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October 2007

The Hamilton project grinds on. I originally thought I would find some 800 descendants. I continue to find more lines with documentation in recent Burke volumes; I have got to 1090 descendants and I still reckon there are another 400 to do - these are from families already found in Burke and computed roughly at forty persons per page.

The problem is the habit of the pastor's (Hans Hamilton, pastor of Dunlop, Ayrshire from 1563 to 1606) descendants moving regularly into the ranks of the then great and good. I judge this solely by the large numbers of peers who are the in their number as, until 1900 at least, peers remained part of the government of this country. Perhaps I thought originally there were 15 or so peers amongst his descendants, now I have found 84:

  • 5 marquesses
  • 29 earls
  • 16 viscounts
  • 34 barons
In addition there is the other inherited title, the baronets of whom there are 18.

Of the peers, 14 or so are living, each with separate peerages; three baronets survive as well. To confuse matters, additionally some of the peers hold baronetcies. So, any descendant of Rev Hans is a distant relative of these once great and good!

The advantage of the peers and baronets is that Burke not only gives the title holders but also all the members of the family of each holder and usually most of the male lines that could conceivably inherit the title. It is fashionable to be scathing about Burke and indeed I have in the past found errors therein, particularly in the 19th century volumes. This criticism has a particular basis in that Burke's editors do not do any serious research, instead they rely on members of the familes to be suitably informative, which is not guaranteed to be successful. But I have two checks which I apply where possible: first I get the details of the title holders from Complete Peerage, which was excellently researched; second I have been using FreeBMD and the LDS 1881 census abstract to verify the dates. So far I have not found a single error in Burke's information. which reflects well on what someone in the families has supplied them with. Though the problem remains that many of the 19th century descendants lived in Ireland and most accessible Irish records were destroyed so little or no check is possible on those.

A year or so ago I managed to obtain cut-price copies of Burke's 2003 Peerage and of the 2001 Landed Gentry of Scotland, so the information is fairly up-to-date.

This quarter has had the pleasure of meeting two relations for the first time. As usual, this was the benefit of running this web site which responds reasonably to a Google search for the odd surname. The first was Simone Roell who is a third cousin and was born and lives in Holland though comes over to this country regularly to see her daughter who has settled here. This time she was able to spend a most enjoyable three hours here with her husband. The other relation was closer and is only the second contact between the families since a massive row perhaps around 1915. My brother Martin had the first contact when he met a Collard descendant in 1991 who gave him some information. The Collards are the family of my grandfather's sister Olga, the first person ever to be born with the surname Powys-Lybbe. My father remembered going over to visit them as a young boy with his parents and probably also his sister. He also remembered a furious row later that day which led to the car being re-packed and their frosty departure from Stodmarsh Court (in Kent), never to darken those doors again. Later my father found that one of the Collard progeny was living in the same village as him but felt that the fury of his youth prevented any contact. Robert Denne, my second cousin and a grandson of Olga Mary, remembered his grandmother well so we were able to speculate on The Row; he thought his grandfather had to have been at the heart of it as he was rather a bully; I suspected that my grandmother may have lit a fuse between her husband and his brother-in-law and perhaps enjoyed watching the sparks fly. My guess is that the row would have been over religion as my grandfather at about that time had recently abandoned the established religion and become a RC, a stance then likely to arose ire in the bulwarks of England. My grandmother, I should add, was the daughter of a country parson of the established church. I think Robert and I have agreed firmly that the Row is long over and that we can now enjoy one another's company.

I was presented with a lovely picture of Olga Mary in her wedding dress; I hope to get a copy of this on this site shortly.

Oh, I've found a difficult bit of data and have just resurrected the project to update the P-L records in the College of Arms. This project had fallen by the wayside for the best part of a year.

As I wrote at the end of last quarter's update, I must now return to updating the Hamiltons.

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