Thursday 7 July 2022

Wandering around Whittlesea

I treated myself last week to a holiday in the Cambridgeshire Fens and managed to visit a few Kisby and Kisbee haunts, including Farcet, Paston, Stamford ...and Whittlesea, of course. Whittlesea was the stomping ground of my Kisby ancestors for several centuries, until local postmistress Jean Kisby died in 2002.

I didn't come across any Kisby traces while I was there, despite trawling through almost the entire town cemetery. I also managed to look around the churchyard of St Andrew's Church, one of two ancient churches in the town, and the Kisby family church in the early years of the 1800s. The gravestones in the area are carved from some sort of limestone, which literaly dissolves over time, so anything dating before the 1880s that isn't protected from the weather is now illegible.

Outside of the large Wetherspoons pub, The George, on the Market Square, Whittlesea is also probably the quietest town in the east. The manned level crossing, next to the tiny railway station, was by far the most animated spot. When I visited Whittlesea in 1995 I went into the town museum and found the woman at the counter was related to me. Nowadays, the museum is only open for a few hours every Saturday (I was there on Thursday). I guess the tranquility is a feature of the Fensflat lands disappearing into the far distance, criss-crossed by drainage ditches and watercourses.

Looking at the map when I returned to my hotel, I did notice a Kisby Farm, to the east of Whittlesea near the hamlet of Turves. This is actually the farm occupied by my distant cousin Charles Kisby and his wife Sarah, around the turn of the last century. There is also a Kisby Level Crossing, on the line towards the town of March, likely to be named after another distantly related William Kisby. So the names live on, even though the people have long departed.

Tuesday 12 April 2022

Leicestershire renegades

Before the 20th century things were much more simple for everyone. A man married a woman, the woman took on the surname of her husband, children were born in wedlock (or else incur tremendous shame), often the first son would be named after the father or grandfather. And so on. Very easy indeed for 21st century genealogists like me.

Very occasionally things happened differently. Thomas Kisby (1709 - 1765) of Barnwell, Northamptonshire, made a decision to spell his surname "Kisbee" and his son, Franklin, became the source of all today's Kisbees.

A century and three generations later, Charles Kisbee (born 1845 in Barnwell) moved to Leicestershire and evidently had some problem with the letter 'e'. He changed his family name back to "Kisby". His seven surviving children were born "Kisbee" but married as "Kisby" and (for 3 of them anyway) died as "Kisby". The eldest son Charles Kisby died in very unfortunate circumstances aged only 9 years old, after he found a bottle of liquid in a farm building and drank it, only to find it contained carbolic acid.

Leicester Asylum
Charles Kisbee's second eldest son, William Kisby, married Lucy Starmer in 1901. It seems a very tragic story for Lucy. Their second daughter, also Lucy, died before her second birthday. Maybe this tipped her poor mother over the edge, because Lucy Kisby ended up as an 'inmate' in the Leicester Asylum for many years. While his wife was a psychiatric patient, William Kisby decided to grow his family with another woman, Alice Stearn, who bore five Kisby children with him out-of-wedlock. In July 1918 Lucy Kisby died of TB, still at the Asylum, finally giving the opportunity for William to marry Alice Stearn almost exactly 3 months later. Will we ever know the full story to this unusual arrangement?

Not to be outdone by William, Charles Kisby/ee's youngest child, Ada Kisby, decided to plough her own unconventional furrow as well. Ada appears to bear children to John Harbot, a Leicester shoe manufacturer. John Harbot had already been married twice, his second wife (also an Ada) very much alive during this whole time. Ada Kisby remains unmarried and dies at the ripe age of 87 in Leicester,  no doubt surrounded by her children of many surnames!!


Thursday 24 February 2022

Pedigree ummmm

Earlier this century I came across a copy of the "Fovargue Family Indented Pedigree" on an auction website, so am now a proud owner. My great-great grandmother Elizabeth Kisby was born a Fovargue and, when I first visited the Cambridgeshire Kisby heartlands in 1995 I bumped into a distant Fovargue relative, completely by chance. The Fovargue Family Indented Pedigree was also published in 1995, well before the days of Ancestry or Findmypast. It runs to over 150 pages listing, describoing and indexing all Fovargues from 1513 to the (then) present day. It's a mammoth work, put together in the days when you were lucky to have a word processor, let alone a computer ...or the internet.

Kisby W1A_1940
The Fovargue Pedigree has tempted me to try and compile something similar for the Kisbys, Kisbees and Kisbies and Kisbeys. Things will be much easier with the proliferation of online and electronic resources these days. My Kisby research comprises an ever growing mixture of genealogy programmes, spreadsheets, electronic files and some hard copy material. I've always fancied the idea of creating a book and I think it's high time I pulled everything together into a digestible format ...though I struggle with the word 'pedigree', which conjures the idea of proving good breeding with the aim of creating a pure Kisby master race!!

My inner civil servant has prevailed and I've spent the dark winter evenings drawing up Kisby families into 'indented pedigrees'. The good news is that it's helped me fill some gaps, connect some strays and generally pull things together in one place. The bad news is that the dark evenings are getting shorter, the list of chores and competing tasks is beginning to grow, and it may be 2095 before I finish. But if anyone else likes the idea and wants to offer encouragement, well, please tell me. We may find out eventually we're well enough bred to enter Crufts!

Sunday 16 May 2021

Living on the edge

One of the few advantages of the UK Covid-19 lockdowns is the availability of the Ancestry genealogy website at home, via my local library catalogue, while the libraries have been closed to the public. Instead of enjoying the longer daylight hours on long walks or exercise, I've been hunched over my computer searching through old documents.

Ancestry seem to have excellent coverage of Northamptonshire parish records, This is great for me, because the Kisby heartlands straddle the northern borders of this county, around Peterborough in particular. Unfortunately within a couple of miles are the borders of Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Huntingdonshire, which mean roving Kisbys can go off the radar quickly (though radars hadn't been invented yet) by travelling only a relatively short distance.

Some of the parish register records are wonderful, filled with fascinating anecdotal detail. In one parish, the curate records the young men that have been "killed by a cart" - at least one per year! Another tells of the tragedy of the vicar's wife accidentally killing her two young sons by poisoning, while treating them for worms.

One tiny village I'd never previously discovered, Etton, has been a key to me making a few more links. Clement Kisby, the caretaker of Peterborough Cathedral (see previous post) baptises a daughter there in 1645. Just over a century later, William Kisby and Elizabeth Bennington marry at St Stephen's Church, Etton, and it turns out they are the parents of the Kisbys of Langtoft, Lincolnshire - William and Robert, who bequeathed us many modern day Kisbys. Etton is a one and half miles south of the Lincolnshire border, while Langtoft is a similar distance north. I even found one of the most itinerant Kisby's (a test for genealogists), John aka William Kisby - a shepherd who moved between Peterborough, Baston (Lincs), Whittlesey (Cambs), Gedney Hill (Lincs) and back to Peterbrough - baptising his oldest children in Etton.

Hopefully Covid-19 is now behind us, we can start visiting libraries and record office again and I can re-subscribe to Findmypast to scour the Cambridgeshire records.

Sunday 30 August 2020

Dr William Joseph Kisby

It's rare that I receive any communication these days from a fellow Kisby. I expect this is because there's so much available online, fellow Kisbys are able to satisfy their curiosity about their ancestors with a few clicks of the mouse.

However, I had a fascinating email last week from the descendant of a line of Irish Kisbys. Well, they were Anglicans, traced back to William Kisby born circa 1755, so may well have come from England via the military or some other route. Coincidently I'd taken out a subscription to RootsIreland in July so already knew of William's descendants, John Gilman Kisby and William Joseph Kisby, but hadn't worked out the connections.

John Gilman Kisby trained as an apothecary and his son William Joseph Kisby studied Medicine in Dublin, becoming a doctor. Dr Kisby moved across Ireland in his job (no doubt to confuse 21st century genealogists). He married twice, his first wife dying of cancer in August 1884 and William subsequently remarrying his cousin's daughter, Elizabeth Larkin, in October 1884. She was 18 years his junior.

Dr Kisby must surely be the most prolific Kisby. Between his two wives and an apparent mistress too, he produced a total of 17 children!!

Unfortunately for his wife Elizabeth and his largely young family, Dr Kisby died suddenly and tragically on 19 November 1895. He was 51 years old. Living in the Lisnafeddally area of County Monaghan, he had been called out at night during a storm to attend a patient a mile away. He set out on foot but managed somehow to get lost, falling into a ditch and fracturing his skull on a rock, which killed him instantly.

His widow, Elizabeth, emigrated to New York in 1920, together with her son Edward.

Monday 31 July 2017


Judge William Henry Kisbey (1828-1910)
At last I've managed to finish (and upload to my Kisby website) the annotated pedigree sheets (IR1A) for
Richard KISBEY of Dublin, who gave us the surname variant KISBEY. There are KISBEYs today in the UK and also on the West Coast of the United States.

The KISBEYs are particularly notable, in contrast to the generally humble KISBYs. Richard's namesake son Richard was a parliamentary correspondent for The Times newspaper in London. Another son William became a wealthy County Court Judge in Belfast and Dublin. Several of Judge William's children emigrated to Canada. There is even a town in Saskatchewan named Kisbey after William's son Richard Claudius KISBEY, who had settled in the region, married the local MP's daughter and ran the local mail driving contract. Richard invested in land, some of which he sold in 1904 to become the site of a new settlement that took his name.

One day I need to work out where the Dublin KISBEYs originated. Ireland was part of Great Britain at the time, so I suspect Richard Snr's father may have arrived in Dublin from the mainland, though this is entirely conjecture at the moment based on his status and religion (Church of England). Watch this space!

Monday 31 August 2015

My Kisby/ee/ey website has had a revamp, relocation and a rename. This was forced on me when my previous webhost, Madasafish, took it upon themselves to close down my free hosting account. In July I noticed had disappeared along with its email account.

By fortunate coincidence the Guild of One-name Studies (GOONS) launched a website hosting project in June 2015. As a member of GOONS I have been able to move my Kisby/ee/ey website to their servers - and the advantage will be, if the project is successful, my webpages will be preserved there is something happens to me (or I leave the GOONS). I've taken the opportunity to smarten and simplify the website, adding the most important pages from the previous site, while designing a few new ones.

The url is