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Old 14-07-23, 17:49
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I've been working through the heart-breaking lives of my Portsmouth ancestors.

My Hawkins family saw three adult children die of consumption, a fourth of "congestion of the brain" - which might be meningitis. Sarah - 1858, Susan - 1861, Eliza - 1869 and John - 1872.

And what happened to Walter?

Here he is, aged 5 in 1861:
https://www.ancestry.co.uk/imageview...83?pId=7857991

He is the youngest of a large family, living in Landport St, Portsea.

Walter H Hawkins aged 5, son of George and Susan, born, like his siblings, in Poole.

So I bought the death certificate of Walter Henry Hawkins, d 1884.

As soon as I looked at it, I realised my error. I had already paid good money for this certificate, and it was the wrong man. In fact, I'd done research on this. Quite a bit.

There is neither a birth nor a baptism for Walter Hawkins, either in Poole or Portsea. There is no sign of him with his family after that 1861 census.

In fact, the only other Walter Hawkins death in Portsmouth for someone of the right age, is that of Walter H H Hawkins.

Walter Hutchins Hamilton Hawkins spent his life at sea. He was born 1 April 1854 in Portsmouth, and he had two decades of continuous service - from 1872 to 1892, when he was pensioned off, and was able to marry - to Caroline Marner. (Regretably, they didn't marry at St Mary's or St Thomas's, so I can't see who he named as his father, or who the witnesses were)

Unfortunately, in 1893 while working for the Greenock Company, he tripped over a piece of wood on board the Centurion and was pitched head first down an open hold. https://search.findmypast.co.uk/bna/...lter%20hawkins

He suffered bruises, contusions and scalp wounds. The initial report said he wasn't badly hurt, but he was admitted to hospital.

Five years later, he was admitted to the Borough Asylum, suffering from delusions: https://search.findmypast.co.uk/reco...ITAL%2F0006038

He died a year later: https://search.findmypast.co.uk/reco...ITAL%2F0016994

Cause of death General Paralysis of Insane and Pthysis.

Now, he could have died of tertiary syphylis, though it's hard not to think that falling nine feet onto your head might had had something to do with it.
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Old 14-07-23, 18:07
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So is Walter Hutchins Hamilton Hawkins your Walter or not, or don't you know?
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Findmypast 1871 census update
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Old 14-07-23, 18:29
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Tut, Phoenix! We have talked about coincidence before, haven't we, lol. Just because a person is doomed to die of syphilis doesn't make them immune to being knocked down by a bus or indeed falling down a hole onto their head. The fall may have caused brain damage which caused delusions, but how could anyone in those days tell the difference? They could certainly diagnose syphilis but probably couldn't diagnose or differentiate brain damage caused by a fall. The only thing you can take from the death certificate is that he had syphilis and pthisis when he died. I sometimes think death certs tell you nothing at all of the life they lived - and of course, they aren't intended to.

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Old 14-07-23, 18:31
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But why wasn't Walter's birth registered?

I did already have the answer.

There was the following entry:

Births Jun 1856 (>99%)
HUTCHINGS Walter Hamlin Portsea 2b 391

Walter was born 1 April 1856 (not 1854)
His father was Daniel Hutchings, a Bombardier in the Royal Artillery - though Daniel is only described as a gunner, when he is next caught sight of, in Woolwich in 1861.
His mother was Sarah Hutchings [sic] formerly Hawkins.
He was born in the house of his Hawkins grandparents.

So Walter was illegitimate, his mother being deserted by her young man. She died of consumption when he was a toddler, and aunts and an uncle died while he was still a boy. By the time he was 15, he was on the Hercules at Spithead, and I wonder whether the Navy proved more of a family than his blood relations?

He married a woman who, in her turn, had split up with her husband, and remarried very shortly after Walter's death. I wish I could feel he had a decent life - but it's hard to find much happiness in the scraps I have pieced together.
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Old 14-07-23, 18:46
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Lol, OC!

To be honest, I did wonder whether the fall was a complete accident. While plenty of young men fell from rigging or were blown overboard, clutter on a deck seems an unforgiveable sin, suggesting a lack of concentration. I don't know how long before death syphilis would manifest itself. I do know he had five years in which to become a father, and he didn't.
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Old 14-07-23, 20:14
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Phoenix, from what I remember from reading a medical book illicitly in the medical library at the UCH (I was a temp), syphilis hides in the spinal column for many years (secondary stage) before manifesting itself (tertiary stage) in bizarre behaviours and increasing disability caused by gradual paralysis. So yes, a clumsiness resulting in a fall could have been caused by it.

(I was caught reading the forbidden book by one of the consultants, who punished me by showing me illustrations of the devastation caused by untreated syphilis. I nearly took the veil, believe me.)

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Old 16-12-23, 18:50
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I've got a book of lives of great composers. It has a series of photographs of Donizetti, who goes from handsome, lively lookng chap to a drivelling imbecile beccause of this scourge of a disease.
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