Sunday, 16 June 2019

Great-granduncle John Carroll ~ a Black Sheep?

My current genealogy challenge is finding out what happened to the children of my great-great-grandfather, Maurice Carroll. He had five children with his first wife, Mary Anne Frazer, and ten with my great-great-grandmother, Anne Radcliffe. Some of his children seemed to vanish into the abyss after migrating from Dublin to North East England and my goal is to trace them all.

John Carroll was likely Maurice and Anne's eldest surviving boy. According to his father, he was born at Shanganagh Grove, Ballybrack, Co. Dublin, on 27 October 1878. In 1901, aged 22 years and single, he worked as a solicitors' general clerk, and lived with his parents and four of his siblings at 20 North Gloucester Place, Dublin city. 

John wasn't found in the 1911 census, but a note added to his baptism register advised he married Selina Asher in St Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle on Tyne, on 27 February 1914. The marriage was witnessed by his sister, my great-grandmother, Teresa Wynne and a woman called Mary Briggs. The civil index of births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales confirmed the marriage, and indicated the couple had three children - Monica Carroll born in 1914, Eileen Carroll in 1916 and Desmond Carroll in 1917. Eileen died within six months of her birth.

John Carroll, Dublin and Newcastle upon Tyne

And, that's where I previously lost track of my great-granduncle, John Carroll. 

Since then, many more record sets have been published online and I've managed to pick up his trail, again. And, it transpires, Uncle John was a bit of a black sheep.

John Carroll's service in World War I
First though, his World War I service record shows he enlisted at Sunderland, England and gave his home address, in September 1918, as 136 Frederick Street, South Shields. He was of slight build, 5 foot, 7 inches tall, with a chest measurement of 36.5 inches. He was working as a clerk in a shipbuilders when he was called up for service. 

John Carroll served as a Pioneer with the London Electrical Engineers, but was honourably discharged after only a few months. His army medical records reveal he suffered from both tachycardia (a rapid heart beat) and pyorrhoea (gum disease, according to Google) and was accordingly declared physically unfit for war service. John was awarded the Silver War Badge in 1919. 

The Swindle!
Shields Daily News, 22 Oct 1924, p. 1
Then, I came across a court case in the Shields Daily News concerning a John R. Carroll and his wife Selina, from 16 Bowman Terrace, Newcastle. John worked as a printer. All other accounts show our John was a clerk, and there's no other record he had a middle initial. The name John Carroll was not uncommon, even in England, BUT the combination John and Selina Carroll was probably quite unique. 

John, Selina and two other men were involved in a scam whereby they presented fictitious invoices to the Waverly Hotel, Newcastle, for adverts supposedly placed in Carter's Directory and Hotel Guide. Time and time again, the hotel paid these invoices - to the tune of £278 - in 1924.

However, it was all a con. No advertisiments were placed in any directory. 

According to the newspaper article, the defendants each pleaded guilty to the charges in court. John Carroll also pleaded guilty to eleven similar offences against a ship chandler at Tynemouth. Plus, he had a record! In 1911, he was convicted of similar crimes in West Hartlepool and sentenced to two years hard labour, and in 1919, he served six months jail-time in Newcastle. Selina Carroll, on the other hand, had an unblemished record and said she didn't know she was doing wrong. She also claimed her husband used force to make her do it. Anyway, John was locked up, again, for twelve months with hard labour, while Selina (luckily, for the children) got off with a twelve-month suspended sentence. The two other lads got six months hard labour, each.

So, was this poor fraudster my great-granduncle?

It's difficult to prove there was only one couple named John and Selina Carroll living in England at the time, but the electoral registers do confirm there was only one registered to vote. Also, the electoral registers place John and Selina Carroll at that Bowman Terrace address from 1923 to 1933. In 1934, they seemingly moved to Royston Terrace, Newcastle and lived there for three years, and in the third year Monica Carroll was added to their electoral register. Our John and Selina had a daughter Monica, who'd just turned 21 years old. 

Coincidence? I don't think so. It seems, these master criminals (not!) really were family. This story was swept well under the carpet. Not a rumour if it survived today, at least not back home, in Dublin.

The death of John Carroll, aged 62 years, was registered in Newcastle upon Tyne, during the first quarter of 1941. The civil deaths index doesn't 'prove' he was definitely my great-granduncle. But, after the war, in 1945 and 1946, the resuming electoral registers do not reflect him living with his wife and family, so it probably was. 


  1. Although no one (or everyone) wants to find a black sheep in their family, I'd say the correlation of the items found are not a coincidence and you very likely did find your great-grand-uncle.

    Carroll is a surname of interest to me. Mine were in America before 1800 and all I know is that my Robert Carroll was born abt. 1783 in Virginia. No parents. But DNA is showing matches with several descendants of his children and I'm "talking" to two people who are interested in finding his parents.

  2. Cathy, I do love finding the scoundrals in my family, especially if they lived in Dublin, where the prison registers are packed full of information, not readily available elsewhere.

    John (above) had an older half-brother Robert Carroll. Send me your Gedmatch number in a private message, on the offchance we have a distant connection.

  3. You've set yourself quite a task. I'm betting you will find them all. I love finding stories (scandals) that have been hidden away only to be discovered decades later by family detectives. They never imagined the internet, did they?

    1. Sometimes it's amazing what comes to light LOL!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!