More Plantations: The Russell Family Revisited

Having looked recently at my plantation and slave owning Madan and Nisbet ancestors, I need to revisit my Russell ones (see earlier posts here). This is mostly going to be more genealogical because trying to fathom the complexities of how the estates of these and other related families got passed on from generation along with other legacies needs way more time to unravel than I can commit. And not least because that’s something that still appears to be ongoing at the Centre for the Study of legacies of British slave ownership (who have even cited this blog). I will try and tackle some of the ownership and passing on, but this post is also an attempt to check previous findings having found more about these families, including their plantation and slave owning.

Continue reading “More Plantations: The Russell Family Revisited”

More on the Cleaver family

Christina Clair Maitland aka Nina was my 2x gt. aunt and I have written about her here, after having been sent photos of her and her family by one of my not so distant cousins.

Nina married Percy Alan Cleaver and George Graham has added some more information about their family on his site including their 3 children:

  • Cerise Marie
  • Noel Ramsay
  • Bernard Box

Noel was Killed In Action in WW2, and Cerise died in mid-60s unmarried. My mother remembers meeting Cerise and her mother (Nina) at their apartment in Palace Mansions near Olympia in London. We don’t know what happened to Bernard.

George has also added information about a few more generations of both Percy’s paternal and maternal ancestors. If anyone has any photographs or portraits then please get in touch.

Kirbys at Gillardstown Plantation Ceylon

Planting life in Ceylon - Rowsell Maitland Kirby

Tom Rowsell who also publishes a family history blog has been in touch and kindly send me the photograph above of my great grandparents George Henry Kirby and Elsie Maitland with his great great grandfather Norman Rowsell, who was a planter in Hatton, Sri Lanka from 1880. He became the Ceylon Labour commisioner in 1904, and was married to Florence Congreve and their children Vere and Maud were born there as was my grandfather Claude Kirby. The Congreve’s were a prominent family on Ceylon and Jessie Norval Maitland married George Congreve. I can’t join the dots between Elsie and Jessie, so am guessing they are distant cousins and clearly moved in the same planter circles.

The photograph is from a book called Ceylon in my time by Colonel T. Y. Wright. I’m not sure if he’s related to my grandmother who was a Derbyshire Wright. Sadly, it’s hard to make George out in the photo, but interestingly the book mentions that the author was both his friend and employer. However, he had to give him notice as Gillardstown Plantation manager for being too unreliable:


Interestingly, Tom runs a translation services that offers Sinhalese and Tamil translation among others, which could be useful for anyone needing help with local records:

Alexander Maitland Mystery

Wedding of Peter Mitchell and Florence Maitland in Ceylon, about 1916

A descendant of Florence Maitland above has been in touch. She was born in what was then Ceylon. She married Peter Mitchell in about 1916 when she was 21, and she died in July 1948. Peter came to Ceylon from Darjeeling in India where he was born. His father Ignatius had left the UK to work on a tea plantation there. Florence’s father was Alexander, and the family thought he might be my great great uncle Alexander McDonell Maitland. Florence and Peter called their oldest son Alexander, and purchased their own tea estate and renamed it Alickland that still stands today.  Continue reading “Alexander Maitland Mystery”

A short film by Beth Kirby


Earlier this year my 8 year old daughter Beth was learning about Victorian Britain, so I suggested to her that we collaborate on the short film above about her Victorian Ancestors. Beth’s younger brother Max also stars in our film made using the iMovie app on the iPad. The Penguin Cafe Orchestra have very kindly given us permission to use the Music For A Found Harmonium and Bramble May tracks from their Music From The Penguin Cafe – Live At The Royal Albert Hall (2009) album that was recorded to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. We hope you enjoy.

The Trotters of Mortonhall

Mortonhall near Edinburgh

While I try and come to terms with my ancestors’ role in slavery in the West Indies my cousin Hamish Maclaren has added some new branches to the collective family tree of Maclarens, Birtwistles and Many Other Families that he’s been building at Rootsweb. He’s managed to help me go back a few more generations with the genealogical dead end I’d mentioned in my earlier posts, this includes John Trotter, 1st of Morton Hall going back to Thomas Trotter, of Catchelraw: Continue reading “The Trotters of Mortonhall”

Judith Cowper (1702 – 1781)

Judith Cowper (1702 – 1781) by William Samuel Wright

I think I first encountered my 7 x great grandmother Judith Cowper in the Ahnentafel my relative Rafael Madan kindly sent me. I have to admit that I hadn’t given her much thought because the geometric progression of ancestry means there are literally thousands of ancestors to follow up. However, I found a portrait of her and her father on the BBC’s Your Paintings Art Collection while putting together my The digital portrait collection post. It turns out that she was a poet and muse of Alexander Pope who was a famous beauty “remarkable for the loveliness of her neck. Judith has her own entry on the Wikipedia, and one in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB). There’s a longer biography by William Prideaux Courtney, in Dodsley’s Collection of Poetry, its Contents and Contributors (1910). Continue reading “Judith Cowper (1702 – 1781)”

The digital portrait collection

The Wedding of Giles Simon Kirby and Angela Mary Julie Birtwistle 1952

This post is a version of my Genealogical dead ends revisted post, but it’s about the photograps and illustrations I’ve found of my ancestors rather than just their names. I’ll do one about places sometime, and also about biographies, etc. I have set up a photostream on FlickR so you can see all the images in a slideshow, and I will link to the individual photos from the names of ancestors I have identified below.  Continue reading “The digital portrait collection”

Mansfield, Ramsay and related banking families

Portrait of William Ramsay of Barnton (1732-1805) by Sir Henry Raeburn

I’ve been avoiding writing up this chapter of my Scottish ancestors from Edinburgh for a few years now because it involves some transcription from one of the only books/journals I’ve bought for this project: ‘From James Mansfield to Ramsays, Bonar & Company: some notes on the story of a private bank‘, by Zella Ashford, in ‘Book of the Old Edinburgh Club‘, vol 6 (2005). Continue reading “Mansfield, Ramsay and related banking families”