Margaret Anne Skottowe Parker and Her Unfortunate Marriage

My great-great aunt, Margaret Anne Skottowe Parker, was born on 9 September 1802 at the family home, Waterview, in Passage West, county Cork. At the age of 28 she made what must have appeared to be an advantageous marriage to a lawyer from a prominent family in Cornwall.

13 May 1830, Robert J. Kinsman, late of the Inner Temple, and of Green Bank, Cornwall, married Margaret Anne Skottowe, second daughter of Alderman Richard Neville Parker, J.P., of Waterview, at a ceremony in Marmullane Church.[1]

Robert Jope Kinsman was born 15 July 1800 in Falmouth as the son of another Robert Jope Kinsman, Commissioner of Taxes, and his wife, Susanna Byrn. In 1817 he was articled as a clerk to an attorney in Budock in Cornwall[2] and on 23 October 1821 was admitted to the Inner Temple in London.[3] In 1827 he can be found back in Cornwall operating in Falmouth as “a Special Pleader of the Inner Temple, Solicitor, &c.”[4] That same year he was appointed a Master Extraordinary in the High Court of Chancery.[5]

A descendant of the Kinsman family who has written a family history devotes a chapter to Robert Jope Kinsman, junior and, based on family opinion, notes that he “apparently married against his parents’ wishes a young woman whom they considered to be unsuitable.”[6] In light of what was to follow, we can surmise that Margaret’s family would be the one to conclude that the man she had chosen to marry was entirely unsuitable.

The author of the Kinsman history quotes extensively from an incredibly presumptuous letter written in 1825 by Robert Jope, before his marriage, to George Canning, Foreign Secretary and later Prime Minister of Great Britain. He offers Canning one of the two rotten boroughs’ parliamentary seats at Callington for his son, as it was believed that Canning wanted to bring him into Parliament. His ability to provide the seat was non-existent and his own qualifications also definitely overstated—there is no record, for example, of his attendance at any university.

And now, Sir, I will not disguise from you that the object of this letter is to solicit most respectfully your favour and consideration. I am the eldest son of the family, I have been educated at University, have kept my terms at the Temple and am possessed of independence. I know most of the European languages and I have made the laws and customs of the East my study… I am now twenty-five years old and anxious to be employed. All, then, Sir, I desire, all I ask for, is that if you should find me entitled and capable you would be pleased to appoint me to some position of responsibility and respectability abroad, either in the East Indies, Europe or South America, but if I might be permitted to name I should point out Ceylon as a field for my exertions.[7]

The Foreign Secretary’s response was the snubbing: “Mr. Canning makes it a rule never to meddle in politics.”[8]

Soon after his marriage to Margaret the couple left, not for Ceylon as Robert had hoped, but for Tasmania on the brig Juno, embarking probably from Cork and arriving in Hobart on 7 November 1830.[9] Robert was admitted to the Tasmanian Bar that year, but what would become a career of fraud began almost immediately. He had begun to operate as the agent of Rowland Walpole Loane, a merchant and ship owner, but had obviously misused the position.

ROBERT JOPE KINSMAN, ESQ., my late Agent, having reported that he was nominated in Ireland, or England, a Trustee in my affairs, in these Colonies, I have to state that there is not one word of truth in any part of his representations. Neither myself nor any part of my family or connections, were ever acquainted in the slightest degree either with him or his family, until I had the misfortune to meet him here. And I verily believe he has adopted this course to give a colour to his late proceedings.

R. W. LOANE.[10]

On 7 January 1832 Robert was imprisoned for counterfeiting and altering a bill of exchange. The record does not give the date he was released, nor if he was dismissed from the Tasmanian Bar as a result.[11] However, in 1833 he and Margaret and the one of the two children born in Hobart still living, sailed on the Edward Lombe to Sydney. That year he was called to the New South Wales Bar. Two years later, in 1835, he was called before the Supreme Court of New South Wales by the General Solicitor, who wished to have Kinsman disbarred. Robert himself outlined the charges against him, which detail what had happened in Tasmania.

[At] one time I had the misfortune to be the agent of Rowland Walpole Loane,… during the time I was his agent, a little vessel called the Cape Packet was sold at Richmond, by Auctioneer Buscombe for £280. The vessel just suited for my purpose, and I accordingly bought her for £280. I gave a bill at three months, with my own, and Mr. R. W. Loane’s name attached to it; shortly after this, Mr. Loane and I had a quarrel and I ceased to become his agent, and when the bill became due it was presented to Mr. Loane who declared the amount had been altered from £208 to £280, and thereupon instituted a criminal information against me for forgery…[12]

Despite his impassioned defence, he was struck from the rolls. One of his brothers-in-law, William Skottowe Parker, who was also living in New South Wales, wrote to this own brother, Richard Neville Parker II in Ireland in September 1835 and reported:

I am sorry I cannot give you a very favourable acct. of Kinsman, what he is doing or anything else. Since I was compelled to dishonor some heavy bills he drew on me he left off writing to me, nevertheless I have written Margaret half a dozen times & pressed her to come to me with her family, till he could settle his affairs. Henry did the same but to no use; she never even answered one of the letters, no doubt so commanded not to notice us by her foolish husband, she not having the least authority over his most plausible manner. When I was in Sydney I thought that if I enabled him to follow his profession he might do well—this I did at considerable expense & trouble but all I regret to say to no purpose. I shall go to Sydney in a couple of months after this & try to find out how he employs himself to support his family.[13]

Robert’s behaviour did not change and in June 1838 he was brought before the court again on a fraud charge, acquitted and immediately taken into custody again on yet another charge.

Mr. Robert Jope Kinsman, formerly a barrister of the Supreme Court, was placed at the bar of the Police Office on Saturday, to answer a charge of fraud, preferred against him by Mr. Martin, of the Hibernia Hotel, York-street. The evidence of one of the firm of Messrs. Campbell and Co. being required, the Bench remanded the case till yesterday, when it appeared that no fraud had been committed, and Mr. Kinsman was accordingly discharged; he was, however, immediately taken into custody on a warrant, which had been forwarded from the Bench at Liverpool.[14]

He is recorded as having been jailed on 26 June, although no more is known of the case.[15] The family may then have travelled across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand, as in an 1842 court case in Ireland, Robert is described as formerly of the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, Barrister and Counsel to the Government.[16]

By November 1840 the family was back in England, as a son was baptized in Gravesend at that date, the child perhaps having been born on the return voyage from Australia. They moved to Ireland and in 1842, Robert is described as “late of Wellington-terrace, City of Cork, and of Cove of Cork.”[17]

The trouble just kept on coming. On 1 August 1842 Robert was committed to Cork Gaol for debt and not discharged till 31 October 1843. In 1850, now described as “formerly a barrister,” he was charged in Liverpool Assizes with having obtained goods under false pretences from Silver, Hayter and Wren, outfitters and clothiers. He was found guilty and sentenced to a year in gaol.[18] After his release, Robert and Margaret and their three surviving children moved to the town of Onchan on the Isle of Man, where they can be found in the 1851 census. Robert was a “Barrister, Not practising.”

In 1858 the Kinsmans were back in Ireland living in Sandymount, a suburb of Dublin, where Robert was arrested at his home for fraud against his brother-in-law, Richard Neville Parker II. He was committed to the Richmond Bridewell Prison in Dublin, used to confine offenders convicted of minor crimes, on 9 August:

Charge of Forgery—Robert Jope Kinsman, Esq., residing at Sandymount, was arrested on Wednesday evening at his house by Sergeants Craven and Keegan on a warrant… at the suit of Mr. Dillion O’Connor, to whom Mr. Kinsman passed a bill of exchange in April last, purporting to be accepted by Richard Neville Parker, Esq., a solicitor on Cork. The signature of Mr. Parker is said to be a forgery…[19]

This arrest has provided us with a brief physical description of Robert: “5ft 7in Gray hair; Fair complexion; Protestant. Born Falmouth; profession: none.”[20]

The newspapers did not report on the outcome of the trial, but by 1861 Robert, Margaret and one daughter were living in Lambeth in London—in the census for that year Robert was described as a “Barrister, Retired.” In fact, he had been operating an office at No. 18 Eastcheap in London as a Notary Public and in October 1861 was declared an insolvent debtor. The London Gazette detailed the further fact that he had “lately [been] a prisoner for debt in Horsemonger-lane Gaol, Surrey.[21]

In 1855 Robert’s father had died and in his will he specifically excluded his eldest son, Robert, junior. He did, however, provide for any of Robert’s children still living at the time of his own death. He also set aside “one thousand pounds… to the benefit of the children of my said eldest son with a discretionary power to my said trustees to if they should think proper to apply the interest of the said sum of one thousand pounds for or toward the support of the said Robert Jope Kinsman the younger during his life…”[22] The Kinsman family history mentions this money in trust for Robert when it quotes from a letter from one brother, who was a trustee, to his brother who was the other. The letter is dated 1869 and makes clear that the annual interest on the £1,000, which was £31 10s, was being paid out to Robert. The trustees are unaware that Margaret has died and in discussing the use of the capital in the event of Robert’s death, the letter writer is of the opinion that it “would be a great thing to have something to pay over to the widow and to wash our hands of them.”[23]

After what must have been a difficult, stressful life with the deaths of four of her six children and her husband’s criminal career, Margaret died on 28 July 1868 at 5 Pelham Villas in Brompton in London of congestion of the lungs. She is buried in Brompton Cemetery. Robert lived on until 22 May 1874 when he died at 27 Stanford Road in Chelsea. He cannot be found in the 1871 census. He is buried with Margaret.

In 1874 and 1875, newspapers in Australia and England were advertising for “the persons claiming to be the children of Robert Jope Kinsman, the younger” to present themselves at the Chambers of the Vice-Chancellor in Chancery Lane in London to be able to claim the benefits of the winding up of the trust established for them and their father by their grandfather in 1855. By then only one unmarried daughter was alive.[24]

[1] Southern Reporter, 13 May 1830.

[2] TNA: Court of King’s Bench: Plea Side: Affidavits of Due Execution of Articles of Clerkship, Series II; Class: KB 106; Piece: 3. Available:

[3] “Inner Temple Admissions Database.“ Available:

[4] A Panorama of Falmouth. Falmouth: J. Philp, 1827, p. 40. Available:

[5] Royal Cornwall Gazette, 3 February 1827.

[6] Kinsman, Richard. West Country Kinsmans. Fareham, Hants: The Author, 2008, p. 78.

[7] Ibid, p. 76.

[8] Ibid, p. 77.

[9] The Launceston Advertiser, 15 November 1830.

[10] Colonial Times, 11 Jan 1832.

[11] Tasmanian Colonial Convict, Passenger and Land Records. Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office: GD135-2-1. Available:

[12] Sydney Gazette, 3 March 1835.

[13] William Skottowe Parker to Richard Neville Parker II, dated 17 September 1835.

[14] Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 26 June 1838.

[15] Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930. New South Wales State Archives: Roll 853. Available:

[16] Cork Examiner, 5 December 1842.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Liverpool Standard and General Commercial Advertiser, 19 March 1850; Home Office Prison Registers. TNA: HO 27; Piece: 92; Page: 175. Available:

[19] Dublin Evening Post, 7 August 1858.

[20] Ireland Prisoner Registers. NAI: No. 633. Available:

[21] London Gazette, 22 October 1861.

[22] Robert Jope Kinsman, PCC Will, 1855, PROB 11/2214/16.

[23] West Country Kinsmans, op. cit., p. 80.

[24] London Gazette, 25 December 1874; Sydney Morning Herald, 17 February 1875.

True Love as Revealed in a Will

It is unusual that we get to see inside the marriages of our ancestors, especially those who died over 400 years ago. But I was afforded just such a glimpse as I laboured at transcribing some of the many Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) wills belonging to my Norwich ancestors that are now readily available on Ancestry.

One of these is the will of Thomas Sotherton, my nine times great uncle. A grocer and politician and a man of considerable wealth, as the will makes quite clear, he was born about 1555 and married Frances Cheke after the death of her first husband, John Foxe.

Typically in these early wills the most one sees is the formulaic phrase: “well-beloved wife.” But Thomas made his love for Frances quite clear as he wrote his will while approaching death in 1608. (He signed the will on March 31st and was dead in May). I have updated the archaic spelling to make his declaration more readable.

And for as much as my dear and most loving wife hath in the time of my health and now more especially in this my troublesome and great sickness showed herself most loving and dutiful and with great respect hath tenderly and carefully regarded me and that as all times heretofore she hath most lovingly and tenderly nourished our children. And that she may the better be enabled to educate them and be mindful of me and the mutual love long continued between us and the memory of me dead and our children living charging her by all that love and the tokens and pledges of our love which shall remain to have a special care for the good of our children and their well training up in godly and virtuous exercises hoping that no second love or means shall cause her to remove that unfeigned most earnest promised love and remembrances vowed and professed as well to me in private as in the presence of some of our friends. Therefore the better to make my love more apparent even at this my last days which I expect to be but few I give unto my said loving wife…

 Thomas was buried in the church of St. John Maddermarket in Norwich. A wonderful monument, which still can be seen on the wall of the church, shows—in typical Jacobean fashion—the husband and wife kneeling on either side of a prayer desk with the sons behind the father and the daughters behind the mother. They had two sons and six daughters (although only five are depicted). Two daughters and one son carry skulls, indicating that they predeceased their parents.

One of the commentaries on the church gives the following amusing aside: “Thomas’s side of the monument carries his coat of arms—interestingly Frances’ side is blank. Suggesting (not too subtly) that her family was not the equal of her husband’s.” (

“It is a Better Country for Girls Than Home:” Chain Migration at Work

One of my favourite pieces of family memorabilia is a letter written in August 1877 by my great-grandmother, Mary Hamilton, to her friend, Jeannie Kirkwood, who was still back in Scotland. Mary had recently emigrated to New Zealand with three of her siblings, having sailed from Glasgow on the Marlborough on 12 October, 1876 and arrived in Otago on 20 January, 1877. On arrival, the family moved immediately to the small town of Palmerston (then known as Clifton), where their sister, Janet, was already established with her husband, John Kirkwood.

Mary had been born on 5 March, 1855 at Kirkfieldbank, a small village on the banks of the Clyde in Lesmahagow parish in Lanarkshire, to John Hamilton, a 38-year-old carpet weaver, and his 33-year-old wife, Mary Moffat. The fifth child when she was born, Mary would have three younger siblings by 1863.

In the 1871 Scottish census, Mary was living with her mother (her father was enumerated elsewhere) and her four sisters and two of her brothers in the Calton district of Glasgow. Mary herself and her three elder sisters were working as steam loom weavers, her younger sister still at school. Three years later Mary’s mother was dead of heart disease and a year after that her sister, Janet, who had married John Kirkwood in 1871, left for New Zealand. The Kirkwoods’ reports of their new life must have been positive enough to persuade Mary and her youngest sister, Jean (or Jane) to follow them in 1877, along with two of their brothers, James and Thomas. The two women are described on the ship’s manifest as domestic servants, steam loom weavers not being required in New Zealand. Both James and Thomas are listed as curriers. Mary’s letter to her friend and sister-in-law, Jeannie Kirkwod, indicates that domestic work had been easy to find, was well paid and something she liked well enough to recommend that Jeannie, also a cotton weaver, come and join them. Which she did, arriving in August, 1879 and later that same month marrying Mary’s brother, James. Family lore suggests the couple had been engaged before James emigrated.

Palmerston, 19 August/77

Dear Jeanie

I think you will never forgive me for not writing sooner. I have no excuse to make for myself but I will trust to your good nature not to think to [sic] hard of me and I will try and make up for it. You only ask me to write 3 lines well I will [scratched out] try if can [sic]. Well to begin I would advise you to come out here it is a better country for girls than home we are getting on very well and we like it very well. Jessie and me have got 26 pound a year we could get more wages but we would have more work so we think we are better with what we have. Give my love to all the Simpsons and tell them I am going to write a long letter to them. Tell Janet I am glad to hear that Willie Linsay and her is going together again. Tell her to give my love to Ellen and Hugh. I hope they are married. I think I will close now as this is only an excuse for a letter but I will write a long letter the next time. Love to your mother and Agnes and Archie not forgetting your own Dear Self. I am your loving friend, M. H.

Two other members of the Hamilton family followed: another brother, Adam, a cabinet maker, although his year of emigration is not known and their widowed father, John, in about 1885. The fate of the remaining two Hamilton siblings is not known. A brother, John, is said to have become a draper in London and sister, Margaret, disappears after the 1871 census.

She Ran Away With Her Music Teacher

Catherine Anne Parker, my 3X great aunt, was born about 1813 in Passage West, County Cork, Ireland, probably the fourth daughter and twelfth child of Richard Neville Parker and Margaret Skottowe. The Parkers were a prominent Passage West family, but by the 19th century were no longer financially well off, a situation probably exacerbated by the eventual birth of 14 children to Richard and Margaret. A number of these children emigrated to Australia and New Zealand, but the fate of Catherine Anne remained a mystery for many years.

Waterview, the house in Passage West where Catherine Anne was born

Burke’s Landed Gentry of Ireland[1] records her husband as Charles Jackson; other sources give his name as Charles or Francis Geary Jackson. But all the family sources agree that Jackson was her music master and that she ran away with him.

Catherine Anne Parker m. Charles Jackson 29 July 1835 at Monkstown Church against the advice and consent of her family.[2]

Cath. Parker & Francis Jackson  1835.[3]

The distinctive name of “Francis Geary Jackson” eventually broke down this particular brick wall. A simple Google search led to two bankruptcy notices in the London Gazette. The Francis Geary Jackson described here was certainly a music teacher, so the search for Catherine moved from Ireland to England.

Francis Geary Jackson, a music teacher, a bankrupt. 2 references. Of No. 50 Burr Street, Lower East Smithfield, Middlesex and then Mile-town, Sheerness, Kent. (London Gazette, 13th June, 1845)

 In the matter of the petition of Francis Geary Jackson, formerly of No. 50, Burr street, Lower East Smithfield, in the county of Middlesex, Teacher of Music, afterwards of Mile-town, Sheerness, in the county of Kent, and late of Blue-town, Sheerness, aforesaid, Organist, Teacher of Music and Musical Instruments, an insolvent debtor. (London Gazette 27 June 1845)

Tying in with this, the 1841 census for England revealed Francis Jackson, Professor of Music, born in Ireland, living in what appears to be a multiple family dwelling in Burr Street in the Parish of St. Botolph Without Aldgate in the Borough of Tower Hamlets in London. With him are Catherine, also born in Ireland, and a daughter, Frances, 5, Michael, 3, and Catherine, 4 months. Frances and Michael were born in Ireland; the baby, Catherine, in Middlesex. No birth registrations have been found for any of these children.

In 1851, the family is indeed living, as the Gazette suggests, on the High Street in Sheerness, Kent. Francis is described as an organist, 40 years of age and Catherine is aged 38. Michael has disappeared and there is an additional son, Frank, aged 9, born in Sheerness. No trace has been found of Michael, but although there appears to be no birth registration for Frank, there is a baptismal record.

Baptised Dec 24th 1843. Frank, son of Francis Geary & Catherine Ann Jackson. Abode: Banks Town. Occupation: Professor of Music. [4]

In 1853, Francis, described as a “musician,” sailed on the “Northumberland” from London to New York City, arriving there on August 13th of that year, declaring his intention to become a resident of the United States. [5] Exactly three years later, on August 21st, 1856, Catherine, Catherine Anne, 15, and Frank, aged 12, arrived in New York on the same ship.[6]

The family would not be together in the new country long, as on December 23rd, 1857, Francis died of tuberculosis in what was probably a tenement building for the poor at 89 Bleecker Street in New York. He was buried in a cemetery on Long Island.[7]

No further reliable sighting has been found of Catherine and her children. The likelihood is that, if they survived, they eked out a precarious existence in the lower east side of New York, amongst the poorest immigrants. A suitable warning for young women who were tempted to run away with ineligible, but presumably attractive, music teachers.


[1] Burke, Bernard. A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Ireland. New ed. London: Harrison, 1912, p. 552.

[2] Genealogical Notes in private hands in Ireland.

[3] Casey, Albert Eugene. O’Kief, Coshe Mang, Slieve Lougher and Upper Blackwater in Ireland. Birmingham, AL: Knocknagree Historical Fund, 1952–1971, vol. 4, p. 256.

[4] Register of Baptisms in the Parish of Minster, Isle of Sheppey, Kent. Family History Library Film #1866702 Item 3.

[5] Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving in New York, New York, 1820–1897. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Microfilm Series: M237. Microfilm Roll: Roll 130; Line: 24; List Number: 822. Available:

[6] Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving in New York, New York, 1820–1897. National Archives at Washington, D.C. Microfilm Series: M237. Microfilm Roll: Roll 165; Line: 7; List Number: 832.

[7] Manhattan Death Registers, 1795-1865. Family History Library Film #447560.

Sarah Catherine Martin

sarah catherine portrait


 My 4x great-grandaunt, Elizabeth Ann Parker (abt 1737 – 1808, daughter of Harding Parker and Catherine Neville of Passage West, County Cork, Ireland) and her husband, Sir Henry Martin, (Comptroller of the Navy and MP for Southampton, England) had a most surprising daughter. Her siblings were successful naval officers, appointed government employees and young ladies who married suitably or who remained quietly in the background as spinsters.

Sarah Catherine popped her head up above the crowd at the age of about 17, when the future King of England, Prince William Henry (later to be William IV), aged 20, fell in love with her and went so far as to apply to his parents for permission to marry her. Sarah would have met the prince through her father, when he was Commissioner of the Navy and resident at Portsmouth at a time when William was serving in the Navy. Sarah’s brother, Thomas Byam, would the following year begin his naval career as a captain’s servant aboard HMS Pegasus, which was captained by the prince.

Understandably, the idea of such a marriage horrified both William’s royal parents and Sarah’s humbler ones and Sarah was quickly removed from his orbit.

The reactions to the affair of both Henry Martin and the prince are revealed in a series of letters that Sarah’s brother, Thomas Byam, published in later life. These offer a fascinating glimpse into the aftermath of Prince William’s application to his parents, and inspire considerable sympathy in the reader for poor Henry Martin as he attempts to extricate himself and his daughter without offending.

 Henry Martin to Prince William Henry [Not dated] 1786

…With a heart devoted to you, I trust you will do me the justice to believe that I feel most sensibly the noble, the honourable part you have acted by me and my dear child: could I have foreseen the attachment you have been pleased to honour her with, I should certainly have removed her for a time from my house, that both your Royal Highness and she might have avoided the difficulties and distresses which must necessarily be the consequence of it. She is, thank God, tolerably well; but blessed, Sir, as she is with a superior understanding, she has with a becoming fortitude guarded against the too tender impression a declaration so unexpected, and so much superior to what she could ever presume to raise her thoughts [to], might otherwise have made, and which, had your Royal Highness’s station in life been more on a level with hers, she would naturally have felt, where every gratification of mind and person conspire to captivate the heart….

Prince William Henry to Henry Martin. Hebe, Jany. 31st, 1786.

…I must once more repeat –Dear Sarah! I feel for her more than I can express; she is an unfortunate and virtuous girl. God bless all your family, but I cannot help expressing my particular feeling for the best of womankind.

                                                I am

                                Your sincere and unfortunate friend,

(Letters and Papers of the Admiral of the Fleet Sir Thos Byam Martin, G.C.B., edited by Sir Richard Vesey Hamilton. London: Navy Records Society, 1898–1903).

Sarah Catherine did not ever marry, but she did make her mark once again in 1805 when her illustrated book of comic verse for children, The Comic Adventure of Old Mother Hubbard and Her Dog, was published. She had written this while living at Kitley House in Devonshire with her sister, Judith Anne, the second wife of the politician, John Pollexfen Bastard. Some sources suggest that Mother Hubbard was the housekeeper at Kitley, but more scholarly discussion sees it as an adaption of earlier similar tales. The book became an immediate best seller.

 Sarah died in 1826 and is buried beside her parents in St. Nicholas’s Churchyard, Loughton, Essex. In her simple holograph will, written on two slips of paper, she leaves everything to her unmarried sister, Lydia Maria, and her niece, Catherine Elizabeth, daughter of her brother, Henry William. It was one of Catherine’s descendants, Mary Emily May, who would lend the manuscript of Old Mother Hubbard to the Bodleian Library for an exhibit in the 1930s. It was later sold to a collector in the United States.

 An unusual life surely, for an eighteenth-century young lady and one that deserves to be remembered.

Kitley House today – a luxury hotel

Old Mother Hubbard (Wikipedia)