Who was Mary Jane?

130 years ago, today a woman who called herself Mary Jane Kelly was murdered by Jack the Ripper. Her true identity, like that of her killer, is unknown. All genealogists have to work with is a story given by her ex-boyfriend, Joseph Barnett, at the inquest. Extensive searches have failed to trace her with that information. There are four possibilities.

  1. Barnett told the truth.
  2. Barnett invented all or part of the story.
  3. Barnett misremembered some of the details.
  4. Mary invented all or part of the story.

Independent sources confirm parts of Barnett’s story about Mary’s life in London before she met him. She must have given him those details. This makes it less likely that he got the information about her earlier life wrong but none of the usual records have been found to support it. We can speculate that she altered facts, such as her name, or omitted a key piece of information but cannot say why.

The bigger question is why none of her friends or family responded to the contemporary publicity. One can only hope that they are now reunited and rest in peace.




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