Generations 4 (paternal branches): Biographies,Obituaries, etc

This is second part of my housekeeping, where I am going through each generation of ancestors to see where there are ancestry dead ends, how much information we have about each ancestor, etc. You can read about Generation 1-3 here.

Generation 4: Paternal 2x Gt. Grandparents: Kirby + Baxendale | Maitland + McDonell (of Keppoch) | Wright + (von) Beckmann | Fox + Wright

Paternal > Paternal Branch > Paternal Branch: Kirby + Baxendale

Alfred Octavius Kirby  (1843-1919)

We have one photograph of our 2x Gt. Grandfather Alfred Octavius Kirby  (1843-1919) and but no photograph or portrait of our 2x Gt. Grandmother Alice Baxendale (1852-1897). In fact, we know next to nothing about her other than her ancestry and descendents. I do know that her sister was Constance Mary Baxendale who married Thomas Edward Bagge, and that my grandfather Claude Kirby stayed at their large house in the School holidays as his parents lived overseas (Ceylon).

Alfred is actually the starting point of my ancestral research because I own a medal he won at Henley for rowing for Cambridge University and they have an entry for him in their Alumni records. This included information about his father, but they also had records for his elder brother and one for his son (our great grandfather George Henry Kirby):

Related Kirbys at Trinity Hall and College

There’s no offical biography of him that I know of, but from publicly available records we know he was the 8th (Octavius) of 12 siblings, and 1 of only 3 who married. We know  where he was educated (Twickenham School and Trinity Hall, Cambridge), that he trained as a solicitor and practiced as a Parliamentary agent.

We also know that he married twice. Firstly, to our ancestor Alice Baxendale who was the daughter of Lloyd Baxendale whose family had made their fortune from transportation. And secondly, after Alice’s death to her cousin Beatrice Elizabeth Schneider (1868-1949) whose father was the British industrialist and politician Henry William Schneider who played a leading role in the development of the new town of Barrow-in-Furness.

Only 10 of his siblings seemed to have survived childhood judging by census records. It is not clear what became of his eldest sister Emma Augusta who was born about 1832. She disappears from census records after 1851, so she may have married.

His eldest brother George Frederick was born in London about 1833, and there’s an announcement of the death of a George-Frederick, ‘eldest son of George Goldsmith Kirby, esq. of Kensingnton-park-gardens East’ in the June 1853 Edition of the The Gentleman’s Magazine (p.674). There’s no mention of any wife or Children.

William Henry was born about 1834 in London and there an announcement of his death in The Times, Tuesday, Feb 22, 1859. He would have been about 25.

Edward Goldsmith was Born about 1836 in London and there is an announcement of his death in The Times on 25 Aug 1860. He was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy.

Montaque Alexander was born about 1837 in London, and he’s likely to be the ‘Montagu’ Alexander Kirby of the 78th Foot – 2nd Seaforth Highlanders who died of wounds in the Indian Mutiny on 25th September 1857 (see more here).

Henry Dillon was born about 1845 in London, and died 6 April 1860, aged 15.

The youngest sibling Katherine was born abt 1849. Census records show her living with her mother in 1891 aged 41. I don’t know when she died, and it is assumed she didn’t marry or have children.

There is also a mystery announcement in The Times on Thursday, May 26, 1853 about the death of Laura Elizabeth, “eldest surviving daughter and dear child of George Goldsmith Kirby, Esq., of 3. Kensington-park-gardens East.” She’s not mentioned in any of the census records, and only two other daughters identified were Mary Georgina born 12 March 1829 and Harriet Sarah born about 1831. It’s assumed they didn’t survive childhood.

We do, however, know that Alfred’s brother Arthur Raymond Kirby (1842-1916) married (Gertrude Fleming) and had 3 children who didn’t marry. The eldest Claude Arthur was awarded the OBE and his younger brother Alister Graham Kirby (14 April 1886 – 29 March 1917) has a wiki entry. He was a British rower who was captain of the 8 that won a gold medal in the 1912 Summer Olympics and died in service during WW1.

Arthur Raymond Kirby (1842-1916)

Alfred’s younger brother Augustus George Kirby (1847-1926) was a vicar who married Edith Smith Dorrien – whose brother Thomas Algernon succeeded his uncle (Augustus Smith) as Proprietor of the Isles of Scilly in 1872.

Augustus George and Edith had 8 children. 3 of the 4 girls married, including Beatrice Gwendoline who married Capt. William Joshua Rowley. We are still in touch with her Rowley grandchildren. They are the closest relatives with shared Kirby ancestors we know. We may also have Oates and Breitmeyer cousins from the marriages of Augustus George’s other two daughters.

3 out 4 of Augustus George’s sons died during WW1, including his son the Rev. Robert Dorrien Kirby who was killed by cannibals while on patrol in Papua New Guinea although not eaten (see more here). His oldest son Horace Augustus was awarded both the Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross in WW1. He survived, but didn’t marry.

I mention all this because although there are descendants of our 2x gt. grandfather Alfred’s nieces – including at least the two Rowley ones mentioned above who we know – there are none from his nephews. This means that my father, my brothers and our children are only male branch of Kirby relatives we know. Genealogical DNA is perhaps the only way we will discover more.

Paternal > Paternal > Maternal Branch: Maitland + McDonell (of Keppoch)

George Keith Maitland (1854-1896) and Christina Mary Theresa McDonell (1845-1932). As with many relatives in early generations, George and Christina don’t appear to have any publicly available biographies either. George Graham has compiled census and other publicly avaialable info about them that can be found on links above, and I was sent a number of photographs by one of their descendants via this blog including the ones above and of their tea plantation in Ceylon.

Theresia Estate Keith,Alick & Elsie Maitland 1890
Theresia Estate Bogowantalawa Ceylon

George Keith’s elder brother was Sir John Nisbet Maitland (1850, d. 14 Dec 1936), the 5th Maitland Baronet who also ran a plantation in Ceylon. He was the only other of the George Keith’s 4 siblings to marry, and I have spoken to his grandson. Coincidentally, Sir John’s daughter Petronilla was best friend of the mother of my son’s godfather. Small world.

Sir John Nisbet Maitland, 5th Bt. and Anne Florence Mary Rickman

I don’t know much else about George Keith other than he died in an accident in his early 40s, which I think involved a horse and cart/coach.

Christiana was a McDonnell (of Keppoch) and 1 of 10 siblings. I think she was born in Keppoch House (Kilmonivaig, Inverness) which replaced the original home of the Keppoch chiefs burnt during ’45 rebellion. None of her brothers married, but her following sisters did:

  • Ann married William Kennedy
  • Mary married Keith MacLellan
  • Maria De Saint Gabriel married Alexander Macdonald

I am guessing I have some Scottish cousins from these marriages.

Christina’s sister Frances John Baptist-MacDonell became Mother Celestine du Bon Pasteur. Second Mother General of the Congratation of the Sisters of Assumption. I have written a post about her here, which includes biographical information.

Frances MacDonell (Sister Marie Celestine) Christina Mary Theresa Maitland's sister.
Frances McDonell (Sister Marie Celestine)

I am not completely certain about this but I think her order owned a property North of the Park in London next to my Fox ancestors mentioned below and there was apparenetly a certain amount of tensions between the Catholics on one side and Anglicans on the other.

Christine’s younger sister Josephine M. Macdonnell wrote a number of books about the MacDonald Clan including MacDonells of Keppoch and Gargavach (1931). The Complete title is An Historical Record of the Branch of “Clan Domhnuill” called The MacDonells of Keppoch and Gargavach.  She’s also cited in many of the accounts of Clan Macdonald and cadet branches from around  time.

Josephine maintained that her father Angus was the Keppoch chief. As one commentor on this blog noted, the writer Stuart Macdonald (in his book Back to Lochaber) puts this down to snobbery:

“How on earth, the reader may ask, can a clan lose trace of its hereditary chief? The answer is simple. After the death in 1848 of the last recognized chief, Chichester MacDonell, the prosperous gentry in the clan did not wish to have a poor clansman as chief. At that time there were alive in Lochaber, and in Australia, legitimate male descendants of Donald Gorm Clianig, son of Alasdair Buidhe, 14th Chief; but they were mere shepherds, drovers, and even labourers. Chiefly responsible for ignoring the claims of these descendants was Josephine MacDonell . . .”

Erm… Stuart Macdonald’s rant seems to ignore that Chiefship is a (feudal) social construct that has land ownership and snobbery baked in, as explained by Dr. Johnson in the following in ‘A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland’:

The name of highest dignity is Laird… The Laird is the original owner of the land, whose natural power must be very great, where no man lives but by agriculture; and where the produce of the land is not conveyed through the labyrinths of traffick, but passes directly from the hand that gathers it to the mouth that eats it…

Next in dignity to the Laird is the Tacksman; a large taker or lease-holder of land, of which he keeps part, as a domain, in his own hand, and lets part to under tenants. The Tacksman is necessarily a man capable of securing to the Laird the whole rent, and is commonly a collateral relation. These tacks, or subordinate possessions, were long considered as hereditary, and the occupant was distinguished by the name of the place at which he resided. He held a middle station, by which the highest and the lowest orders were connected. He paid rent and reverence to the Laird, and received them from the tenants…

The only gentlemen in the Islands are the Lairds, the Tacksmen, and the Ministers…

Josephine’s father Angus was a tacksman who lived with his family at Keppoch House and was considered a gentleman, rather than “mere” shepherd, drover, and even labourer living from the hand that gathers the acriculture to the mouth that eats it that Johnson describes above.

I accept that being a tacksman and living at Keppoch House doesn’t necessarily make Jospephine’s father Chief, or her younger sister for that matter (see below), but it is quite fun that they thought they were, it mattered to them and that they were descended from someone who definitely was, i.e. the Keppoch Chief who died at Culloden. The reality is that it makes little difference to me either way.

Alice Clair McDonnell or MacDonnell (1854-1938) was Christina’s youngest sister and has a wiki entry here. She was a Scottish poetess who claimed to be Chieftainess of the MacDonell clan of Keppoch later in life and was recognised as bardess to Clan Macdonald Society. Her claim of Chiefship, correct or not, seems quite forward thinking compared to having titled passed down based on primogeniture as it still seems to be given current clan chief:


Paternal > Maternal > Paternal Branch: Wright + (von) Beckmann

I know next to nothing about FitzHerbert Wright (1841-1910) and his wife Charlotte Rudolphine Louise von Beckman other than the following: they married in August 1865; he gained the rank of Honorary Colonel in the Sherwood Foresters: he lived at The Hayes, Swanwick, Derbyshire; they may have also lived at Yeldersley Hall where I think my grandmother Rosemary Wright was born; my eldest brother has a portrait of her, she was German and it is not sure where the ‘von’ comes from because her father and his ancestors weren’t known as ‘von Beckman’.

The Hayes, Swanwick, Derbyshire
Yeldersley Hall, Ashbourne, Derbyshire

Charlotte is my first continental European ancestor and being German it is likely that at least one her children (Captain Henry FitzHerbert Wright) and possibly other descendents fought against their cousins during the two world wars.

Fitzherbert was also Managing Director of Butterly Ironworks founded by his father when it was incorporated as a Private Limited Company in 1888. His eldest brother,  Francis Beresford Wright, was Chairman. Fitzherbert resigned as Managing Director in 1902 (see more here).

Fitzherbert and Charlotte are the maternal 2x gt. grandparents of Sarah, Duchess of York (aka Fergie). My father and step-mother once stayed with her sister (Jane I think) in Australia. He had no idea that both their mothers were Derbyshire Wrights and close cousins. I went to school for a brief time with Fergie’s ex-husband. I didn’t know we were distantly related either.

Paternal > Maternal > Maternal Branch: Fox + Wright

foxand wright
Mary (Wright) and Sir Charles Douglas Fox on their Golden Wedding anniversary (1863)

I know a bit more about Sir Charles Douglas Fox (1840-1921) than his wife Mary Wright(1840-1920). He has a wiki entry and entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography that I will try and rewrite and add here at some point. In the meantime,  I have added the following obituary, which I think is from the Institution of Civil Engineers given it mentions his past-presidency:

Sir (CHARLES) DOUGLAS Fox, Past-President, who died at Kensington on the 13th November, 1921, was the eldest surviving son of Sir Charles FOX, M. Inst. C.E. He was born at Smethwick on the 14th May, 1840, educated at Cholmondeley School, Highgate, King’s College School, and King’s College, London (of which he was a Fellow), and in 1858 WBS articled to his father, who was then practising in Westminster.

In 1860 he and his brother (now Sir Francis Fox, M. Inst. C.E.) were taken into partnership, and the firm continued to practise as Sir Charles Fox and Sons until the death of Sir Cha.rles (senior) in 1874. During this period the firm were engineers for a scheme of high-level lines at Battersea for the London Brighton and South Coast, the London Chatham and Dover, and the London and South Wesfern railways, the approach to Victoria Station, and the widening of t,he Victoria railway bridge, as well as to various Colonial railways.

In 1874 Sir Douglas became senior partner and the title of the firm was changed to Sir Douglas Fox and Partners, the partnership subsequently including the late Mr. G. A. Hobson, 2 M. Inst. C.E., and the present, three members of the firm, Mr. F. Douglas Fox and Mr. Ralph Freeman, MM. Inst. C.E., and Mr. Bertram Douglas Fox, Assoc. M. Inst. C.E.

In the course of his long practice, first in Westminster, afterwards in the City of London, and latterly at Bedford Place, his firm acted as Consulting Engineers and Engineers-in-Chief to many important undertakingsj both at home and abroad, principally railways. Among the home railway works may be mentioned :The Nersey Tunnel between Liverpool and Birkenhead, in conjunction with the late Sir James Brunlees, Past-President Inst. C.E. ; The swing bridge over the River Dee on the Chester and Connah’s Quay Railway at Hawarden, Cheshire ; t,he Liverpool, St. Helens and South Lan- cashire Railway, Liverpool, Southport and Preston Railway ; the Liverpool Overhead Electric Railway (the first, electrified railway in England) ; the Snowdon Mountain Rack Railway ; the Cardiff Railway for the Marquis of Bute ; the Neath, Pontardawe and Brynamman Railway ; the Southern Extension, Rugby to Irondon, including the Marylebone Terminus of the Great Central Railway ; the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Tube Electric Railway, opened in 1907, in conjunction with the late >fr. W. R. Galbraith; the Great Northern and City Tube Electric Railway, opened in 1904.

In regard to railway work abroad the firm acted as Consulting Engineers to the Central drgentine Railway Company (jointly with Messrs. Livesey, Son and Henderson) ; the Shire Highlands (Nyasa- land) Railway Company the Rhodesia, Mashonaland and Beira Railway Company (Cape to Cairo) ; the Benguella Railway Com- pany, the Trans-Zambesia Railway Company; the British South dfrican Chartered Company (jointly with Sir Charles Metcalfe, Bart.) ; the Cape Government Railways (jointly with Messrs. Gregory, Eyles and Waring) ; the South Indian Railway Company (jointly with the late Sir George Rruce and Mr. Robert White) ; the Southern San Paulo Railway Company, and the Dorada (TJnited States of Colombia) Railway Company.

During the war the work carried out by the firm included the following: Docks and slipways for standardized ships for Lord Purness at Middlesbrough ; the explosives factory for the Admiralty at Holton Heath, Dorset, and an explosives factory for Nobel’s Explosives Company at Pembrey, South Wales.

Sir Douglas was frequently engaged as an engineering witness in the Parliamentary Committee Rooms at Westminster in con nect.ion with the promotion and opposit’ion to Bills for the construc- tion of railways, harbours, etc.

He was elected a Member of The Institution on the 6th February, 1866, became a member of the Council in 1883 and President in 1899. During his presidency (1899-1900) he had the honour of receiving on behalf of the Institution the American Engineers who visited England in the summer of 1900. Honorary Membership of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers was conferred upon him by those Societies. He was also a member of the Institutions of Mining and Electrical Engineers, and served for a number of years as one of the repre- sentatives of the Institution of Civil Engineers on the Engineering Standards Committee (now the British Engineering Standards Association).

In 1886 a knighthood was conferred upon him in recognition of his work in connection with the Mersey Tunnel.

To the Proceedings of the Institution Sir Douglas Pox contributed three Papers, namely, “ On Light Railways in Norway, India, and Queensland” (for which he received a Manby Premium), “ On the Widening of the Victoria Bridge and Approaches to Victoria Station ’’’ (for which he was awarded a Telford Medal and Premium), and “ Description of the Excavating Machine or Steam Navvy on the West Lancashire Railway.” Also, jointly with his brother he contributed a Paper on “ The Pennsylvania Railroad.”

Sir Douglas Pox married, in 1863, Mary, daughter of the late Francis Beresford Wright, of Osmaston Manor, Derby, by whom he had one son and four daughters.

He was deeply interested in all Christian work, and took an active part in the administration of the Church Missionary Society, the Young Men’s Christian Association, and many other philanthropic and benevolent organizations. In Church affairs he was a member of the House of Laymen and served on the Diocesan Conference.

I am pretty certain he was know as Douglas, because his father was also called (Sir) Charles. From what I understand Douglas was going to study further at Trinity College, Cambridge but the financial collapse of his father’s contracting company in 1857 ended his education. And instead he was articled to his father who had set up an engineering consultancy, Sir Charles Fox and Sons.

Sir Francis Fox (1844-1927)

His brother Francis was also a civil engineer knighted for his engineering work and wrote his Sixty-three Years of Engineering memoir published in 1924. The introduction gives a fascinating account of his father’s early career as an engineer culminating in his structural work on the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851, for which he was knighted. It’s also interesting because it’s a story told about an ancestor by his son. That history alone would be amazing, but the story includes how he and his were looked after by the Duke of Wellington, his attending Faraday’s lectures, seeing the first submarine, and more.

I mention this because my niece has qualified as a civil engineer so Sir Charles  Douglas and Sir Francis would be her 3x Gt. Granfathers. I am not sure if Sir Charles Douglas and Francis had other siblings.

Sir Charles Douglas Fox’s wife Mary was the eldest child of the industrialist Francis Wright of Ostmaston Manor and Selina Fitzherbert. She is also the elder sister of my other 2x Gt. grandparent Fitzherbert Wright mentioned above.

I know little else about Mary or her siblings other than what I have already written above about her brother Fitzherbert. I do have a big family tree of the Wright family, which my cousin has entered onto Rootsweb. Here’s a link to Mary and Fitzherbert Wright’s father Francis Wight of Ostmaston Manor.

Sir Charles Douglas and Mary’s daughter Agnes Selina had a scrapbook which shows how many of their Wright family relatives were killed in WW1. Her scrapbook also contains photograph’s and illustrations of the homes of her parents (there’s more about them here):

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