About this blog


This blog is called descent from adam: a tale of downward social mobility because I once told my wife that I had just found out via Google that I could trace my ancestry back to Adam and Eve via Royalty. She pointed out that at least my slide down the social mobility snake helps someone else step onto a ladder.

Having subsequently found other origins I now think the possible descent from Chaos of Greek mythology seems to make more sense although maybe that’s just me noticing a genetic characteristic (see more on genetic geneaology here).

When I set it up in back in 2008, the idea was simply to use it to keep track of what I’d was finding out about my family history (mostly from free resources). None of this was meant to be particularly authoritive, and that’s why what I link to is more eclectic that those more scholarly or rigourous about Genealogical Proof Standard would cite. But that more journal-like note taking allows me to retrace my steps as I hopefully get greater clarity from connecting up the different jigsaw-like pieces. That’s the post-rationalised theory, and if those notes help provide starting places and jump off points for others to follow-up on then happy days.

What I have also been trying to is help contextualise history for my kids by highlighting ancestors who might have played a role in what they were studying at school (e.g. Victorian Britain: see example here). Not sure I have been particularly successful other than on a trips to Athens and the Louvre after that become obsessed with Greek Goods thanks to the Percy Jackson books.

But as my family history obsession grew, it became a lighthouse, signpost and sometimes a gathering place for others fascinated by their ancestry. Their contributions further fuelled my fascination, but as I found out more about family history I realised there seemed to be two sides to it:

  1. Pokemon-like genealogy of who begat whom, where and when… and that gotta catch them all is what I now co-facilitate with my cousin Hamish Maclaren over at Ancestorium.com (see more about this here).
  2. Social sharing of stories, photographs and content with others… and that’s what this blog is still mostly about – hence containing anecdotes, discoveries, encounters, observations, notes and reflections including where I explore the why of it all (see more on this here).

The categorising of blog posts on here is an ongoing project (as is keeping links to ancestors live as sources cited come and go, or stop being publicly available). And so the site sections in the main menu at top of all pages will hopefully start to make more sense over time. But in the meantime, here is a quick summary of them:

  • Family Index, Categories and Related Resources: this page provides an overview and links for three interrelated parts of this blog:
    • Family Index: an index of summaries for the different families I’ve been researching that also includes references to the resources used as part of the research (there’s only 2 right now, but I plan to add more)
    • Categories: an explanation of how the posts have been categorised that’s still work in progress.
    • Related Resources: summaries and links to the key resources used as part of my research other than Google that’s also still work in progress.
  • Family History Portfolios: page explaining the different ‘portfolios’ on this site of pages and post that attempt to different presentations of content about family history beyond the who begat who, including:
  • Poetry Corner: my mother is a published poet, as was my aunt, and it turns out that I have other relations that write poetry. A number of my ancestors were also poets, and the peotry of my Scotts ancestors appears to have been both part of their cultural tradition but also linked to an oral tradition of family history.
  • Ancestorium.com: Family Search: explanation of the family tree collaboration that I co-faciliate with my cousin Hamish Maclaren over at Ancestorium.com that now has over 160,000 ancestor records. This page also contains a user guide on how best to use the fully searchable database.
  • Genetic Genealogy Guide: this page contains an introduction to genetic genealogy put together by cousin Hamish based on his extensive experience of using most of the different available tests and platforms.

My posting waxes and wanes, but hope you find what I have compiled here useful and interesting. Feel free to get in touch in the comments below if you have any questions or queries:

21 thoughts on “About this blog

  1. Hi, a friend pointed me towards your site (I think she said you’re her husband Steve’s fifth cousin) – Maitland came up as a common name whilst chatting about family history with her. It looks as if you’re related to William Maitland (d. after 1450) son of Sir Robert Maitland of Thirlstane and Maria Scrimshire, my link is through his younger brother James eventually down to Anna Gertrude Fuller-Maitland (my gt-gt-grandmother b. 27 Feb 1844) who married Rev. Adam Henderson Fairbairn in 1864.

    Kind regards, Sue

    1. Hi Sue … great to hear from you. My closest Maitland relative was my great grandmother Alice Marie Maitland aka Elsie. She was born on the family tea plantation in what was then Ceylon and died in around 1950. That was a few years before I was born, so I never met her but I have recently made contact with some of her brother’s grandchildren who are about the same age as me. They send me some fantastic photographs. I’m having a bit of a pause on the family history front as I seem to have so much else to do, but I’m sure I’ll be back to some more research soon.

      Best and cheers


  2. I came here because I was looking for information about my uncle Godfrey Bird and his architect forebears in the far east, and what I found was your picutre of my first cousin Derek’s christening – my mother, too , was born in Hong Kong.
    How are they related to you?

    1. Stephen … Derek Bird is not related to me. His godparents were my great aunt Valda (née Kirby) and her husband Sandy Godley. They are also in the photo. Valda died in a Japanese POW camp. Sandy escaped, re-married, and his son Simon has been in touch through this blog.

      I met Derek again recently at the funeral of my nephew, who was killed in Afghanistan. There’s another connection because Flavia Nunes is the mother of Derek’s wife. Flavia is also my younger sister’s godmother.

      A small world indeed.

      Best Justin

    1. Will … thanks for getting in touch, and that’s a great set of paintings your wife has. My grandmother was a Wright. Her mother was Lucy (Fox), Agnes’s sister.

  3. Justin – my wife’s g g grandfather was Theophilous H Davies and I am researching his family as I write – I would be very interested in anything you might have that would help. Tim

  4. Hello there. I have a photograph of Nina Maitland and George Kirby in Ceylon with my great great grandfather Norman Rowsell who was also a planter there. I feel certain they were friends and wonder if you might have more info on Norman? In any case email me if you want the photo!

  5. Hi there, I am a Fitzherbert Wright and have an almost fully traced back family tree (some mystery blanks).

  6. Hi! I would be interested in being in touch with you. I am also a greatgreat grandchild of Sir Douglas and Mary Fox (Judith Isabel Wimbush (nee Fox) was my great grandmother and Richard Knyvet Wimbush my grandfather) – and at the weekend found their grave in Sevenoaks where I now live. Bizarre. Am now intent on finding out more about the family, and came across your blog. Please do get in contact! Antonia

  7. Hi! I came across your website while looking into the history of my house in Chilliwack, BC, Canada. It was built in 1911 by Peter Belhaven Hamilton Ramsay and called Woodmuir. I am interested to learn more about him and his family, and if possible the house I now live in. My family has been here for 25 years now, and I can give any information or photos that I have found as well. If you could get in contact with me that would be awesome!



  8. Hi Justin, My 3rd great grandmother was Margaret Bertwhistle b.1799 in Lincolnshire d. 1843 St Lawrence, NY. Her son William Telfer married Pluma Stetson, a Mayflower descendent and a descendent of London Merchant Adventurers. Pluma is associated with the Fox family through Elizabeth Vassall Fox. Her husband Henry Vassall Fox was a Member of Parliament during Napoleon’s sentence. Elizabeth Vassall Fox sent Napoleon specialty foods and books while incarcerated until he died; he remembered her as Lady Holland of Holland House, London. She was second in his will receiving the engraved snuff box, a gift from Pope Pius upon his being named Emperor of Europe. The snuff box is in a Museum of History now. So, here is another link to the Fox family, Henry had to take the Vassall name to be a part of Elizabeth’s inherited wealth. When she was in her twenties she and the Duchess of Devonshire traveled into the continent and met Napoleon and family in Italy.

  9. Hello, Whilst researching the husbands family I came across the Marsden family of Blackburn, His uncle married Muriel Dorothy Marsden. Daughter of Benjamin. Ben and his Brother Charles went as Master weavers to Ahmedabab India. They became mill owners there and their offspringwere also in that business in India.Their sister Prudence married William Birtwistle Riley in 1901. His mother was Alice Birtwistle who had married William Henry Riley. in 1878. Alice was the daughter of Micah (of Stanley st at that time) . So two Cotton Milling families connected by Marriage. Benjamin and Charles were conducting business in India in some form up to at least 1960. My research has come to a dead end with the family until I find some new way to unearth Information from India and of course being non-conformist doesn;t help. I did see Charles received an Honour in 1947 for his work?? in India. I thought that you might enjoy the social link bewtween these 2 enterprising Blackburn families.

  10. Hi Justin, thank you for sharing your research on this site. It is wonderful to find someone else researching the Wright family’s history. My fiancé is also a descendant of Francis Wright, through his second son Henry Wright. Do you know of anyone else who is researching the Wright family tree? You mention a Charles Wright? it would be great to correspond.

  11. Interesting blog,as I am presently compiling a collective genealogy of Sinclair/St.Clair desc’ts.,including all those descended from Elizabeth Sinclair(of the Longformacus family),who m. Robert Trotter,4th of Catchelraw.
    I have an extensive,ongoing family tree for your branch.

  12. Hello All,

    I am overjoyed to have found this site. I am conducting research into the Whitehead-Birtwistle family which started in Padiham with my 2nd Great Aunt Nancy Whitehead marrying Jesse Hargreaves Birtwistle an Auctioneer and Treasurer of Blackburn Rovers Football Club. I am trying to find a connection to the Birtwistles of Padiham and William Birtwistle the Cotton Manufacturer because this family had a great deal to do with establishing Football in Lancashire and particularly the club in Blackburn.

    Whilst at the Football Club he started proceeding to sue a football player J.E Doig whom had reneged on his contract to play for Blackburn Rovers and it was the first case of its kind in the world the press reported.

    Jesse Hargreaves in addition to being an auctioneer seems to have owned a vast mill named after him J.H Birtwistle Mill in Haslingden, Lancashire that was still going when it was purchased by The John Lewis Partnership in 1988 he had established the mill in 1892 and then it was taken over in 1904 by members of the Tattersall Family.

    Anyone who can assist me in establishing a link I would be ever grateful

    Robert Dennis Foreman

    1. Robert, took a bit of digging but I found a Jesse H Birtwistle on our database of 3,686 ancestors that have the surname ‘birtwistle’, see here:


      It shows his parents were Will Bertwistle and Marie Hargreaves, which tallies with similar family info on geneanet.org here:


      Our database does not include your 2nd great aunt, nor their offspring or any information about them.

      Thing about Birtwistle family is a number of branches ran cotton mills. I can’t find my copy of the book about Birtwistle cotton mill owners that shows which Birtwistle ancestor they are all descended from. And I think there was more than one William that ran one of the big Cotton mill owners, so you will need to specify which one you mean.

  13. Hello Justin,

    The link you gave me above for Ancestorium really helped. I was able to search the decendancy and find the William I was looking for William Birtwistle born 1808 in Padiham/Read. The site has a function where it will work out how one ancestor is related to another which is how I found out Jesse Hargreaves Birtwistle was a 6th cousin of William Birtwistle.

    Thank you very much.



  14. Hi Rob, i found something yesterday whilst metal detecting on a farm near to Hale Park, in Hampshire. It is a copper/brass printing plate with inverted writing which says Mr Ernest Fitz Herbert Wright, Henbury Manor, Wimborne, Dorset. I Googled his name and see that he owned Hale Park between 1920-26. It was so lovely to find something i could connect to an actual person.

    My house is exactly 1km away from Hale Park in a village called Woodgreen. I went through all our house deeds during lockdown and remember that it showed that a part of our garden was bought from Hale Estate through an agent back in the 1920’s. This was probably when Ernest lived at Hale Park – i think he sold off a lot of land around where i live. What is so odd is that when i had a look at the Deeds again this morning is that in 1932 our house was purchased by three Wright gentlemen. Henry Fitzherbert Wright of Yeldersley Hall, Capt. retired, Ernest Beresford Fitzherbert Wright of Redlynch Grange, near Salisbury, maj. retired (Redlynch is just up the road from me) and Francis Evelyn Fitzherbert Wright of Ednaston Lodge, Derby, Capt. retired.

    What a coincidence!

    Tom Sheldon

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