Skeleton by marriage?

When I registered for the 1911 census, I was really only expecting to confirm what I already knew, to see if some of my ancestors were still alive to narrow down dates for searching for their deaths and perhaps bring some of the distant twigs up to date. What I didn’t expect was an intriguing puzzle.

As my great great grandmother Lucy Lewcock née Usher had died in 1905, I expected to find her husband George Lewcock in 1911 living alone, or perhaps staying with one of his children, but imagine my surprise when I found that he had acquired a second wife and a twelve year old stepson.

Albert Lewcock, born in Farnham, Surrey in 1842, occupation printer and compositor, was living at 54 Solon Road, Brixton. His new wife was Annie Norrish Lewcock aged 51, born in Kennington Park Road. (Newington).  Her son was named Albert Edward Withyman aged 12 and had been born in Weiner, Texas, U.S.A.

A quick search of UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 brought up their arrival in the U.K. George Withyman, a labourer, aged 52, together with his wife Annie aged 40, and son Albert aged 3, travelled from New York on the ‘Carthaginian’ arriving in Glasgow on the 29th April 1902.

So far I thought that this was just interesting and decided that I would send for the marriage certificate and leave it at that. Luckily Lewcock is a fairly unusual name so I found the reference on FreeBMD easily but then found another surprise – she was married as Annie Norrish Stone and not as Withyman.

Feeling 99% certain that this was going to be the correct marriage, while I waited for the marriage certificate to arrive I decided to see if I could find a death for George Withyman and/or Unknown Stone – I found nothing for either of them in England so had a look around to see whether George Withyman had gone back to the U.S.A. and died there

I came across a Geo Withyman of the same age travelling back to the U.S.A. in January 1903 on New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. All looked normal until I scrolled right across the page. In the right hand column was stated:  In charge of Detective McCarthy.

Geo Withyman was listed as a married labourer aged 55 on the passenger manifest for the ‘Lucania’. Able to read and write, he was British and his last residence was Texas. His final destination was to be Chicago. His passage was paid by ‘U.S. Detective’ and he had no money. He had previously been in Chicago from 1893 to 1902.

This was intriguing so off I went to Google to search for George Withyman and had yet another surprise!

From The New York Times of January 18 1903:

Alleged Murderer Brought Back

George Stone, alias George Withyman, after having been a fugitive from justice for nine years, will land at New York this morning from the Cunarder, Lucania and be taken to face a charge of murder committed in 1893. He is alleged to have killed a negro [sic].  He was located in England a few months ago. His extradition was granted in the Bow Street Police Court Dec 20 last. He is in charge of Police Sergeant McCarthy of Chicago.

The following day, The New York Times carried a report of the ship’s arrival in New York:

The liner brought over George Stone, who was on the second cabin passenger list as George Withyman. He is under indictment for the murder of a negro in Chicago nine years ago. Detective Sergeant Arthur McCarthy of Chicago went to London with extradition papers and returned with him. He took his prisoner to Police Headquarters and will start for Chicago today.

Other happenings listed in the article for what must have been an eventful crossing included that a steward was washed overboard, an Armenian had stowed away and among the passengers was the explorer, Henry de Windt, who advocated a Paris-New York railroad via a bridge.

In the 20th February 1903, The New York Times reported briefly on the court case:


George Stone, Being Tried for Murder in Chicago, asks for Divine Aid.

CHICAGO, Feb 19. – “I am relying for justice on the One above,” said George Stone to-day, who is on trial for murder in Judge Horton’s court, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he dropped on his knees, bowed his head, and prayed for five minutes. When he had ended his prayer he resumed his seat with his head in his hands, and cried.

Stone is on trial for the murder of Robert Nelson who was a colored chef at the Turner Hotel, and who, it is charged was shot and killed by Stone about ten years ago. Stone escaped, and was but recently arrested in London. He is a British subject, and the Royal Society of St. George is interested in his defense.

Exploring a little more, I found the case recorded in the Chicago Police Department Homicide Record Index, 1870–1930:

PAGE:   116A
EVENT DATE:  7/6/1893

The online database Homicide In Chicago 1870-1930 gives more detail about the case. On the 6th July 1893, Robert Nelson, aged 30 years old, was shot dead at Turner House located on the junction of 33rd Street and Wabash Avenue.  Death occurred at the crime scene. The type of death was homicide and the type of homicide was intentional murder. George Stone, alias Withyman was arrested in London, England and brought to Chicago on January 21st 1903, and turned over to the Sheriff under indictment. He was sentenced by Judge Horton on the 20th February 1903 to thirty five years in Joliet Penitentiary. The database also records that the crime was related to Prohibition and that there were no allegations of police corruption.

To see if I can find out more detail about his arrest and extradition, I really should take a look at the Extradition Records of the Bow Street Magistrates Court, which are held at the London Metropolitan Archives. The Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group are in the process of transcribing the Convict Registers for Joliet Penitentiary which hold a lot of data about the prisoners and I shall be keeping an eye on their progress to find out when George died and from that to hopefully find out more about his family.

While double checking my research for this article, I came across another newspaper report from the Chicago Tribune, on which gives a little more detail. It reads as follows:

Negro Arrested in London Accused of Killing Man in this City During 1893.


London: Nov. 22 – George Stone was arrested this afternoon on the nominal charge of murdering a negro in Chicago in 1893. It is believed Stone’s real name is George Withyman and it is understood that he is suspected of having been connected with several murders in Texas.

Stone was arrested in a low cook shop in Blackwall called the “Tunnel coffee house”, where he has been employed. He has been in London since last March. The police believe that there will be sensational developments through Stone’s arrest, as it is thought he has been connected with several murders in the United States, especially in Galveston, Tex., where he worked on the railroad.

When Stone was arrested by inspector Froest of Scotland yard on the charge of murder he asked: “Is it for a nigger or a white man?”
When the inspector told him it was for the murder of a negro he appeared to be relieved. He said the negro referred to had reviled him. Then the negro drew a knife and Stone ran upstairs for his “gun.” The negro followed, and then, Stone says, he shot him.

Stone is a middle aged man, muscular and well developed. He has fair hair and a mustache. He wears a medal of the Perax [sic] expedition [see sources] which shows he has been in the British Navy.

The TNA does not have him listed as George Withyman in the Registers of Seamen’s Services, but of course it may not have been his own medal or he had enlisted under a different name (there are several George Stones from Kent listed).

The Ancestry database of U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 not only enabled me to discover more about Albert and what he knew, or had been told, about his parents and their background, it also gave me details of his marriage to a French woman. This reminded me that about five years ago, I was contacted by somebody on Genes Connected, as it was then, who was looking for an Albert Lewcock who had connections with France. At the time, I couldn’t help her but she was still in my contacts list and it looked as though I may finally have found a connection after so long!!

I have been in touch with this contact and since our original correspondence, she had been successful in finding more about Albert and his descendants. She now knows that she is the daughter of Albert’s second wife’s second husband so it is a very distant connection but it is satisfying that we have managed to join the dots after so long. There is far more to this part of the story than I can retell here as other descendants of Albert, who seems to be just as mysterious as his father, are still alive.

There is a great deal more to follow up in this puzzle of name changes and aliases. Annie married George Lewcock as Annie Norrish Stone in 1906.The marriage certificate for George and Annie gives her father’s name as George Nix, baker. I think I have found her in 1861 and 1881 at home in England with her parents.  I think I have her with son Albert in 1900 in Texas as Annie Withyman, listed as married for 20 years, but no sign of George. The article in the Chicago Tribune says he had been working in Galveston on the railways. This fits with her location in 1900, and Albert’s birthplace in 1899.

She stated in 1900 that she was born in Ireland but if this is her, this is not borne out in 1911. An Ann Nix married a George Stone in London in the last quarter of 1881 – was this them or a first marriage for her? Did she actually marry George Withyman? Did he take the identity of her first husband? She states in 1900 that she arrived in the USA in 1884 so where were they in 1890? In his passport applications, Albert states that his father was born in Sydenham, Kent and a George Withyman was indeed born there at about the right time to fit the age as given on their arrival at Glasgow in 1902. A George Stone of about the right age appears in the 1910 US Federal Census in Joliet Penitentiary – did she commit bigamy?

I have been able to track down many references as I currently have full subscriptions to Ancestry and findmypast, but this is a case of buying certificates, letter writing and visiting archives to get any sort of definitive proof as to whether my great great grandfather married the wife of a murderer.

It may well be that in fact George Withyman aka Stone is actually nothing to do with my great grandfather’s second wife, but even if he isn’t, I had fun following the trail, and will carry on my detective work to find out one way or the other not only for my own satisfaction but also for Albert’s descendants.


© Caroline 2009



The Ghosts of Joliet

The Joliet Prison Post 1914

Library Catalogue of Illinois State Penitentiary 1902

Limestone Quarry near Joliet Penitentiary

Joliet State Prison: Joliet, Illinois


Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group: Convict Registers

Genealogical Prison Records & Jail Records