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Distant cousins

My personal family history journey has taken me, and continues to take me, in lots of different directions. I have found and connected with several distant cousins recently and have had some people approaching me asking if I have more information about someone on my Ancestry tree or my website.

Some new distant cousins (discovered whilst doing some family research) recently came to a family party and we have enjoyed sharing family stories and are looking forward to seeing more of them in future.

It’s worthwhile investigating outside of your immediate family as you may find interesting people and local connections. Who knows what you will discover?

Tip: When doing my research I like to add my relatives’ marriages and children where I can find out the details. This wider search can sometimes help with identifying people or find missing records of closer relations.

The Lowther family tree

The Lowthers are an interesting bunch. It’s not a name known within our family as my connection is to Louise de Fonblanque who is my 2nd cousin 3 times removed. Not a close connection!

Francis William Lowther

Francis was the illegitimate son of William Lowther, second Earl of Lonsdale and Emilia Cresotti, an Italian opera singer. Born in Genoa, Italy in 1841, he served in the navy and worked his way up to Lieutenant by the time he married Louise de Fonblanque. His naval records can be found in the National Archives at Kew. He inherited £125,000 upon his father’s death (approx £10 million today). At retirement he held the title of Commander.

Cumbria Records Office have letters from him to his father (mainly requesting money!) which must have worked as he inherited a lot!

Tip: For military records check with the regiments and sites such as Ancestry have access to some of them. In some families fathers, sons, uncles and cousins all joined up.

Louise Beatrice de Fonblanque

Born in Canada, the daughter of Edward Barrington de Fonblanque, an English travel writer and scholar, and Lavinia Mary Foot (a Canadian). As a young woman she was photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron the famous photographer. This photograph is held by the Victoria and Albert Museum. She was also painted by George Frederic Watts, a well known Victorian painter.

painting by George Frederic Watts
Photographs of Louise aged 22 by Julia Margaret Cameron

Tip: Check museums for photographs or portraits. Remember people may be known by a different name e.g. married name, nickname or a rank such as Lord or Colonel or Mrs without using a Christian name.

Aimee Constance Lowther

Eldest daughter Aimee was an amateur actress and friends with the literary set of the time including Oscar Wilde. An avid antiques collector who outlived her brother she bequeathed a 17th century red glass tankard to the Victoria and Albert Museum (see below).

(c) Victoria and Albert Museum

Tip: use a museum’s own search tool on their website to check for any items they may hold. Some may just be a written entry without photographs.

Claude Lowther

Francis and Louise’s son Claude served in the war attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He recruited lots of men from Sussex known as Lowther’s Lambs. They fought in WWI as ‘The Southdowns’; the 11th, 12th, and 13th Battalions of the Royal Sussex Regiment. Some of the men from Rye are shown here and there is a BBC podcast about Lowther’s Lambs here. Claude was awarded the Military Cross.

There are portraits of him in the National Portrait Gallery and I found a caricature for sale here.

He bought a painting of the linked hands of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert by Franz Xaver Winterhalter and presented it to Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1921 who gave it to the family museum at Windsor Castle.

After the war he became a politician and his 278 speeches to parliament are recorded by Hansard (the official record).

In 1913 he bought and restored Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex. The BBC have a podcast about it here.

Tip: Auction sites hold records of sales of paintings. photographs and other memorabilia. Local history societies also may have records of your ancestors. Finding someone with the same name as your ancestor may lead to closer discoveries.

May (Toupie) Lowther

May, always known as Toupie, described as “a brilliant fencer and sportswoman, who could hold her own in anything that required skill and brains.” by The Times. A very accomplished and tournament winning tennis player, she was also the “champion swordswoman of the kingdom” in 1901. Also a keen motorist, weightlifter and practitioner of jujitsu, she crossed the alps on a motorbike with her god-daughter Fabienne Lafargue De-Avilla riding pillion.

In WWI she organised an all-female team of ambulance drivers, the Hackett-Lowther Ambulance Unit in France. The unit consisted of 20 cars and 25 to 30 women drivers and operated close to the front lines of battles in Compiègne, France and was attached to the 2nd Army Corps of the French Third Army She was awarded the Croix de Guerre in July 1918.

Tip: Check sporting records such as tennis tournaments (including newspaper articles), Olympic records etc.

I am very happy I have discovered such interesting relatives. I also managed to find photographs of most of them – something that is missing for quite a few of my closer relatives. Have you found any notable people in your family tree?

Many thanks to Val Brown who wrote “Toupie Lowther: Her life” for some of the information here. Wikipedia was another very helpful source.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Ann Barrington

    My family are descendants of Claude Lowther of Lowthers Lambs. His son was my father-in-law.

    1. Emma

      Good to hear from another distant cousin!

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