John Birtwhisle of Dundeugh Coat of Arms?

As part of serialising Thirtyone Generations of the Birtwhistle Family: A Family History (2006) compiled by L. Alan Birtwhistle, we tried to identify who had been granted the ‘John Birtwhisle of Dundeugh’ Coat of Arms mentioned (see Coat of Arms chapter).

Bob Birtwhistle – who is behind the site – is pretty certain that it’s John Birtwhistle 1799-1869. He was the son of Alexander Birtwhistle (1750-1810) and Mary Purdie and, and also Deputy Lieutenant of Kirkudbright.

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Edmund Frederick Astley Birtwistle (1924-1986)

Unlike our uncles Michael and David, our uncle Edmund (aka Frog) never received an obituary we can find (even in the Ampleforth Journal):

As a child I had heard stories about his war exploits from my mother and grandmother, which included how he may have been picked up in the North Sea having had to ditch from a plane or possible accident while crossing the channel in patrol boat. That apparently included getting lung damage through the inhaling of diesel fumes, which may have contributed to lung problems later in life. My cousin Hamish had also been told a similar story by his mother, although in the version he’d heard our uncle had ended up in the channel when boat he was in sunk on its way to France.

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Generation 5: Paternal 3x  Gt. Grandparents…

In theory, there should be 32 ancestors in this generation, but two ancestors (Fitzherbert and Mary Wright) in the last generation were siblings so shared the same parents. And we can’t confirm the natural father of our great grandmother Annie Birtwistle (née Hartley), so that branch is currently a dead end. That means we not only have a duplicate pair of ancestors at this generation, but also a missing pair.  And so there are actually only 28 possible ancestors we can currently trace in this generation.

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George Goldsmith Kirby, a masonic mystery – revisited

As mentioned in the George Goldsmith Kirby, a masonic mystery? post, my great great great grandfather George Goldsmith Kirby was the “original projector” and managing director of the Freemasons & General Life Assurance Company. My eldest brother thought The Library and Museum of Freemasonry might be able to shine a light on whether his father was also a member, but sadly they only had the following information in their records:

George Goldsmith Kirby
Grand Master’s Lodge No. 1, London
Initiated: 19th February 1838
Passed: 16th April 1839
Raised: 21st May 1839
Age: (Not recorded)
Address: (Not recorded)
Occupation: (Not recorded)
Master of the Lodge in 1845
Last payment made in 1855

Dame Nellie Melba, OBE


Two weeks ago, while sorting through an old box of my grandmothers’s bits and pieces, my mother found a signed photograph of the famous Australian opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba, OBE. It was taken in a Parisian photographic studio and she is dressed in full Edwardian finery.  Dated 1898, it is signed ‘To Mrs. Duff, from her sincere friend, Nellie Melba”.

The Marwood sisters of Pleasington Lodge, near Blackburn , Lancashire, Freda, Muriel (my grandmother) and Angela, together with their first cousins Constance, Dorothy and Monica Marwood of Beech Cottage, Liverpool, were all devoted followers of the theatre and opera, collecting and exchanging  photographs of the stars of the day.

Most of these mementos have disappeared over the years, so my mother was delighted to find this one, and rather hopes to find one or two more as her sorting continues. The name ‘Mrs Duff’ is puzzling her though; she’s never heard of her before.


Rediscovered plans of Osmaston Manor (1850-1873)


Mark Smith at the Derbyshire records office has kindly been in touch about the rediscovered archives of the Osmaston Estate, which includes rent books, tenancy papers, some plans, photographs, and family papers of the Walker family who acquired Osmaston Manor after the death of my ancestor Francis Wright (1806-1873). You can read his post here, and hopefully they’ll be sharing some of the photographs soon as the house was demolished in the 1960s. In the meantime, you can see some of the photos of the interior here and also some photographs of the exterior on Matthew Beckett’s the England’s Lost Country Houses site.

Uncle Michael at Dunkirk


My mother sent these two photos that are thought to include my Uncle Michael Albert Astley Birtwistle at Dunkirk. If it is him then he’s the one with the moustache and cigarette. The location is right as it was taken at Bray Dunes by Humphrey Spender and that’s where Michael had mentioned he was. His wife (my aunt) and his oldest son (my cousin) also think it is him. Not sure how we verify this now, but I have included his Obituary from the Ampleforth Journal below. he actually wasn’t the oldest of 8 children, but was the oldest boy. As an aside my mother mentioned that the only time she ever saw her father was cry, was when they’d had a call from the son of a her family friend who had also been at Dunkirk to say that Michael was also safe. She said she could see tears rolling down his face which he hid behind the newspaper he was reading.

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My sister Serena at Number 10

London_Poppy_Day_2013 (5)

My sister Serena (far right above) was London Poppy bus on the 7th of November. She went round to various places to promote the poppy appeal. First, it was Kensington Palace where we chatted to Kate and Wills (aka Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), they then got on the bus, were dropped at Ken High Street station and joined the poppy sellers there.

Next was 10 downing street and from there to London Bridge station and then Leadenhall Market for lunch. Barbara Windsor is also in the photo above, and also Al Stewart from ITN (who was at Bristol with Serena), as are the Poppy Girls who released a hit single to launch the appeal.

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Portrait of Jean McNab with her grandson Duncan Campbell

Portrait of Jean McNab with her grandson Duncan Campbell

Neil Campbell has been in touch. He is the direct descendant of Jean McNab (abt. 1684-1760) and Patrick Ban Campbell, and kindly sent through this portrait of Jean holding her infant grandson Duncan Campbell. Duncan had no children so Neil is descend from his eldest brother, Sir James Campbell 2nd of Inverneill. Jean McNab was the daughter of Alexander MacNab, 9th Laird, 13th Chief and Elizabeth Menzies. It’s not quite clear as yet how Jean might be related to my ancestor John MacNab (1765-1847/8) of Shenaghart in Kintyre, and Sherrobeg in Badendoch, a cadet of the family of Innisewen. But I’ve been in discussion with Lorraine Smith in Canada about a number of possible theories (see my McNab Ancestors Update post).

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