Family lore

Images courtesy of Reynold’s Newspaper, Sunday, 22 February 1891.

After my son was born, I developed an interest in finding out more about his father’s surname, Sadler. Not much was known about the origins of the Sadler line, since my boyfriend and his siblings did not grow up knowing their father. From time to time I would get asked to explore this family line. At some point, there was even a tale that perhaps the Sadlers were related to James Thomas Sadler, of Whitechapel district in the east end of London, who was accused of being the notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper!

James Thomas Sadler was a fireman and sailor who was suspected in the killing of prostitute Frances Coles, with whom he had a relationship. However, he was not prosecuted for this crime or any others due to a lack of evidence and a solid alibi. Apparently, he was documented as being on sailing voyages during many of the Whitechapel murders committed by the “Ripper.” He was eventually compensated for the fact that his name was smeared across the newspapers of London in 1891.[1]

With this in mind, I set out to find the origins of the Sadler line armed with only the name of my boyfriend’s father. I found that the immigrant ancestor on the Sadler line was Arnold Booth Sadler, who came from Renfrew County in Ontario to New York City in 1914.[2] Arnold was the son of Ephraim Booth Sadler and his wife Katie Price.[3]

Marriage and death records prove that Ephraim Booth Sadler was the son of Robert Sadler and Catherine Booth, both born in Ireland. Ephraim was born and died in Renfrew County.[4] According to Robert Sadler’s death record he was born in County Leitrim, Ireland about 1813.[5]

James Thomas Sadler was born in Stepney (London) in 1838, most likely the son of James Sadler and Mary Hownett.[6] In contrast, Robert Sadler was born in Ireland around 1813 and came to Canada as early as 1844, when his son Edward was born there.[7] Based on the birth dates of Robert and Catherine’s older children James and Susan, they were still in Ireland sometime between 1841 and 1843.[8] These findings lead me to conclude that the Sadler line was not related to James Thomas Sadler.

“Locality of the Whitechapel Women-Murders.” Click on image to expand it.

While the parents of Robert Sadler and James Sadler are still unknown, the fact that these two families were living in different countries in the 1840s generally puts a kibosh on the theory that they were related, although further research may be beneficial to reveal the origins of these Sadler lines. All in all, it was exciting to explore this question given the possible connection to an century-old mystery. This is a great example to show that even if you share the same surname as someone, it does not mean you are related!

On a final note, conducting this research reminded me that my own Buckle ancestors were living in London during this period. I went back to my records and found that they were living on Butchers Row in Ratcliff (London) from at least 1881 to 1891.[9] This location was about a mile and a half from where the Whitechapel murders took place! While there are no apparent ties to the Jack the Ripper suspect, James Thomas Sadler, I found it an amusing coincidence that some of my ancestors were living in close proximity to the pandemonium going on in this area of London in the late 1800s.



[2] Household of Arnold B. Sadler, 1930 U.S. census, Queens, Queens, N.Y.; p. 3A <ancestry>.

[3] Arnold Sadler birth (1891) Ontario, Canada Births, 1832-1916 <ancestry>.

[4] Ephraim Booth Sadler marriage record (1890) Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1826-1938 <ancestry>.

[5] Robert Sadler death record (1892) Ontario, Canada, Deaths and Deaths Overseas, 1869-1948 <ancestry>.

[6] James Thomas Sadler baptismal record (1840) England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 <family search>.

[7] Household of Robert Sadler, 1851 Canadian Census, Wilberforce, Renfrew, Ontario, Canada West; p. 19 <ancestry>.

[8] Household of Robert Sadler, 1861 Canadian Census, Wilberforce, Renfrew, Ontario, Canada West; p. 8 <ancestry>.

[9] Household of Henry Buckle, 1881 England Census, Ratcliff, Middlesex, England; p. 12 <ancestry>; Household of John Buckle, 1891 England Census, Ratcliff, London, England; p. 30 <ancestry>.

About Michelle Norris

Michelle holds a master’s degree in history from Salem State University, where she specialized in women in colonial New England. She completed her bachelor’s degree with concentrations in history and gender studies from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Michelle has a background in public history and has worked with the National Archives and Records Administration in Waltham, the Beverly Historical Society, and the Sargent House in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Her research interests include women’s history, society and culture, early America, and the American Revolution.

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