From contact with a midwife, Ellen Dane, she [Amelia Dyer] learned of an easier way to earn a living—using her own home to provide lodgings for young women who had conceived illegitimately and then farming off the babies for adoption or allowing them to die of neglect and malnutrition. (Ellen Dane was forced to decamp to the US, shortly after meeting Amelia, to escape the attention of the authorities.) Unmarried mothers in Victorian Britain often struggled to gain an income, since the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act had removed any financial obligation from the fathers of illegitimate children, whilst bringing up their children in a society where single parenthood and illegitimacy were stigmatised. This led to the practice of baby farming in which individuals acted as adoption or fostering agents, in return for regular payments or a single, up-front fee from the babies’ mothers. Many businesses were set up to take in these young women and care for them until they gave birth. The mothers subsequently left their unwanted babies to be looked after as "nurse children"
…whilst there are anecdotal stories about the circumstances of John's adoption it struck me as curious that my mother's family had not pursued this further. The name Georgina Henderson is unusual in that, according to the 1911 census, there are at most a dozen possibilities - assuming of course that the information on the birth certificate was correct. Over the past 3 years, I have dissected each and every detail from the certificate. But even now, I treat all information within that document as probable - not definite.
Top international genetic genealogist Michelle Leonard has been recruited to help solve this mystery and has kindly shared some top tips for others facing similar obstacles. This informative article is available to download and keep for future reference.
DNA Testing For Unknown Ancestor Mysteries
So which relatives on his tree should Jack concentrate on trying to test?
Maternal Grandfather: Jack’s maternal grandfather would be by far the best tester since all 100% of his DNA came from the two mystery great grandparents. This means every single match on his list would be related to the two mystery lines. If he was able to test not only would we have many more relevant matches to work with but a huge amount of work that needs to be done to eliminate matches who are related on the wrong lines on Jack’s list could be avoided. Sadly Jack, like most people in his situation, does not have his maternal grandfather to test so this is not possible. My rule is always look to test the generation closest to the mystery first but if that’s not possible then move down to the next generation instead e.g. If you don't have your maternal grandfather to test then look to his children.
I liken DNA testing for genealogy mysteries to trying to complete a giant jigsaw puzzle - the more important pieces you can place on the board yourself, the easier it will be to identify other key pieces and build the jigsaw.
Michelle is hosting her own workshop about autosomal DNA for family tree research on Saturday at 11.15 am. All you need now are your tickets to the show which are available at a discount - just click the image below: