Let’s start at the very beginning

I have come to an impasse with my family history research. Firstly, I haven’t really been able to go back more than a generation with my Kirby ancestors than when I started. And all I know is that my 4x great grandfather was a gent called George of Kensall Green, Middlesex. He may have many descendants, but only Kirby male ones seem to be via my father who was an only child. So it’s not clear whether anyone else out there is likely to have any other clues for us other than their DNA.

My mother’s Birtwistle line has been traced back to Ralph De Bridtwisell born about 1160, but much was already known about her family so they were less of a mystery – thanks in large part to her not so distant cousin Billy who wrote a couple of books about the family history and their cotton manufacturing heritage. That said there were some fascinating discoveries thanks to Steve Robinson and Kathryn Neville about my maternal grandmother’s family and relations. The photographs, family trees and biographies they shared really helped bring those families to life.

I also enjoyed discovering more about my not too Scottish relatives. My great grandmother on my father’s side was a Maitland. Through her I discovered disputed clan chiefships, as well as descent from aristocracy and monarchy that could be traced all the way back to Adam & Eve – hence the tongue-in-cheek title of this blog. But as mentioned in my last post, that is not altogether surprising because as you go back further through the generations the greater number of grandparents you have relative to the population at that time. And so there’s a much greater probability of royal descent as UK soap star Danny Dyer discovered in BBC genealogical documentary series Who Do You Think You Are.

And it’s that exponential number of grandparents that lies at heart of my impasse because unlike Pokemon it’s unlikely that I’ll catch them all. That begs the questions which ones get followed up on and why. Answering those related questions is complicated because the further back I go the less connected I feel to those I find. That’s because there’s either little about those ancestors other than who begat who, or they are figures of significant historical importance so what’s known about them is pretty comprehensive.

What I have also discovered over time, is that it is the social aspect of family history I have enjoyed the most. That includes all the back and forth with my cousin Hamish who has amassed a gigantic family tree of related families. But also the long list of others who have connected to me via this blog over the years to shared what they have found including stories of murder and other ancestor mysteries to be solved.

But I am now struggling with if and how I take this forward. Who knows maybe there will be another catalyst soon to inspire me to do some more research… perhaps through DNA-type connection some of my family and relatives have instigated.

How many ancestors do you have?

I was reading an article in The Guardian today about when the British genealogical documentary series Who Do You Think You Are finally ‘jumped the shark‘ . In short, the episode where the soap opera star Danny Dyer discovers his royal ancestors:

The show’s most extraordinary episode however, involved Danny Dyer. The (ahem) crowning moment came when, sitting in the choir of Westminster Abbey, Dyer unravelled a family tree going from him, in 22 steps, all the way back to King Edward III. The look of bewildered disbelief on his face as Handel’s Zadok the Priest kicks in was the unassailable pinnacle of the entire show. But, at the risk of pissing on my own Coco Pops, this was also the precise moment that it jumped the shark.

Danny Dyer’s 22x great grandfather is most definitely Edward III. But although 22 might not sound like a lot, the exponential nature of ancestry means that the medieval king is just one of millions of 22x great grandparents that Danny Dyer has. So considering that the population of England in 1400 – 23 years after Edward died – was roughly 2.5 million, it’s actually not surprising at all that he is a direct descendant. In fact, you probably are as well.

Continue reading

Loose ends revisited: Keynell and Russell

My cousin Hamish has kindly been adding my family history finds to his much bigger Maclarens, Birtwistles and Many Other Families tree of related families on rootsweb.

We’ve been collaborating on our mother’s Birtwistle family and other ancestors. But he has also added my patrilineal descent here. It’s helped remind me of all the loose ends, as well as those branches that go on and on and on.

This prompted me to see if could find another generation on at least one more branch. Not only did I find one more branch it took me back to the Vikings via Hervey and Percy families.

Continue reading

‘The Story of Osmaston by Ashbourne’ book launch


Maggie Silcock, Chairman Osmaston History Group, has been in touch about the launch of their book “The Story of Osmaston by Ashbourne” on November 3rd at 10-12am at The Shoulder of Mutton in Osmaston Village

The book is based around Osmaston and its connections with Yeldersley, which are where my Wright ancestors hail from. I think my grandmother (Rosemary, née Wright) was actually born at Yeldersley Hall.

It also covers life at the Manor since it was built and Osmaston village and its tenants up to the present day including: the early history of Osmaston and Yeldersley; the arrival of Francis Wright and the building of the Manor; a small section on John Osmaston and Manor sale; the early life of Sir Andrew Barclay Walker and his arrival at the Manor and grand Balls, etc; Sir Peter Carlaw Walker, his wedding, and WW1 and WW2 when the Manor was used as a Red Cross Hospital and villagers were encouraged to enlist.

There’s a large section on Sir Ian Walker Okeover and numerous photographs of polo, motor cycle racing on the Manor drives etc, as well as tenant memoirs and the demolition of the Manor. Life in Osmaston village is also covered.

Sir Andrew Walker-Okeover will be at the book launch and it looks like Wrights will represented by my distant cousin and family historian Charles Wright. You can find out more about the Osmaston History Group, the book and launch on their Facebook page here.

There’s a small B&B in the village owned by Lady Walker’s parents and Yeldersley Hall also has accommodation and cottages if anyone should want to make a weekend of it. I’ll be away that weekend, but if the Osmaston History Group ever organise a trip around the grounds of the former Osmaston Manor built by my ancestor Francis Wright I’d would love to visit and, who knows, maybe even stay at Yeldersley and visit Tissington Hall (home of my Fitzherbert ancestors).

Portrait of Muriel Harriet Fletcher

Andrew Sanders has very kindly sent me a photograph of this portrait of Muriel Harriet Fletcher, daughter of Colonel Henry Charles Fletcher and Lady Harriet Marsham. She married Captain Henry FitzHerbert Wright (see Wiki entry here). He was the son of my great great grandparents FitzHerbert Wright and Charlotte Rudolphine Louise von Beckman. 

Muriel and Captain Henry lived in the Old Hall between 1903 & 1913 that as demolished in 1929 and stood on the site of what is now Hall Court in West Hallam. It’s close to where Andrew now lives and he is currently writing a book called ‘Ilkeston’s & surrounding area Subterranean Past – Truth or Legend’. The portrait was handed to the Head Gardener John Burrows when they left to live at Yeldersley Hall, where my grandmother was born. Would make nice wedding present for Princess Eugenie later this year, as she is descendent of Muriel but neither Andrew or I have been invited ;)