Stanley, Henry Morton

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Stanley was born John Rowland in Denbigh, North Wales. His family was extremely poor. His father died when he was very young and his mother left him with her father while she went to find work in London. His grandfather died when John was four and he was then sent to some uncles, before being boarded out to an elderly couple.

When he was six his family stopped paying his board and he was taken to the local poorhouse. He stayed there until he was 15, when he ran away after finally retaliating against the brutality of the master.

His family rejected him and he eventually went to sea and wound up in New Orleans, where was adopted (as an adult) by a wealthy man named Stanley. He joined first the Confederate and then the Union armies during the Civil War, and afterwards became a journalist. He was sent to Africa (1869-71) to find Dr. Livingstone and continued to travel, explore and write for many years.

Twice as an adult Stanley returned to Wales and his mother, but was rejected both times.


Dever, Maria, and Dever, Aileen. Relative Origins: Famous Foster and Adopted People. (Portland: National Book Company, 1992)
Dictionary of Welsh Biography down to 1940. (London: Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1959)
Dictionary of American Biography
Dictionary of National Biography
Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, 1993-97
Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales, edited by Meic Stephens. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986)
Bierman, John. Dark Safari: The Life Behind the Legend of Henry Morton Stanley. New edition. (London: Sceptre, 1992)
Layton Tom. "Henry M. Stanley." [Includes portrait]. Available at:


Uk/great Britain
19th Century
20th Century
Exploration, Adventure
Figures Whose Adoption or Fostering Is Fictitious, Disputed or Unconfirmed
Pre-school Years
Adopted as an Adult
Unmarried Mother, Single Parent (Mother or Father) Unable to Cope
Priest, Religious, Teacher, Coach, Mentor, Patron, Apprentice Master or Owner
Very Poor (Financially) Adoptive or Foster Families
Institutional Care
Disrupted or Failed Placements
Parent(s) Died, Disappeared or Became Incapacitated
Always in Contact or Knew Identities
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