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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree December 2017 > Is this the real Sweeney Todd?

Is this the real Sweeney Todd?

Explore the serious, sublime and the ridiculous facets of family history in this genealogical miscellany. This issue, has Tom Wood stumbled upon the real inspiration for the Demon Barber of Fleet Street?

Dear Tom

Genealogical miscellany

Over the years I have come across some pretty grim accounts of deaths and posthumous events, but one never quite so gruesome as the fate that apparently befell a poor traveller in 1847. A report of the event found its way into the Kentish Gazette of 2 March 1847, under the rather strange headline ‘Extenuating circumstances’: ‘A Brussels paper announces that a hotel keeper and his wife having been prosecuted for assassinating a traveller and converting his dead body into sausages, were found guilty with the addition of extenuating circumstances’. A French journal, the Reforme, copied the above statement and observed that no doubt the ‘extenuating circumstances’ were that the convicted parties were ‘induced to commit a murder in order to feed their fellow creatures in this period of universal distress’. I wonder if the hotel residents knew what they’d been consuming? It seems that the ‘extenuating circumstances’ covered a multitude of terrible sins. It’s certainly put me off having sausages!

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Come on, it's time to roll up your sleeves, leave the pleasant pastures of the 19th century, the birth, marriage and death records, and the census - and trace your family lines further back in into the past. This is your chance to explore new records, stretch your research and revel in the lives and times of your Georgian, Stuart and even Tudor ancestors.