Still looking for Mary Jane

This week I had another minor victory in my research into the identity of Jack the Ripper’s final victim, who called herself Mary Jane Kelly. Over several years I have compiled a list of over 663 possible candidates from historical records. Gradually I am trying to trace each individual after 1888, the year that Mary died. To date only 44 have been eliminated, either because they survived 1888 or died before it. It is a mammoth project with plenty of cross-referencing and checking for duplication because the same person may appear several times in different sources.

The most important source, where it exists, is the official birth record. The General Registry office (GRO) contains a list for England and Wales, which also gives the mother’s maiden name. If necessary, you can then purchase a copy of the full certificate, containing actual birth date, address and full names of the parents. Matching this to other records sometimes enables an identification. You have to be wary because information is often incorrect or wrongly transcribed.

A case in point is that of Mary David Kelly who appears in the 1881 census as the daughter of Nicholas Kelly and Ann Park nee Jamieson born c. 1864. She married in 1888 so was not the murder victim but, for a long time, I was unable to find a record of her birth. Then I discovered that Nicholas and Ann didn’t marry until 1876, suggesting perhaps that there was a different father. Further checks that Ann’s previous marriage was to a man called Mulrone. Mary David’s birth was registered under the surname, Mulrue and her mother’s maiden name cited by the GRO as Jemmerson.

This means that of the 467 women on the list, said to have been born in England or Wales, I have located the birth registration record for 256. Plenty of work still to go but every small success brings hope that, one day, we may be able to properly identify the murdered woman.

Paul Williams is a writer best known for his study of the Jack the Ripper Suspects.

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