Finding the ancestry of George Goldsmith Kirby

I recently commissioned a genealogist to conduct research into my Kirby ancestors, namely to attempt to trace a) the birth/baptism of George Goldsmith Kirby; b) the birth/baptism of Harriet Sarah his wife and c) their marriage. I wasn’t a huge sum and although I didn’t find out a great deal more than I already knew about the family history it was interesting to get an insight into the approach and the feedback.

a) The birth/baptism of George Goldsmith Kirby (GGK)
The genealogist explained that in tracing the birth of an ancestor, the first step is normally to search for a copy of the relevant birth certificate, extracted from registers held by the General Register Office (GRO). However, this process, known as civil registration, only came into force in 1837. Before that date, the baptism of an individual may be recorded in the registers of the family’s local parish church. This was the path which the genealogist followed in the case of George Goldsmith Kirby, whom census returns had listed as being born around 1806 in the Holborn area.

I’d found a George son of George & Mary Kirby listed for that time on previously, and the genealogist made a search in the registers of St Andrew’s, Holborn, being the only church in the area to keep registers in that period. These are now held by the London Metropolitan Archive (LMA). Interestingly, there was only one positive result in baptism entries for George Kirby between 1804 and 1808. The entry was as follows:

St Andrew Holborn, MS 6667, Register of Baptisms Vol. 15 (1805-1812)
18 May 1806
George son of George & Mary Kirby Charles Street

The genealogist believes that this individual is George Goldsmith Kirby because there appear to be no other mentions of Kirby baptisms in that period, and, since this result “harmonises with the evidence of the census in terms of date and place of birth”.

Sadly, the registers of St Andrew at this time did not record the occupation of the father or the maiden name of the mother, facts which do sometimes appear. It does, however, show the family’s place of residence at the time, which was Charles Street.

b) The birth/baptism of Harriet Sarah, wife of George Goldsmith Kirby
The genealogist applied the same method as above in order to locate the birth/baptism of GGK’s wife. Census returns suggest that she was born around 1805 in Stratford.

He accordingly made a search in the baptism registers of St Mary, Straford le Bow (LMA, P88/MRY1/6/1) for all occurances of the first names Harriet and Harriet Sarah in the years 1800-1810, as her maiden name has not so far been established.

There were no positive results for this period, and so it is likely that she was born in a nearby parish. This task will be made easier once he knows which surname to search for.

c) The marriage of George Goldsmith and Harriet Sarah Kirby
The parish registers of St Andrew’s Holborn were searched for Kirby marriages in the period 1822-1832. This timespan was chosen on the grounds that GGK’s eldest child was born around 1831 (and so would probably not have taken place after this) and if he was born in 1806 he would be unlikely to marry much before 1826 (when he would have been 18).

The search produced three Kirby marriages, as follows:

St Andrew Holborn, MS 6672, Register of Marriages Vol. 5 (1822-1827)
p. 410
3 November 1825
James Kirby of the parish [of St Andrew’s Holborn] and Ann Foster of the parish

St Andrew Holborn, MS 6672, Register of Marriages Vol. 6 (1827-1832)
p. 133
22 June 1828
Joseph Kirby of the parish and Susannah Pickett of the parish of St Mary le Bone

p. 176
19 October 1828
William Joseph Kirby of the parish and Elizabeth Hewson of the parish

Although none of the grooms can be identified with GGK, it is possible that they were somehow related to him – brothers or cousins – given the comparative rarity of that name in the area.

The genealogist also searched the registers of Stratford le Bow for the same period (LMA, P88/MRY1/13-14), as often the bride returned to her home parish to be married (even though her baptism has not yet been located). However, no Kirby marriages were found. As with the birth/baptism of Harriet Sarah, the search may be expanded to cover the parishes surrounding Holborn and Stratford.

The parish of St Clement Danes could also be a strong possibility, considering the birth of GGK’s children occurred in that parish. He searched their marriage registers at the Westminster City Archive for the same period (WCA, ST CLEMENT DANES/40-41), but this contained no Kirby marriages.

Additional discoveries

The geneaologist also discovered that GGK, in addition to his insurance work, also practised as a lawyer. The Law List of 1829, a directory of legal professionals issued annually from the 18th century onwards, first lists George Goldsmith Kirby, Esq., as a ‘Special Pleader’, in the section for ‘Special Pleaders and Conveyancers not at the Bar’. His work address was given as 2 Churchyard Court, Temple (p. 53).

From 1830, Thomas Carr, Esq. has joined him at this address, and GGK is now listed as a ‘Conveyancer’, as he is in later census returns (p. 53). He last appears in the 1868 list, the year of his death, still as a conveyancer, but by this time he has moved to 7 Waterloo Place, Pall Mall (p. 197).

Special pleaders and conveyancers were those who had trained in the Law, usually at one of the Inns of Court – the Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Gray’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn – and were qualified to be called to the Bar. These individuals, however, chose to practise in the law, without being barristers, having obtained a certificate to practise.

The evidence of the Law List suggests that, although GGK may have come from a relatively humble background, an education in the Law would have enabled him to rise to a position of independence and respect. If he was a student at one of the Inns of Court, it would be advisable to check their admissions registers. This would establish whether he got his legal education there, and also may reveal information about his parentage and background.


In summary, the genealogist thinks we can say that we have established that George Goldsmith Kirby was baptized at St Andrew’s Holborn on 18 May 1806 to George and Mary Kirby of Charles Street.

So there’s a possibility to trace GGK’s ancestry further back and this would require some further research.

Firstly, the circumstances of his marriage and those of his wife’s birth/baptism remain obscure, so it’s probably worth extending the search to the parishes adjoining Stratford le Bow – St John Hackney, St Leonard Bromley, St Mathew Bethnal Green, St Dunstan Stepney, West Ham, and Leyton

In addition, the registers of the Temple Church could be consulted for evidence of GGK’s marriage.

Lastly, a search could be made in the records of the Inns of Court for George Goldsmith Kirby.

I think I’m going to hand over the commission to my older brother for phase 2.


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