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Loveable skeleton in your closet

According to a recent survey lots of family historians are happy to find a scoundrel in their family tree. I quite understand. It adds a bit of colour to your family tree. Naughty people generate more records: court records, newspapers, prison records, occasionally even photographs.

One of my great, great, great, great grandfathers was called George Quantock. At least I think it was. The newspaper reports of his court appearances list several aliases, his first name is always George but his surnames included: Slade, Tock, Truman, Self, Quinn and Wood.

On January 2nd 1838 he appeared at the Old Bailey along with an Alfred Boone. They were indicted for conspiracy to defraud. It became clear that they open shops for short periods, procure stock on credit, turn stock into cash and then desert the premises before the tradesmen were aware anything was wrong and before the landlord collected the first rent payment.

Shops were opened in New Kent Road, St Andrews hill, Doctors Commons, Paradise Row, Chelsea and Fan Street, Barbican.

They were found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison. To read the full transcript of the case go to the Old Bailey website.

In the National Archives there are 2 letters, one from George and one from his wife, both swearing to his innocence and the impact his imprisonment has had on their family.

In 1847 George appeared in court in Southwark. It appears that he has declared himself a bankrupt under the Insolvency Act in 1845 and had spent the previous 2 years in debtors prison. He had managed to access a charity which allowed him to get his case heard. It appears that during this case the extent of his fraud over the years really came to light. The court heard the list of his aliases and the towns that he has operated in pulling the same scam as above: Smithfield, Croydon, Battlebridge, Huddersfield, Swansea, Romsey, Gainsborough, Hanley, Acton, Canterbury, Manchester, Hull and Selby.

HIs total debts were £10,000 over his 'career' with owing money to 285 people.

The judge called him an itinerant swindlery and said he was sorry that George has been able to access a charity in order to bring his case to court and leave the judge with no choice but to discharge him. He took a few moments though to beseech George "notwithstanding the miserable reckless life he has been leading for so many years, to endeavour to arouse himself to a sense to integrity and good conduct."

The day after he was discharged he was arrested again for obtaining goods fraudulently. When the case came to court there wasn't enough evidence to proceed so the judge was about to discharge him again when a grocer appeared to say that George had defrauded him out of £98. When asked how long ago this happened he responded "Twenty years ago, I know I cannot touch him, I just wanted him to know I had not forgotten him." George was discharged again.

George died in 1858, I haven't found any other newspaper reports of his escapades since his discharge in 1848 so perhaps he managed to settle down a bit - or perhaps he just didn't get caught!

So, yes. I am happy to have found George in my family tree. What a scoundrel.

Any more scoundrels out there?

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