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Scandalous Detail

Family history is so much more than just facts and figures, and is made even more interesting when you can add some colour to your tree in the form of real-life stories from the past.

Add colour to the bare family history facts of birth, marriage and death, by tracking down the back stories of your forebears' lives.

How can you do this? Newspapers, magazines, trade directories, image archives and many other records on TheGenealogist are all great resources to use, in your quest to build an interesting family story. This is especially true when you find that an ancestor had been involved in some sort of scandal, as revealed in the following tale regarding a West End hairdresser and perfumer called Anthony Hewlett.

So, let's take a look at the records that we put to use to research their lives...

1. In a search of the 1841 Census, we can find that Anthony Hewlett was living in the Burlington Arcade in the St James area of London with Mary Ann, his wife. Also present are 9 year-old daughter Emma and infant son George, just 6 weeks old. Hewlett's profession was that of a hairdresser.

2. Knowing that he lived in the Burlington Arcade, an up-market shopping arcade to this day, we may assume that he carried out his business there and lived above the shop.

The Image Archive on TheGenealogist allows us to relive the past through the eyes of our ancestors by looking at old pictures from a slightly later period, 1850 to 1940.

3. People, such as Anthony Hewlett, are usually included in a street or trade directory, such as Kelly's or Pigot's. These publications also gave general information about the area, which can be useful to understanding the social history of your ancestor's times. Lists were normally compiled alphabetically by name, street, business, trade or profession and TheGenealogist has a great collection of historic residential and trade directories.

If we continue to look for our man in the census collection, on TheGenealogist, we can see that by the 1851 Census he was living at 31 Sidney Street, Chelsea.

He is still listed in the 1856 Kelly's Directory, but now as a hairdresser and perfumer at 5 Burlington Arcade. With these resources we have gained a bit more information to build the back story of our subject.

A particularly rich resource to search for the social background or, as in this case, even the name of your ancestor, is the newspapers and magazines collection on TheGenealogist. Researching for Anthony Hewlett returns us a fascinating news article in the Illustrated London News, 18 June 1842.

4. A quick glance at the piece tells us that he was sued by another man before the Court of Common Pleas. The civil case was brought by a Mr Casey, who had been made a cuckold of by Anthony Hewlett. Anthony had run away to the south coast of England in an affair with the other man's bride of just three months!

The story, as reported under 'Law Intelligence' in The Illustrated London News, tells us that the lady in question had been carrying on her own lucrative business as a tambour-worker in hair and was 'very much employed by the trade'. The article writer makes quite a bit about the attraction of the woman, especially her economic appeal, in that she realised between £300 and £400 a year.

The plaintiff, Mr Casey, had been 'charmed by her attractions, was included to offer her marriage' and on 29 August of the previous year they had been married.

5. The story relates that the defendant, Anthony Hewlett, while employing Mrs Casey, had 'considerable opportunities of seeing her'. Just three months into her marriage, Anthony and Mrs Casey travelled to the Castle Hotel in Ramsgate for a three-day stay as man and wife, swiftly followed by a stay at Gun Hotel at Dover!

With the case going against Hewlett, his lawyer argued that the damages that should be awarded against him should only be a small sum, because of the short length of the Casey's marital union. About Mr Casey, the plaintiff, he contested that, 'Under the circumstances he could not lament the loss of much domestic happiness by being deprived of the society of his wife.'

Mr Justice Cockburn, having summed up the law case, let the jury retire. They found in Mr Casey's favour and the court awarded him the sum of £150 as damages for his loss.

6. Going forward in years it would seem that Anthony Hewlett was forgiven by his wife and settled down to life as a perfumer. By the time of the 1861 and 1871 Censuses we find him living at Caheley Villa in the King's Road, Chelsea with his wife Mary Ann.

Once you have used the main census and BMD records to find your ancestors, explore some of the other rich resources that TheGenealogist offers. Historic newspapers, magazines, trade and residential directories, and the image archives are all there for you to explore. You may just find that the colour you wish to add to your research turns out to be very 'colourful' indeed!

1. Census records are extremely useful for gleaning core facts, but to gain a fuller picture of the past, you need to widen your search.

2. Burlington Arcade from TheGenealogist's Image Archive

3. Anthony Hewlett appears in the 1846 Kelly's Post Office directory for London

4. The account in the Illustrated London News provides lots of colourful detail about the affair.

5. Pigot's Kent trade directory for 1839, available on TheGenealogist, shows the Castle Hotel, where the illicit lovers stayed!

6. Back to the siplicity of a census entry, when it seems that domestic order was restored, and Mr Hewlett was reconciled with his wife.