My Genealogy Research

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My Genealogy Research

Edward Stanford – From Soldier to Criminal

I was cleaning up some old genealogy folders on my pc and came across an article (below) that I had saved because the name of the individual was Edward Stanford and he was from Mohill, Leitrim. My father, whose name was also Edward Stanford, was descended from families in Mohill. I am pretty much related somehow to anyone by that name in Mohill.

Article Murder in Mohill
The article that started it all. Northern Whig 29 Feb 1864

I hadn’t saved what paper the article came from so I did some searching to see if I could find out. That resulted in me going down a dark hole as more details about Edward Stanford and the crime and his punishment emerged. The following is what I learned.

The Individual

Edward Stanford was born in the fall of 1826. In 1847, at age 17 he enlisted in the 2nd Battallion of the 12th Regiment Foot. He served in South Africa during the Third Kaffir War (1850–3). (source: The Kaffir Wars Medal Roll) The re-formed second or ‘Reserve’ battalion was sent to South Africa to bolster British forces there during the Kaffir Wars. (source: . This was the only major campaign for the company during the years Edward served.

In 1861 Edward, age 32, single, was with the 12 Regiment in St. Andrew, Plymouth, Devon, England. (1861 Census) He was listed as being a private and soldier. Edward was discharged later in that year. His pension was processed on 14 Jan 1862.

When he returned to Mohill he settled in Shannagh and ,besides being a pensioner, he worked as a baker and a butcher. I found that interesting because many of my Stanford relatives were grocers and butchers.

Mohill Leitrim Market Square
Market Square – Mohill, Leitrim, Ireland

From later prison records, I do know that Edward was married. I can’t find a marriage for Edward in Mohill but I did find the baptism record in Mohill for a Mary Stanford on 31 August 1862. Her parents were Edward Stanford and Ann Geary. One of the sponsors was Michael Stanford. Ann was probably not Catholic. Below the baptism record there is a note that Ann was “taken in to the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church. Not knowing where Ann was from, it’s possible that they may have married somewhere Edward was stationed. There are no more records for children for this couple, which fits with the timing of his crime.

The Crime

Edward was convicted of murder on 24 Feb 1864. He was 37 years 5 months old. According to newspaper accounts, Michael McDermott was murdered on 16 January 1864 in Mohill, Leitrim, Ireland. He was hit on the side of his head with a blunt instrument. Edward Stanford was arrested for the murder. McDermott was robbed of some items which were found later in the thatch of Stanford’s house. Stanford was quickly found guilty and sentenced to be executed.

Sentence for Murder
Sentenced for Murder

The Sentence

Edward Stanford’s execution by hanging was scheduled for 24 March 1864. Sometime between 19 March, when an article mentioned the upcoming execution, and the date of said execution, the sentence was commuted to “Life in Penal Servitude”. Prior to this decision, there was a piece in the newspaper “hoping to attract the attendion of the Lord Lieutenant”. The piece did not have any hint to who had it printed. It detailed issues with the evidence against Edward Stanford. This included the fact that the “covered pipe” he had in his possesion was very common, and that the coroner’s report said that the deceased was only hit once and that was probably the result of him falling on his face. The piece must have been successful since the Lord Lieutenant changed the sentence shortly after that.

Another sad side to this story is that once the commutation was made, Edward made it known that he would “not die in the prison”. This was taken as a threat to commit suicide. Edward was then put under extra observation. We know that he ended up being in prison for at least 10 more years.

Sentence Commuted
Sentence Commuted

Edward served the first part of his sentence in Dublin’s Richmond Bridewell Prison. His records for Bridewell states that they found his character “ good as far as I can ascertain. Habits: Given to drink “ . One note states that he served “ 3 months in separation. Remainder in Prison Hospital”. Conditions at Bridewell were known to be tough. Among the punishments were solitary confinement, the treadmill, wearing a metal helmet that constricted the skull and flogging.(1)

Richmond Bridewell Prison, Dublin Ireland
Richmond Bridewell Prison, Dublin, Ireland – “Bridewell Prison, Dublin, Ireland, Spring 1866, artist’s impression,” House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,

In notes that spanned from 1866 to 1878, there were mentions of visits from a brother Thomas, of Cornee, and priest, Rev. Evans.

Edward was transferred to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin on 4 June 1883. This was around the time that Richmond Bridewell ceased being used as a prison. The records for that time period lists a visit on 2 Dec 1885 from nephew Francis Stanford of Cornee

Mountjoy Prison was originally designated to be a place for prisoners prior to being sent to Spike Island, and from there to transportation. Edward’s records for Mountjoy state that he was first received at Spike Island and then transferred to that prison.

The Mountjoy records state that he was discharged on 16 Dec 1885 . The note on this record says that he was “Released on License”. Release from prison on standard license, which lasts for the remainder of the offender’s sentence unless the conditions of the license are breached. If the conditions are breached, the offender may be recalled to custody. This differs from parole in that the release process occurs automatically at a set point during the sentence, whereas parole must be approved by the parole board. (2)

Mountjoy Prison Dublin
Mount Joy Prison – Dublin, Ireland

After Release

There do not seem to be any records for Edward after his release from Mountjoy. The films of parish registers for Mohill end about the same time he was released. I couldn’t find a civil death registration for Edward. There is also no record that indicates that he was ever transported.

There do not seem to be any records for Edward’s wife and daughter either. This seems to one of those genealogical puzzles where individuals “drop off the face of the earth”.

Family Legacy of Crime

When I saw the names of Edward’s brother and nephew in visit logs, I wanted to see if I could connect Edward to a specific Stanford family. Edward’s brother Thomas was someone who I couldn’t connect definitely to my family, but for whom there was a good chance that he was the brother of my 3 X Great Grandfather, James Patrick Stanford. Thomas’ birth year would have been about 1813 based on his age at death. I have estimated James’ birth year as about 1795 based on his wife’s age at death. While Thomas and Edward were most certainly brothers, if James was also a brother, that would mean their parents had children over a span of 30 years.

Thomas Stanford married Marid “May” Reynolds and had five sons, including son, Francis Stanford bp 7 Nov 1852. This would be the “nephew” who visited Edward in prison. Francis Stanford married Ellen Wisely in 1888 Mohill. The couple had two children, Mary and Thomas. They lived in Cornee in 1901 and 1911.

While searching for records for this family I came across prison records that mention both Francis and his son, Thomas. First, in 1919, John Francis Reynolds was arrested for causing grave physical harm to Francis Stanford in Mohill. Then Francis’ son, Thomas, was arrested for causing the same against John Francis Reynolds in 1923. There was definitely some bad blood between these two families.

Family Connections

Both Francis and Thomas seem to have died in 1924. There is a death record in Carrick on Shannon for Thomas Stanford, age 34, in 1924. It’s possible that Thomas died in prison. Thomas’ daughter, Mary, died in 1908 at age 18. It seems highly unlikely that I will be able to link to this family through DNA since neither of Thomas’ children married.

I will probably never know for sure how I am related to Edward Stanford, but I felt compelled to follow the records and piece his sad
life together.

If you’d like to see more info on one of my Stanford Families from Mohill, you can read here: Stanford Family #1


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