For the descendents of Richard Dearie and his son John Russell

Jessie Elizabeth Russell nee Smart

1833 – to 14 June 1880.

According to family tradition when Elizabeth Hogg was 20 she ran off with a sailor and had a child with him. Jessie was her illegitimate daughter. For many years the family presumed that the sailor’s name was Russell and that he would be an officer in the Royal Navy; however this may not be true. On the birth certificate of Jessie’s son Jack she uses the name "Russell formerly Smart". The exact date and place of Jessie's birth is unknown. So far no baptismal record for her has been found; it is not known if she was baptised with her mother’s surname “Hogg”, her fathers name of “Smart” or the name she later used for herself and her son: “Russell”.


When Jessie was about 5 years old, her mother Elizabeth married Richard Dearie in a hurry on 27 January 1938 at St. George’s Bloomsbury. Elizabeth recorded her own address as The British Museum in Great Russell Street. No records of an Elizabeth Hogg or Elizabeth Smart have been found there. As soon as they were married they left for America, where Jessie was brought up in New York and Philadelphia with the legitimate children of the marriage. The family were in London again in 1846. They are recorded on the census of 1851 living in Guildhall Chambers in the City of London. Her stepfather Richard’s occupation is “Innkeeper”. He is aged 49, his wife Eliza, aged 38; Jessie is recorded as Jessie Dearie, daughter aged 18. Also living there was Maria, 12, Annie 9, and John 3 months. Two other daughters were at boarding school; and the whereabouts of their son George is unknown. They moved to 10 Kings Square and Eliza’s son John died there aged 9 months on 11 September 1851. Richard Dearie was the ratepayer at Kings Square and for 1851 and 1852 he was in arrears. From 1852 to 1854 he was the ratepayer at 115 Nichols Square Hackney. In 1853 Richard’s father died and he may have come into money. He ran three pubs in Glasgow.

On 16 January 1855 Jessie now aged 22, gave birth to a son at 115 Nichols Square. She had been raped by her step father Richard Dearie. On her son John Russell’s birth certificate she calls herself “Jessie Russell formerly Smart” and named the father as "William Russell, foreign commission agent". This is the first documented use of the name Russell.

In 1856 Richard was found guilty of running an illicit still and by 1857 he was in debtors prison. Annie was taken away to be brought up by her mother’s sister. Richard was relieved of his debts in 1857. An 1860 street directory for 2 Chapel Street West, Mayfair records him as running a lodging house. Subsequently a Mrs. Russell is running the same lodging house from 1864 to 1872. Family history says that Jessie brought up John on her own and ran a hotel. This could be Jessie, although Russell is a common name. The records for the census of 1861 and 1871 for this district are lost. Jessie and John have not appeared anywhere else on the census for those years. Richard left for America with daughters Mary and Bessie in 1859.

Jessie continued to live with her son Jack after his marriage in 1879, surviving to see the birth of George Dearie Russell her grandson. She died of tuberculosis aged 47 at 64 Waterloo Bridge Road Lambeth, on the 14 June 1880, having told Jack who his father was. No photographs of her have been found. Her death was entered in Agnes Roughs death book: “ June 14th Jessie died” One photograph exists with “To Jessie A.F.” written on the back, (sent to her by her half sister Annie Fox.) So far this is the only object found in connection with her that has survived. Gertrude Fox who was aged 16 when Jessie died recalled her as a ‘sweet woman”

Above: Kings Square before its demolition.

Jack later told the truth about his father, and his son Phil Russell told his wife Hilda. But in the 1960s both of the sons of Jack’s sons George and Archie didn’t know this and searched in vain for the mysterious William Russell and could not find him. When John Dennis Russell asked Hilda she told him the truth and he recorded it in his note book: “ 22/2/70 Aunt Hilda Russell told Anne, Pru and me (John), that Elizabeth Hogg before her marriage to R Dearie had run off with a sailor by whom she had a daughter illegitimately, when R. Dearie married Elizabeth he adopted Elizabeth’s daughter Jessie and in addition to his children with Elizabeth he had an illegitimate son Jack Russell by Elizabeth’s natural daughter Jessie”.

A recent DNA test from Dennis Dearie a descendant of Richard Dearie's first marriage and Tristan Russell one of Jack’s grandsons has proved that Jessie was telling the truth.

Chapel Street.

Who was her father?

Elizabeth had relatives who were sailors. Her mother's father Mugridge was a midshipman and was supposed to have fought against the French and have been on the" first man of war who boarded the French at Copenhagen" , her mother’s brothers Andrew and James were said to have become officers in the navy and her mother's sister Sophia Mugridge married Samuel Smart from Birmingham who was a master mariner. Captain Smart had several sons some of whom may also have been seaman. She may have met the sailor through her relatives or the sailor could have been her uncle or her one of her cousins.

Right: Nichols Square in Hackney. It is now demolished.Permission for use agreed: City of London, London Metropolitan Archives.