More Plantations: Nisbet Family

In my previous post, I had mentioned that I would be looking in more detail in the slave ownership of my Russell ancestors who had plantations in Nevis, Aniqua and possibly also St. Kitts. I will come back to them because while trying to untangle the ownership of their estates, I noticed that this blog was cited on the record for my ancestor Walter Nisbet (1745 – 1797) on the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slavery database (LBS) hosted by UCL. And that a resource I have been citing in recent posts.

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More plantations: the Madan Family

Following my previous Skeletons in the closet post, this is the first of a new series that looks at ancestor families with links to the slave trade. This one looks at the Madan family, but I think I may have got in a muddle about them. `I’ve now worked out that it was Martin Madan (1700 – 1756) who was the Colonel and MP, not his father who was also called Martin (1653 – 1704). The younger one married the English Poet Judith Cowper and they both have wiki entries (see his and hers):

Martin Madan the MP also has a biography on History of Parliament site, which explains that he was the 1st son of Martin Madan of Nevis, West Indies by Penelope, daughter of Col. Sir James Russell (member of the council of Nevis). The biography also explains that Martin Madan (the father) was from an old Waterford family, emigrated from Ireland to the West Indies about 1682 and acquired plantations in Nevis and St. Kitts.

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Skeletons in the closet?

I am been busy trying to both restructure this site and categorise the blog posts in a more meaningful way (see more on this on the Family Indices, Categories and Related Resources index page). That includes creating new categories, including Skeletons in the closet. That’s because family history can reveal not only the good, but also the bad and even downright ugly. Sadly, that includes those involved in slavery.

I haven’t found many who were, but that is partly the result of feeling less connected to ancestors the further back I go, so after a certain point I’m generally not looking beyond more basic family tree info, i.e. who begat who. But also because I have been more interested in those ancestors that are less well documented and, therefore, more of a mystery. That hasn’t seemingly included those owning or trading slaves (so far). However, I thought it important to create a category about those ancestors I’ve found that were, as well and as those involved in equally unedifying and nefarious activities.

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We’ve been wondering what to do with the blog on the family tree collaboration site that my cousin Hamish Maclaren and I co-facilite with other kith and kin. As mentioned there, part of the problem is that we were never able to fully integrated the TNG Family Tree software with the WordPress tool we use for the blog. And that has ended up with us having basically two different looking sites on the same URL.

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Wilfred Stanley Pettitt (1904 – 1978)

As part of consolidating a number of family trees that my cousin Hamish has been putting together at the family tree collaboration, he’s traced a number of my wife’s ancestors (see links to some of the longer branches below).

There’s an obituary for her father Robin Garth Pettitt in The Times that’s included in his record. I’ll try and add a photo of him and her uncle David along with his eulogy. And from what I understand there’s also a tree of my wife’s maternal ancestors (the Jenkins) that’s been compiled and I hope to be able to add this at some point.

But in the meantime, I thought I would start with her grandfather William Stanley Pettitt (see biography below I found for him on the Tudor Galleries website). He was a commercial and fine artist, and we are lucky to have several of his paintings but here is a selection of his landscapes I have found online (mostly of East Anglia):

My wife has put a little book togher of his painting she and other members of her family have, as well as those she had found online. I will try and add those to the blog at some point:

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Ann Hamilton 1931-2021

Ann Hamilton was the godmother of my wife, who heped look after her and her brother after their mother died when they were infants. I put together this tribute to her, which was printed and distributed at the requiem mass held for her at St Anthony’s church in Rye on September 27th. It brings together reflections from close friends, family and colleagues, with other material published about her. It hopes to provide a flavour of the esteem in which she was held, her impact on the lives of those she came into contact, and just as importantly how she was much loved. A short biographical sketch below has also been included about aspects of Anne’s life not covered in the reflections and other material.

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Lest We Forget: Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge

My cousin Simon (Hamish’s brother) stopped at the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge on his way back home from North Uist (outer Hebrides) in late August. He took the photographs below that includes the following plaque remembering those who died during Operation Herrick in Afghanistan, which lists my nephew Sam Alexander (see Wiki entry):

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If you don’t know where you are going

The family history collaboration I have been helping run with my cousin Hamish has over 167,000 records in our family tree database now. The other part of the site is a WordPress blog and that only has 15 posts. And so we are going to close down the blog on that site and repost anything that was published there on here. We will, however, continue with the family tree collaboration there. Here is one of the first posts I put together over at, back in February 2020 (just before the pandemic).

As mentioned in the first post on, I have been penning this one about how this collaboration with my cousin Hamish Maclaren and not so distant one Kathy Neville came into being. It’s a long story with lots of twists and turns. But starts with how I have been looking into my family history now for around 12 years and have been publishing the findings as a journal-like blog.

It’s called Descent from Adam: a tale in down- ward social mobility, having once told my wife that I had just found out via Google that I could trace my ancestry back to Adam and Eve. Her response was that at least my slide down the social mobility snake helps someone else step onto a ladder.

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Jack Birtwistle (1922-2014)

This article about John Wynn Birtwhistle (aka Jack) was shared with us by L. Alan Birtwhistle, author of Thirtyone Generations of the Birtwhistle Family: A Family History (2006) who we’ve been collaborating with on stitching together a family tree of the different branches of the Birtwistle and other spellings diaspora (see more here). It was written by his cousin John Michael Birtwhistle:

John Wynn Birtwistle (aka Jack) and his wife Ida Mae (aka Robie, née Robins)
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Miss D.M. Birtwhistle Mystery

I.M. Birtwistle, 1943

The photograph above is of my aunt Iris Mary Birtwistle (aka Lilla and IM Birtwistle). She was a poet and gallery owner, who achieved notoriety – in part – for continuing to run her gallery after she had gone blind (see her wiki entry here).

I’ve shared the photograph because it is an example of how searching for one thing can yield another. And in this case that started by trying to find out more about a Miss Birtwistle mentioned in documentary about Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

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