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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree October 2019 > The baby in the canal A grieving widow’s desperate act

The baby in the canal A grieving widow’s desperate act

Family history researcher Lisa Edwards shines a light on the tragic story of a young First World War Army widow convicted of concealing the loss of her baby, and finds it was not an unusual crime in wartime Britain


The Register of Court for Slough Petty Sessions, dated 27 June 1917, records Alice Ball’s appearance and committal for trial at Assizes for concealing the birth of her baby girl, who lived one hour (PS/SL/R/24 © Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies)

Recently I was researching a casualty within historical newspaper reports for the Great War in Buckinghamshire project, but found myself being drawn into another story on a page of the Slough, Eton and Windsor Observer. It was a small unassuming final paragraph tucked away at the bottom of the page which detailed the crimes that had gone before the Slough Petty Sessions on 27 June 1917. Charges reported included those of using obscene language and an assault, allegedly resulting from the defendant having been ‘scandalised’ by the woman she struck out at. But it was the last four lines of the court round up that captured my imagination, just four lines summarising a case that has since led me to try to trace the life of a woman; a woman that I believe to be another casualty of the Great War:

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The shops are piled high with ‘back to school’ preparations for the children. But these new beginnings, plans and dreams aren’t just for the kids. This autumn set yourself the goal to learn more too – to devote more time to your family history! In our latest issue we’ve got three cracking ways to make strides in your family history know-how: 1. New to family history? Check out our 8 page guide packed with info on the essential websites – where to search and what to look for. Follow our advice and watch your tree grow in no time! 2. Want to get organised? Already been doing family history a while? Learn new ways to organise the fruits of your family history labour. Check out professional researcher Susie Douglas’s flexible and affordable strategy for super-organised family history records. 3. Immerse yourself in family history From genning up on the latest DNA know-how, discovering the latest new books and events, learning sleuthing skills from our experts’ advice, and enjoying the reader stories – we have page after page to inspire you on your family history mission. Enjoy!