Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Enlightenment and 18th Century Aristocratic Names

Following the Enlightenment and renaissance revival of the 17th and 18th centuries British names, particularly those of aristocratic families, were increasingly influenced by European tours and the cultures of Italy and France. My paternal 5 times great grandfather had the old name Peniston Lamb, while my 6 times great grandmother was called Margaret Georgiana Poyntz and her mother had the exotic name Anna Maria Mordaunt.

An Online Adventure: Researching for Free and 18th Century Aristocracy

I have a lot to thank my paternal grandparents for in terms of all the family history and enthusiasm for research that they have passed down to me. When I was contacted by my grandad a couple of years ago concerning who his great-great grandparents William and Caroline Lamb were I hit a brick wall. Shamefully, with little information to go on and records going back to the 18th century scarce, I gave up very quickly. On Friday I finally picked up the research query again, this time simply using the free research engine that is Google and came across not one but a whole line of 18th century aristocrats, the Ponsonby baronetcy! In genealogy you frequently have to take a leap of faith and working out that William Lamb (my grandad's great-great grandfather) and William Lamb (1779-1848) 2nd Viscount Melbourne and Prime Minister of England were one and the same opened up the family tree to a plethora of stories. As a prime minister he seems not to have been regarded highly, but is described as "kind, honest, and not self-seeking". He was the son of Lady Elizabeth Lamb (nee Milbanke), socialite and London lady. Lady Melbourne was known not just for her political influence but also for her friendships and romantic relationships with members of London society including Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of DevonshireGeorge, Prince of Wales and Lord Byron. I'm happy to say that I can finally answer my grandad's questions about his family!

Happy Hunting!

Friday, 19 July 2013

My Great-Uncle Was Murdered......By His Teacher!

Reginald Channell's father, John Henry Cancellor (1799-1860)

Reginald's brother, John Henry Cancellor (b. 1834)

It was almost by accident that I discovered that I had a personal connection to a Victorian scandal. My 3rd great-grand uncle was Reginald Channell Cancellor, born on 7th August 1844 in Regents Park, London, and he was the younger brother to my 3 x great-grandfather John Henry Cancellor (b. 1834). Reginald was just 15 years old when he was brutally beaten (as a form of corporal punishment for disobedience) by his teacher and died on the 22nd April 1860. He was a student at Thomas Hopley's private boarding school at 22 Grand Parade, Eastbourne, at the time, and is now thought to have hycephalus (water on the brain) and some form of learning difficulty. Hopley was tried and found guilty of Reginald's manslaughter in 1860 (the case described at the time as the Eastbourne Manslaughter) and served four years in prison, later to withdraw from public life. 

What makes this discovery more shocking is that Hopley had discussed the punishment with Reginald's father John Henry Cancellor (1799-1860), a court master from Surrey, beforehand to gain his support. I'm sure such a court case would be televised and the family on The Jeremy Kyle Show today, but at the time it seems largely hushed up.