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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

The Whitechapel Murders - a family connection

I knew my ancestor, Ernest Ellisdon, had served in the Metropolitan police force as a constable but it wasn't until yesterday - the anniversary of Robert Peel's London's Metropolitan Police Act in 1829 - as I was browsing that I stumbled upon an exciting piece of information.

Having been an avid fan of the TV series, Ripper Street, I was aware that the character of Inspector Edmund Reid, played so brilliantly by Matthew Macfadyen, was based on a real person.

Inspector Reid (left) was one of the detectives from "H division" involved in the investigation of the infamous Whitechapel Murders perpetrated by Jack the Ripper.

So I did a double-take when I found the entry for my Ernest Ellisdon on the 1891 census. Not only did I see that he'd risen to the rank of Inspector, but I noticed that written by the enumerator next to his occupation was, "H division."

Ernest Ellisdon's entry in the 1891 census © The National Archives

Thanks to the diligence of Simon Wood, who painstakingly compiled a list of the personnel of H division from police orders, Met files and newspaper reports and posted it on the excellent website, I was able to establish that Great-great uncle Ernest was in fact Edmund Reid's divisional boss!

List compiled by Simon Wood (WM = Whitechapel Murders)

It appears that it was Ernest who instructed Reid to investigate the murder of one of the early alleged victims of the Ripper, Martha Tabram. He also wrote a report about the discovery of the body and submitted it to the coroner's office.

Martha was discovered on a landing in George Yard, off Whitechapel High Street on 7th August 1888. She'd been stabbed 21 times.

George Yard, where Martha Tabram's body was found, marked by red dot, left of centre

I'm now on a mission to see what else I can learn about Ernest, who retired from the Met in 1894, after 26 years service.

Meanwhile, I can recommend clicking on the the logo below to visit the "Casebook" website which is full of fascinating information on the Whitechapel Murders and those involved in the investigation.


To find out more go to the books page in the menu above or click on the image

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