View Full Version : Your expert help, please.

Sand Dancer
22-08-09, 18:20
1881...did people who had been declared bankrupt go to prison or get transported to Australia?
I have a problem ref: my bankrupt chap in 1881 and wondering if I should be searching a totally alien area to the one where he was born, grew up, lived with his family until he went bankrupt.

He was a farmer b.1832 and I have found him in the 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871 census, always in the same village.
He does not appear in the 1881 census.
I've found a death which fits (right name/age/town) in March 1881, which would explain his absence from the 1881 census.....BUT....the County Court newspaper notice of liquidation is dated 1 July 1881, and states "...late of Hartburn Farm, but now of 3 Oxbridge Lane, Hartburn".
Coincidentally, or not, Oxbridge Lane is where the local cemetery is.

I understand that the bankruptcy business is likely to have happened well before July, as it would take time to sort his affairs, but if that death in March was my chap, the Notice would surely say he is deceased.

Any ideas please??

P.S. My farmer's wife died Dec 1880, his eldest daughter in Feb 1881, and although my bankrupt farmer doesn't appear in the 1881 census the children do, with the eldest, age 23, listed as Head. So my chap is no longer living with them IF he is still alive.
I have the death cert for the chap who 'fits' (unfortunately it leaves out his middle name) but the informant is the Coroner, not a member of the family as cause of death is suicide, 17 March 1881.

It all fits, but that Liquidation notice has thrown me by giving that "now of..." address.

Olde Crone Holden
22-08-09, 18:59
Transportation stopped well before 1881, so you can rule that out.

My next move would be to look for a newspaper report of the suicide, which may help you to determine whether it's the same man.


Sand Dancer
22-08-09, 19:14
Thanks, OC.
I'll google around for newspaper reports.

Christine in Herts
22-08-09, 19:19
Transportation stopped well before 1881, so you can rule that out.

My next move would be to look for a newspaper report of the suicide, which may help you to determine whether it's the same man.


I found that one of my niece's ancestors tried emigration as a way to move forward after mid-C19th bankruptcies. It didn't do much good - he had a very similar problem in Australia! On the other hand, his son ended up as a significant entrepreneur with a foot in both countries.


Sand Dancer
22-08-09, 19:35
OK, thanks Christine, another idea for me to look into.

Christine in Herts
22-08-09, 19:39
I think there was an article the magazine in recent months on the topic of emigration. And there are likely to be links and info in the Wiki.


Uncle John
22-08-09, 19:41
All the gory process of the insolvency would be reported in the London Gazette. Their website appears to be poorly at the moment but here is the link:

London Gazette Home Page (http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/)

Mary from Italy
22-08-09, 19:44
Have you tried searching for him with initials only in 1881 in case he's in prison?

Sand Dancer
22-08-09, 19:47
Thanks Christine.
Thanks Uncle John. The piece I found came from the London Gazette. I'll look for more.

P.S. Edited...No Mary I haven't, thanks for the suggestion. Did people go to prison for such things as bankruptcy?

Mary from Italy
22-08-09, 19:59
Many years ago there was a debtors' prison - don't think it was still going by the 1880s, but I'm not sure. One relative of mine went bankrupt in 1879, and didn't go to prison as far as I know.
However, your man could have been in prison for a criminal offence, or in an asylum, in which case initials were often used in the census instead of names.

Mary from Italy
22-08-09, 20:00
The Debtors Act 1869 abolished imprisonment for debt, although debtors who had the means to pay their debt, but did not do so, could still be incarcerated for up to six weeks.

Debtors' prison - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debtors'_prison)

Uncle John
22-08-09, 20:10
The piece I found came from the London Gazette. I'll look for more.

There are usually 3 or 4 stages to a bankruptcy, each of which will be reported in the Gazette. The final stage (payment to creditors) could be several years later. Even today, with a much-streamlined process, the distribution of dividend can be 3 or 4 years later.

Sand Dancer
22-08-09, 20:22
Thanks for that information Mary, very useful.

Uncle John, I didn't realise there were stages. In that case i've found only the last piece, stating the final dividend payment and when and where it will be paid out.
Thanks for that information.

Uncle John
22-08-09, 20:51
This is it, roughly. I may have mis-remembered the tereminology - it's some while since I traced one.

If X is in partnership, there's a statement that the partnership is dissolved. Then there's a statement that X will be declared insolvent. Then X is called for examination. Then creditors are invited to put in claims. And finally the dividend is declared.

In my best-remembered case, OH's ancestor was in partnership with his b-i-l. Reading between the lines they managed to drink or gamble away the assets of the inherited business. Part way through the bankruptcy process the b-i-l disappears (as far as the Gazette is concerned). He had actually died of syphilis in the County Asylum, leaving ancestor to carry the can on his own.

Sand Dancer
22-08-09, 21:28
Aah, now I understand...I've now searched the London Gazette and seen several notices ref; the bankruptcy, starting with the first Notice of a general meeting for creditors, through notices asking for creditors debts and claims, winding up with the final payment notice 4 months later.

I still wonder where my man is during this time!!!!! He doesn't seem very dead to me, I've found no newpaper reports of a suicide. Thought it might have made a good story, the chap ending his life barely 2 weeks after his bankruptcy was declared publicly.

Ho hum, still looking.

Thanks all.

Mary from Italy
22-08-09, 21:39
If you want to post his name, we can all have a look for him in 1881.

Sand Dancer
22-08-09, 23:06
Thanks Mary.

His name was John Wilkinson Humble, b.1832 Stockton, Co Durham.
A farmer, he lived in East Hartburn, Stockton. He married Ann 1856, and they had 9 children, all born Hartburn, Stockton.
I've got him/them on the 1841, 1851, 1861 & 1871 census'.
It would appear his wife Ann died Dec 1880, and daughter Annie in Feb 1881.

1881 Census...his children living at Hartburn Terrace, East Hartburn, Stockton.
Arthur Humble. head. 23
Mary E Humble. sister 22.
John W Humble. brother 18.
Thomas G Humble. brother 16.
Fred Humble. brother 13.
Ada Humble. sister 11.

I've found some notifications ref. his Bankruptcy from the London Gazette, which appear between March 1881 and July 1881. They give his address as 3 Oxbridge Lane, Hartburn, Stockton.

I've just had a look at prisons by putting in his initials, but no results there.
Can't find anything else about him in newspapers, but admit I'm not very experienced at searching newspaper archives.

Christine in Herts
22-08-09, 23:23
Thanks Mary.

His name was John Wilkinson Humble, b.1832 Stockton, Co Durham.

Gosh! Are you related to Kate? (Of the recent WDYTYA?)

Her HUMBLE ancestors came from the NE, tho' they were miners, not farmers. One was an overseer, and bravely shouldered responsibilities for searching and standing by when the beam of the engine broke and blocked the only access to the mineshaft, trapping about 200 men below. A very moving section of the episode. After that tragedy, all mines were required to have at least two access shafts - obvious... with hindsight.


Sand Dancer
22-08-09, 23:42
Hi Christine,
I did see that episode of WDYTYA and found it one of the best. Not because Humble's are mine, they are in fact my sister in law's, but i am doing her tree 'cos I'm totally up against a brickwall with my own.
I promised I'd try and find her link to Kate, before I realised that looking at Humble's in the north east must be like looking for a Dai Jones in Wales!!!!!! LOL

Mary from Italy
22-08-09, 23:46
I take it this is John W Humble jr?

Jack Humble - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Humble)

Sand Dancer
22-08-09, 23:52
Yes, he supposedly walked all the way to London with his brother (so the family story goes). By the looks of the 1891 census, the brother was Arthur Humble.

Mary from Italy
22-08-09, 23:57
What an interesting relative to have!

I had a look at the criminal records database on Ancestry to see if I could find his dad, and all I found is a John Humble who was convicted at Durham Quarter Sessions on 19 October 1863 of obtaining goods by false pretences and sentenced to 3 months' imprisonment. It doesn't give his age or abode.

Sand Dancer
22-08-09, 23:59
I saw that too Mary, unfortunately (or fortunately) those criminal records don't give us a lot to go on do they!!

I have to admit...these Humbles are not mine. I'm doing my sis in law's tree as I've come to a dead halt with my own and got sick to death with the sight of them!!!

Mary from Italy
23-08-09, 00:04
I've found the newspaper report now - the case relates to a John Humble, aged 20, labourer, so I shouldn't think it's your man.

Sand Dancer
23-08-09, 00:06
What's thrown me with this John W Humble, the bankrupt in 1881, is that I've found a death for a John Humble on 17 March 1881, Farmer, age 49, suicide, at Stockton. I've found his burial was at Oxbridge Lane cemetery, Hartburn, Stockton on 21 March 1881.
It's so close a match, it's clouding my view!!

Mary - as a matter of interest, how did you find that newspaper report, I'm useless and couldn't find a thing.

Mary from Italy
23-08-09, 00:14
On the Gale site - do you have access to it?

I've found one or two other references to a John Humble, farmer of Hartburn, but nothing about the suicide. It does sound as though the suicide in 1881 should be him. I would tend to get the death cert to see who the informant was.

Sand Dancer
23-08-09, 00:20
Got the death cert, it arrived yesterday, informant was the Coroner!!!!!!!
The name is only given as John Humble not John Wilkinson Humble. Address given was 3 Henry Terrace, not 3 Oxbridge Lane, as given in those bankruptcy notices. Everything else falls into place though!! Durrrrrrr!

Never heard of the Gale site, will take a look now.

Mary from Italy
23-08-09, 00:26
What a pity the informant wasn't one of the family. I don't suppose there's a headstone?

I'll PM you about the Gale site.

Mary from Italy
23-08-09, 00:43
I see there are loads of John Humbles buried in Stockton, and the only one whose age fits is the one you found:

Stockton Roots BDM - Burial Search (http://www.stocktonroots.co.uk/burials/search_exact.aspx)

Sand Dancer
23-08-09, 01:44
Yes, that Stockton Roots site is handy for the burials isn't it. I went through every John Humble and cross matched them with births, and with which family they belonged to from the census info. I think I know every Humble family in the area now! And the only one which fits the death in March 1881 is the one who is apparently still alive in July 1881.
Very frustrating.

I've got to give up for tonight.

Night Owl
23-08-09, 02:18
I don't know the answer to this but does anyone else know whether bankruptcy laws in 1881 were such that if proceedings were started and then the person died, the bankruptcy process continued as if the person were still alive?

That might explain why the Gazette notices read as if he were alive and I could imagine someone committing suicide after being declared bankrupt then. (Plus he had just lost his wife and a daughter)

There's no one living at 3 Henry Terrace in 1881 but I can't find 3 Oxbridge Lane (unless that was the Cemetery address!)

Is it worth contacting the Stockton Roots people to see if there is any other info in the burial register?

Sand Dancer
23-08-09, 11:23
Hi Jackie,

Thanks for looking up 3 Henry Terrace, I hadn't got round to that! Too busy scouring newspaper notices for that suicide, but I've come up with nothing and got cross-eyes to boot!

I was wondering about bankruptcy proceedings too, in the case of a death occurring mid-way, so to speak. I presume they would continue, but admit I know little of the procedure myself.
It's the way those bankruptcy Notices are worded which gives the impression he is still alive as late as July 1881, ie "....late of Hartburn Farm, but now of 3 Oxbridge Lane...." is the standard wording right from the first Notice published 25 Feb 1881 through to the last, in July 1881. I'd have thought they would read, "deceased" after his name .
A cat amongst the pigeons.
I'll make enquiries with the Stockton Roots folk as you suggest, and tomorrow perhaps ring the local library and ask about a newspaper search.

Thanks again.

Mary from Italy
23-08-09, 13:56
Forgot to mention that I looked for him on the 1881 and 1891 censuses, and drew a blank.

I wonder if 3 Henry Terrace and 3 Oxbridge Lane are the same address? Henry Terrace might be a small row of houses which is part of Oxbridge Lane.

Olde Crone Holden
23-08-09, 14:14
No, I don't know the answer but I would imagine that bankruptcy proceedings carry on after death.

The deceased's estate would be seized by the Commissioner and it would be almost irrelevant whether the bankrupt was alive or dead. Creditors would always take precedence over legatees in a Will. If he left a Will!


Sand Dancer
23-08-09, 18:33
Thanks Mary, and thanks OC.

I'm still no further with this man.
I found an interesting gravestones site which covers those in the cemetery at Oxbridge Lane (where the suicide case is apparently buried) but no headstone for him, just my luck! Though I did find some other, side-twig, Humbles so I suppose it wasn't a complete waste of a morning!

I'll plod on.......

23-08-09, 22:00
Maybe an email to Durham County Records Office would reveal if they hold the Coronors Record for the suicide? Certainly worth sending an email

Mary from Italy
23-08-09, 22:09
It's worth a try, although they rarely survive. Another possibility would be to contact the local library, to see if they can find a newspaper report of the inquest.

Sand Dancer
25-08-09, 20:34
Thanks both, will give those a shot.

25-08-09, 23:40
I just recently looked at a bankruptcy in NSW, and yes the proceedings went ahead even though the person was deceased and no mention of his passing was recorded in the proceedings. I thought it was odd, not that the proceedings continued, as the creditors obviously wanted some redress, or their money by dividing up the estate, but that no mention was made of the death, even if only in explanation of his physical absence from the court.


Sand Dancer
26-08-09, 01:33
Well that's interesting Diane, because the fact that there is no mention of death with my chap, is really what's thrown a cat amongst the pigeons.

Many thanks for that piece of information.

Mary from Italy
26-08-09, 10:15
Could it be that the creditors simply didn't know he'd died?

Sand Dancer
26-08-09, 16:37
At the moment I'm awaiting replies from Durham County Library and Stockton Reference Library regarding newspaper reports and Coroner's report, if any.

Mary, I was wondering if that might be the case, though seems odd to me that the Trustee/Accountant dealing with the case wouldn't have known, and therefore change the wording of the newspaper Notice to reflect that the chap is actually deceased rather than "...now of 3 Oxbridge Lane....".

I'll wait to see what, if anything, comes back from these searches.

Thanks again everyone - you are all very helpful.

26-08-09, 17:19
I wonder if the fact he was dead really mattered to anyone. They just wanted to seize any assets. But if it did...... then sadly his address/ place of rest was Oxbridge Lane (Cemetery). Did he ever live at No3? Or could this be the address of the Cemetery Lodge/Mortuary?