Ann passed away and registered her death on Saturday the 12th of January 1901.
Will and I are still actively looking for her burial.

The actual date isn’t known but, after Mary’s death, John packed up his belongings and left the family home and his children and moved to Southampton Hampshire.

His children were separated, according to the 1901 census, Ada Elizabeth (b.1891), John Cornelius (b.1893), and Daniel (b.1897) were with the maternal aunt Harriet Stapley & her family at 136, Elizabeth Street, East Ham, Essex.

And Timothy was with, Andrew & Lydia Birrell & family at 17, Marten Road, Tidal Basin, West Ham.

The same census shows on the eve of, Sunday, the 31st of March, 1901, John Cornelius, was now living in Southampton.
He is lodging with Walter Scorey, his wife Blanche and their 4 children and another lodger called Henry Jones, at Empress Cottage, 1, Elm Road, St Marys, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
John is working as a General Labourer.

Heartbreakingly John and Mary Ann’s son, Timothy died on 25th November, 1901 at 19 (possible error), Marten Road aged 17 months, of general tuberculosis & broncho-pneumonia, son of John O’Connor, coal porter.
An inquest was held by the West Ham coroner, and this was published in the Stratford Express with a few errors (Biddle should be Birrell, address should probably be 17 not 12).
Lydia said she adopted Timothy, but he had always been delicate, and she could not get any medicine for him, he was half the normal weight at 10 lbs 8 oz.

Mr. G. E Hillary, the West Ham Coroner, held an inquest at the Public Hall, Canning Town, on Tuesday 26th November 1901, on the body of Timothy Doolan O’Connor, ages seventeen months.
A small write up was published in the Stratford Express.

It reads ….


Mr. G. E Hillary, the West Ham Coroner,  
held an inquest at the public Hall, Canning  
Town, on Tuesday, on the body of Timothy  
Doolan O’Connor, ages seventeen months. 
Lydia Biddle, a married women, residing at  
12, Martin Road, Custom House, stated that she. 
had adopted the deceased child and that it had  
always been delicate. She had been unable to  
obtain any medicine for the child before it  
Dr. Smith said he had made a post-mortem  
examination. The body had only weighed 10lb  
8 ouches half the normal weight. Death was  
due to general tuberculosis. 
The jury returned a verdict accordingly.

Source – Newham Local Studies.

There are a few errors in the article, Biddle should be Birrell, and the address should probably be 17 not 12.

Timothy was laid to rest at West Ham Cemetery, Newham, London, England, in grave RE/81060, on the 6th December 1901. He was buried with 16 others.

Johns Mother Inlaw, Ann Bradley nee Smith, widow of Robert Bradley, bricklayer of, 136 Elizabeth Street, East Ham, sadly died on Sunday the 17th August 1902 at the Union Workhouse, Leytonstone, West Ham, Essex, England. Aka, West Ham Workhouse.

Ann died from, Cerebral Haemorrhage Syncope.
Lewis G Hill, acting master of the workhouse registered her death on the 19th of August 1902.
I have seen a copy of the death certificate on Ancestry but it belongs to someone else so I can not share it with you unfortunately, that wouldn’t be right. However you can always purchase your own copy with the below details.

Ann was laid to rest on Tuesday the 19th of August, 1902, at West Ham Cemetery, Newton, London in a open grave, grave reference RE/83257, with 17 others.

I wonder if John was informed of their deaths and if he managed to attend their funerals. I wholeheartedly hope he did manage to gain the strength to do so. Possibly the pain of loosing another child would have been too raw and soul destroying. I’m not sure how anyone could have handled the amount of grief my poor great, great grandfather has lived through over the last ten years or so. My heart bleeds deeply for him and my love only grows deeper. How I love him, is beyond words.

When Johns sister, Rosina O’Connor, was 22 years old, she married, 23 year old, bachelor, Walter Wiseman Mason, son of Mr. Walter Mason, and, Elizabeth Humphries, on Sunday, the 19th of May, 1907, at The Parish Church of St Peter, Regent Square, London.

St. Peter s church, Regent-square, was built in 1824, at a cost of £16,000

Their witnesses were, Richard Bennett and, Annie Dorothy Spencer. Rosina was working as a Waitress at the time of their marriage and residing at Number 9 Harrison Street.

Walter was residing at, Number 2, Sidmouth Street and working as a, Dentist Assistant.

They gave their fathers names as, Walter Mason, a Bookseller and John Patrick O’Connor, a Carpenter.(Deceased)
F. W. King, assistant Curate, took the ceremony.

I wish I could picture their faces, and feel the excitement of the day. 
I wonder if Rosina and Annie, had the fiery red, fiercely curly, hair of the Irish?
How would she of worn it? 
Would Annie have delicately placeed flowers in her locks? 
What would Rosina have worn? I imagine her looking a picture perfect elegant bride.
Did they speak with a slight Irish accent or had the family spent too much time in London and lost the delicious Irish twang ?
Who would have been given the honour, of giving her away, as sadly her father John, wasn’t able to. I wonder if John or Thomas had been given the honour or maybe even Annie ? 
Were her brothers John and Thomas, even there? I do hope so.
You can read more about Rosinas life here, but in full honesty I know a lot more now, than I did when I wrote about he life, the same goes for Annie.

At first glance I thought Annie was Rosinas witness but I don’t think it was her.
So who was Annie Dorothy Spencer? Was she an relative? It seems like Annie may have been named after her?
And their other witnesses, Richard Bennett, who was he and what was their relationship? A friend or possibly family? So many questions. Questions I feel I may never find the answers to. \

I’m sad to say, Rosina and Walters marriage, wasn’t plain sailing and Rosina found comfort in another man’s arms. 
His name was, Richard Williams, a Labourer, at a Electric Power station.

Lets get back to John,
John Cornelius, took up lodgings with my 3rd Great-Grandparents, Alfred William Wheeler and Emily Wheeler nee Shinkfield. (You can read about Alfred’s life here and Emily’s life here and here.)

He fell in love with his landlords daughter, Ethel May Wheeler and they married on the 26 December 1908, at St Mary’s Church, St Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire.
John Cornelius O’Connor, was a 34 year old ,widower and working as a Coal Trimmer.
Ethel May Wheeler was a 22 year old spinster.
John and Ethel were both residing at, Number 14, Albert Road, Southampton.
Their Fathers were named as John Cornelius O’Connor (deceased), Master Mariner and Alfred Wheeler, Coal Porter.
Their witnesses are Albert Edwin Wheeler and Clara Helena Wilson.

Ethel was soon in the family way.
On Wednesday the 18th of August, 1909, at Number 12, Deal Street, Southampton, Hampshire, England, John Cornelius and Ethel, welcomed their Daughter into the world.
They named her, Eileen May O’Connor, my Great Grandmother, the most beautiful soul you could ever meet.
John’s occupation was given as a Coal Porter and they were residing at Number 12, Deal Street, Southampton, Hampshire England.
Ethel May O’Connor Nee Wheeler, registered Eileen’s birth on the 27th September 1909.

Eileen May O’Connor was baptised at St Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire, England, on the 8th September 1909.
John occupation was given as Trimmer and their address was 12 Deal Street.
Eileen would later marry, Reginald George Wilfred Willats and have one Daughter Doreen June Willats.
You can read about them, here, here and here and about Doreen, here and here.
How I loved my granny cuddles. She was my favourite person, I miss her every single day. Such a strong incredible beautiful soul.

It was not long until, John’s sister Annie, had met a gentleman and fallen, head over hills in love and on, Tuesday, the 13th of September, 1910, at The Registry Office, West Ham, Essex, Annie Dorothy O’Connors, married bachelor, Mr. James. William. Taylor, a seaman in merchant service, the son of, James Taylor.
Their witnesses were, Ada Etherton, Annie and James landlady, and Annie’s sister, Rose Mason aka Rosina. Ada signed with an X.
Annie and James, were residing at number 21, Dale Road, Canning Town, London, at the time of their marriage.
Their fathers were named as, James Taylor, a Ship Wright (deceased) and John Patrick O’Connor, a carpenter (deceased).

Heartbreakingly their joy was short lived, as on Saturday, the 26th of October, 1918, Annie’s husband, James William Taylor, tragically died from, a fracture of the skull, owing to the breaking of a wooden derrick, which caused James to fall.  A post-mortem concluded that he died from, accidental death. You can read more about Annies life here.

By the 1911 census, John Ethel and Eileen, were residing at Number 4, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton, which was a dwelling of only 3 rooms.
John was 37 years old, Ethel 24 and Eileen was just 1.
John was working for a Coal Marchant as a Coal Porter.
Ethel and John have been married 2 years, they have 1 child born living and 1 child sill living. Ethel is pregnant with their second child.

John’s and Ethel’s second Daughter, Dorothy Rose Emily O’Connor was born on the 4th May 1911, at Number 4, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton, Hampshire, England
John was still working as a Coal Porter.
They were residing at, Number 4 Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton.
Ethel May O’Connor Nee Wheeler, registered Dorothy’s birth, on June, 14th, 1911.

Dorothy Rose Emily O’Connor Birth Certificate

John and Ethel, baptised Dorothy Rose Emily O’Connor, on the 2nd June 1911 at St Mary’s, Southampton, Hampshire.
John’s occupation was given as Coal Porter and the family are residing at, Number 4, Crosshouse terrace, Southampton.
Dorothy would later marry, Harold A E Croucher and have two children, Peter Harold Croucher and Joy E Croucher.
Dorothy aka Dory, I’ve been told, was also a beautiful kind soul. I so wish I could remember her but sadly I was very young when she gained her angel wings. Hopefully I will have the pleasure of meeting her after I leave this world. It would be an absolute honour, one I very much look forward to.

On the 4th of December 1913, John and Ethel welcomed their third Daughter, Kathleen Helena Florence O’Connor into the world.
She was also born at Number 4, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton, Hampshire.
John was still working as a Coal porter.
Ethel May O’Connor Nee Wheeler, registered Kathleen Aka Kitty’s birth on the 7th January 1914.

Kathleen Helena O'Connor Birth Certificate

Kit in 1989

They baptised, Kathleen Eleanor Florence O’Connor, on the 7th January, 1914 at St Mary’s, Southampton.
Kathleen would go on to marry, William Alfred Young and have 2 Sons and 3 Daughters.
live been told that Kit was also a beautiful Kind soul, whom loved to laugh. I wish I could remember meeting her. My life is so full of regrets about not having spent time with my Great aunts and uncles.

By 1915, the O’Connor family had moved home, just a few doors away to Number 11, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton.

On the 2nd of July John and Ethel’s Son, Patrick John O’Connor was born at Number 11, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton.
John was still working as a Coal Porter.
Ethel registered his birth on the 10th August 1915.

Patrick John O'Connor Birth Certicate

Patrick John O’Connor was baptised on the 25th August 1915, at St Mary’s, Southampton.
He would later marry, Violet Elizabeth Maud Long.

I can only imagine the delight John must have felt to hold a son in his arms again.
I can only imagine the pain that John would have been feeling, as memories of his family with Mary Ann would have come flooding back to him.
I wonder if he was in contact with this 3 surviving children from his relationship with Mary and Bradley.

By 1918, John is still porting coal and was still residing at Number 11, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton.
Once again they welcomed a new arrival into their humble home.
Norah Margaret O’Connor was born on the 3rd May, 1918, at Number 11, Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton.

Norah M O'Connor birth Index

The family is rather large now, money must have been tight as the family grow in size and the Great war was still looming over the city. 
John, Ethel and his children were well feed, not one mouth went hungry, as John would go fishing on his boat Allanha, bringing home plenty of fish for everyone in the street to eat.
Allanha sadly got bombed and destroyed in Southampton waters where it was moored at Crosshouse Harbour.

The Great War is now over, it’s 1920, and the O’Connor family are still residing at, Number 11 Crosshouse Terrace. John was working as a coal porter.
Life must have been returning to normal after the war, as once again Ethel found herself expecting.

On the 17th November 1920, Brennan Cornelius O’Connor, was born at Number 11, Cross House Terrace, Southampton.
His birth certificate shows that John was still working as a Coal Porter.
Their residence was still Number 11, Cross House Terrace, Southampton.
And Ethel registered Brennan’s birth on the 8th February 1921.
Brennan would later move to South Africa and marry Joan Lillian Janse Van Rensbury. They had 10 Children together.

Brennan O'Connor Birth cert

There is something about Brennan that draws me in, I can’t explain it.
There is this pull to know more, to understand his character. A need to know him and all about his life.
He fascinates me.
It’s the same with our John Cornelius but a much stronger pull. Maybe our souls are connected in some spiritual way.

Johns sister, Widow, Annie Dorothy Taylor nee O’Connor, found love again and married 45 year old, bachelor, Albert Cranham, son of, Mr Stephen Cranham and Mrs Sarah Cranham, at The Register Office, West Ham, Essex, England on Thursday the 23rd of December 1920 when she was 42 years old. Their witnesses were, Esther Latchfield and Annie’s sister Rosina Williams nee O’Connor.
Both Annie and Albert were residing at, Number 129, Mortlake Road, Custom House, West Ham, Essex. Albert was working as a, General Labourer. They gave their fathers names and occupations as, Stephen Cranham, deceased General Labourer and Patrick O’Connor, deceased Carpenter and Joiner.

Just under 6 months later, the 1921 census was taken on Sunday the 19th June 1921. It shows the John O’Connor was residing at Number 11, Cross House Terrace, Southampton, Hampshire, England, with his wife Ethel May and children, Eileen May, Dorothy Rose, Kathleen Helena, Patrick John, Nora Margaret and Brennan Cornelius O’Connor. John Cornelius was working for Rea Transport & Co, as a Coal Porter.
It gives his date of birth as 1874 and gives his birth location as, At Sea and that he is Irish.The family of 8 are living in a 4 room dwelling.

How utterly wonderful it is to see his writing and see how his hand took to paper. How he formed his letters and signed his signature. It’s truly fascinating, I’m in awe of him and truly mesmerised by his hand.

Home life must have been busy and exciting as the children grow, learning all they needed to know, readying themselves for their own adventures.
Ethel’s childbearing days were still not over, as she once again found herself in the family way. Ethel gave birth to Molly E O’Connor, between the April and May quarter of 1923, in the Southampton district. Molly went on to marry Anthony Rogers.

Molly E O'connor birth index

Ethel finally had enough of childbearing, wouldn’t you after having 7 children.
She banished John to live on his boat in hopes that she wouldn’t fall pregnant again.
Being Catholic they really didn’t have much choice.

All the while, John and Ethel’s daughter Eileen may O’Connor had fallen head over heels in love with Reginald George Wilfred Willats.
Reg asked her to marry him and of course she said yes, she adored him and was so very much in love. A love so deep, even in death in never fluttered.
All they needed was for her dad, our John Cornelius O’Connor, to sign the marriage forms.
For one reason or another, he wouldn’t sign them, throwing a massive spanner in the works to the plans, of a young couple so crazy in love, spending the rest of their lives together.
John wouldn’t agree and tore up the paperwork, I guess no-one was good enough for his Daughter, which is rather sweet, but I very frustrating for Eileen and Reg.
Eileen and her Mum Ethel ended up going to court to get the permission they needed to wed and on October 24, 1929, at St. Josephs Chapel, a Roman Catholic parish church in Southampton, Hampshire, England, Reg and Eileen were joined in marriage.


Reg was a 23 year old bachelor, he was working as a waiter and residing at Number 50, Manchester Street. Manchester Street, was next to the Bus Station originally linked to Above Bar Street to Western Esplanade. It was demolished in 1987 when the Marlands Centre was built. A terrace with some similarities was added within the Shopping Centre itself.

manchester street, southampton

His father, Harry Herbert Willats, was a deceased actor, who died on the 17th October 1929, a few days before their marriage.
Eileen was a 20 year old, spinster and residing at Number 11 Crosshouse Terrace, Southampton. 

For many years Crosshouse was almost a separate community with a collection of houses at Crosshouse Terrace that had been occupied since at least the 1830s, much earlier than those in Crosshouse Road. Crosshouse Terrace, adjacent to the ancient ferry shelter, was a triangular huddle of around a dozen houses where the numbering was a little haphazard. Nearby stood a shipbuilding and repair yard that later became George Napier & Sons engineering works, then down on Crosshouse Wharf were a number of businesses including Richard Westlake’s sack factory and Tagart, Morgan & Coles steam driven Sawmill. The whole area was totally destroyed in the war by bombing that was aimed at the Supermarine Works on the opposite side if the River Itchen. As with any decent community, there was the local pub, in fact, at one time there were two. ‘The White Swan’ and the ‘Ship’, both of which disappeared in the wartime bombing. The ‘White Swan’ which stood on the east side of Crosshouse Road, adjacent to the old shelter, dated back to the early 1800s when Thomas Dear was the landlord. Local ship builder and later celebrated politician, John Ransom was proprietor in the 1820s and owner for several decades.

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 13.16.48

John Cornelius O’connor, was working as a Coal Porter. He was named as Cornelius O’Connor, not John.
Their witnesses were, Frederick Brown and E.M O’Connor, Eileen’s Mother, Ethel May O’Connor Nee Wheeler.

Marriage Certificate

John and Ethel daughter, Dorothy Rose Emily O’Connor married Harold A E Croucher in Southampton, Hampshire, in December 1933 when she was 22 years old.
It is really strange that in all the wedding photos of Johns Children, John is not in any of them. I wonder why. Was he aware of his so called criminal past, if you can call it that, as he was doing what was needed to get by in the slums of canning town and custom housings.
I am sure we all would do the same to feed our families. We are lucky that we have food banks and other charities to help us out in the awful state of affairs we are now living in. Who would have thought, all these years later in 2023, we would need the help of food banks and having to decided what needs to come first feeding our family or lighting and heating our homes.
My heart weeps for the life choices John had to make. No matter what he had to do to get by, he’s a hero in my eyes.

Another of John and Ethels daughers, Kathleen Helena Florence O’Connor married William Alfred Young in September quarter of 1934 when she was 20 years old.

And their daughter, Norah Margaret O’Connor married John Walter Cooper on Monday the 18th of April, 1938, in the Southampton district.

This may have been the last time the family were all together celebrating, with war coming and heartbreakingly Johns story is nearing an end.

John sadly passes away on the 4th October 1939, at Number 1, Botley Road, West End, Hampshire, England, aged 66.
His occupation is listed as a, Watchman, on his death certificate.
His residence at the time of his death was Number 32, Canute Road, Southampton, Hampshire, where I have traced Ethel, Patrick and Molly as residences in the 1939 register.

1939 Registar.

John died from Bronchitis and Myocardial Degeneration.
Ethel registered his death on October 4th 1939.

Death Cert

Great, Great Grandad, John Cornelius, was buried at Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton, Hampshire, England, on the 7th October 1939, in plot, Plot: K009 / 285.

John O'Connor Death Card

This is sadly where my Great, Great Grandfather, John’s story ends, but not our memory’s or the love his family still feel for him.
Even though I have come so far in my research, mainly down to a random email from Will, who I truly can’t not thank enough for his time and dedication, there is still so much more to discover.

You must have noticed I haven’t mentioned the trip we believed John, took to Canada, that’s because I’m not sure yet if John went there or not. I have lots more research to do before I can confirm through documentation either way.
However I do believe that the two sons, we believed to be his, Canadian sons, called, Thomas and James O’Connor, are not who we thought they were, as I have dug a little deeper into Thomas’s military history, which states his fathers name was in fact, James, not John.

Did John really travel to Canada, marry and have two children?
The story we have been told about him being married, his wife dying and him seeking out a new life (leaving his children behind.) is identical to his life in London with Mary Ann Bradley and their children. It’s just missing the location of Canada.

I do know that his sons, John Cornelius and Daniel O’Connor, were both in the military, serving in the Royal Navy.
Could it possibly have been one of them, that my Granny Cuddles, Eileen May O’Connor, met at Royal Victoria Military Hospital?
More research needs doing, to find out if the Navy used the Royal Victoria Military Hospital, at Netley. I believe patients were brought in by sea so in my minds eye it could be a possibility. I have emailed them so hopefully I will hear back soon.

Royal Victoria Military Hospital, Netley, Hampshire: from the harbour.

Did you notice that John seems to only use his middle name, Cornelius, later in his life, more so after he left London and moved to Southampton. I wonder the reasons behind this?
Was it down to John making a new life for himself? If this was the case, I’m not saying that it was, just thinking of options/reasons why.
If I was starting a new life in a different place, maybe I would change a few details about my life. I think we would all do the same.
John’s life was so full of grief and hardships, I don’t blame him for wanting or needing to put the past behind him and start a new life with open blank pages before him.
It must have been incredibly hard to leave all you have known behind, especially family and friends. For him to walk away from everything and everyone must have crushed him emotionally. It took a lot of strength and a great deal of bravery and I salute him for having the faith and courage to do so.
He is pretty damn incredible.

Even though we now know so much more about John’s life, there is so much more to learn, and I can not wait to delve deeper into the O’Connor history. To discover more about my fascinating, strong, resilient, brave Great, Great Grandfather and his family.
To me, John isn’t just my, Great, Great, Grandfather, he is so much more than that. He is part of my very being, he flows through my veins and owns a humongous part of my heart.
He is my addiction and I feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude, that I am his descendant.
It has been and always will be an honour, researching his life. I’ve learnt so very much, along the way.
It’s taken over a decade to get this far, mainly due, to me wearing shutters on my eyes and not opening myself up to the possibility that he possibly wasn’t born at sea.
Even when documentation was right in front of me, I wouldn’t allow myself to even comprehend they were true.
I have always loved telling people that he was born at sea and about his Canadian family. I was and still am proud of that.
Even though I have removed those shutters, I still don’t want to believe there is a possibility that he may have not been born at sea. However I know that from now on, I have to step outside the box, keep my eyes wide open, my mind free and look at every possibility. Even when I don’t want to believe the official documents. It’s been a hard pill to swallow, that’s for sure.

No matter what I find out about John and my other ancestors, they are all so very important to me. I love them all so very much, which may sound strange, as I have never met most of them. But I know each and everyone of them, more than I know some of my living relatives, sad but true.
They are a humongous part of my very being. And I sincerely thank each and everyone of them, for giving me a purpose.
I swear to honour and share their life’s, the good and the not so good parts, as best I can.
Each and every life story I write about the incredible souls who are my family, I do so with so much love and respect.
I really can not thank them enough for giving me life and the beautiful family I am apart of.

As for diving deeper into the O’Connor family, research is well on its way and I’m currently back to Johns 3rd Great grandparents (My 5th Great-Grandfather) on John’s mothers line, the Arter line, and the late 1700s on the O’Connor line. It’s all coming together and I’m pretty damn chuffed, it’s been a long time coming.
I am sure there will be many, many more unanswered questions, there are more than a few already consuming my thoughts.
I can reassure you, that while I have the means and am capable to do so, I will continue my research with as much love, respect, honour and dedication as I always have.

Before I say my normal goodbyes, I must thank Will, for making contact, for all your help and insight and for allowing me to share the certificates you purchased. I soulfully can not thank you enough for all you have done and continue to do. It’s been an honour to work beside you. Your friend is beyond lucky to have such a talented soul, researching his/our family’s history for him.

If you are a descendant of our John Cornelius O’Connors, or his parents and siblings, please feel free to join our Facebook group, “Descendants Of John O’Connor”. You can find it here. We would love to see and hear from you there.
Until next time, stay safe, stay true, be you.
Too-da-loo for now.


Will and I have brought and paid for all certificates within this post,
Please do not download or use them without my permission. 
same goes for the treasured family photos.
All you have to do is ask.
Thank you.

2 thoughts on “John Cornelius O’Connor – The Hunt Takes An Unexpected Turn, As His Truth Unfolds.

  1. Pingback: The Life Of Ann Arter 1847-1894, Through Documentation. | Intwined

  2. Pingback: The Life Of Honora Carroll 1827-1872 | Intwined

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