My East End of London Ancestry

George Mason

George Mason (my great, great grandfather) was almost certainly born in Holborn, London.  Tragically, it looks like he died in the workhouse at the age of 82.  He’d been taken there by his friends, presumably because he couldn’t manage any longer on his own, after a very, very hard life living in the East End of London and working as a dock labourer.

To survive until he was 82 in those days, when cholera, typhus, typhoid, smallpox, scarlet fever, tuberculosis (‘consumption’), measles, mumps, rubella and diphtheria – were rife, was no mean feat (his wife Mary Halliday (see Irish Ancestry) my great, great grandmother, an Irish washerwoman, was similarly long-lived.)

They would both have witnessed the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858 – when so much undiluted sewage was flowing in the Thames that it finally made the MPs in Parliament do something about it, as they feared the smell would kill them in their debating chamber overlooking the river!  (They were about as useless as MPs these days.)

They were both born at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815-16 and both died 1898-9.  They must have been incredibly tough, tenacious and hard-working, to have survived and raised a family in 19th century Dickensian Whitechapel, in the East End of London (in Mary’s case, two families, as she had several children by her first husband, Purcell),

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