There’s so much I’ve found about my family history out over the last few months that it’s difficult to know where to start. Perhaps discovering that my great great grandfather George Keith Maitland (1854-1896) was neither a ‘sir’ and nor the Governor of Ceylon is as good a place as any.
Maybe it was just wishful thinking on the part of my family, or delusions of grandeur, but as it turns out Sir Thomas Maitland (1759–1824) was the Governor of Ceylon around 1805, which is about 50 years before George was born. So it’s highly unlikely that we are anything more than distantly related to Sir Thomas seeing that he remained a bachelor.
I’ve actually stayed at Sir Thomas’ former residence in Sri Lanka called Mount Lavinia. It’s now a hotel with a long list of famous guests including Somerset Maugham: according to Kapila Somaratne in her Saga of Sir Thomas Maitland and his lady love Maugham’s stay may have inspired his love story about the lovely lass named Lovina and her affair with the Governor. Sadly, I remember the romantic history and setting of the hotel being somewhat let down by several encounters with cockroaches.
Part of the confusion surrounding George Keith Maitland’s title is that so many Maitlands were called John, Ramsay, George, Keith or Sandy (Alexander) and many of them were Sirs. George Keith was actually the great grandson of Sir Alexander Charles Maitland, 2nd Bt. (1755/7-1848) and he did actually live and die in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. Keith lost a lot of money on a coffee plantation, but was effectively saved by his wealthy wife Theresa McDonnell (or MacDonell) of Keppoch who converted the Presbyterian Scot to Catholicism.
I know this through a strange coincidence when talking to my son’s Godfather about my stay in Sri Lanka and how one of my Maitland ancestors might have been the Governor way back when it was called Ceylon. He mentioned that his Mother had been born there, and that her best friend was Petronilla (Kathleen Florence) Maitland (b.9 Jul 1916–). He even managed to track her down through her son, and it turns out that George Keith Maitland was her (great) ‘Uncle’ Keith and that’s how I now know the story above.
As William Douglas over at the Douglas Archives pointed out to me today it’s these snippets that make genealogy such fun, and what has got me hooked. I spoke to Douglas because I’ discovered that I’m indexed on the Douglas Archives he maintains. Turns out that I’m listed as a result of a huge family tree project put together by my cousin Hamish MacLaren. In fact, Hamish and William Douglas know each other well as they used to live across the glen in Balmaclellan. I haven’t worked out yet how I’m actually connected to the Douglas family, but that’s now another mystery to uncover.