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My family tree in 1000 words – John Samuel Martin de Grenier Fonblanque

My next family story post is another one of my 3x great grandfathers:

John Samuel Martin de Grenier Fonblanque

John was born in Brook Street, Mayfair, London in March 1787, the eldest son of John Anthony de Grenier Fonblanque, a lawyer and Frances Caroline Fitzgerald of Antigua.


John Samuel Martin de Grenier Fonblanque

Fonblanque was educated privately at Putney under Mr Applebee. He spent nine months at Charterhouse under Dr Raine, and received private tuition at Epsom for two years under Mr Boucher. He was admitted as “pensioner” at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, aged 17, on 28 August 1804. He was on the list of scholars from Michaelmas 1804 to Lady Day 1809, and was third in the classical and mathematical examinations, 1805.

According to Wikipedia, Fonblanque was one of the founders of the Cambridge Union Society however this has not been proven and he is not mentioned in CUS history.

War service

In 1810 Fonblanque left Cambridge due to ill-health, a burst blood-vessel on the lungs, and entered the Army obtaining a commission in the 21st Fusiliers. With this regiment he served at Cadiz, Gibraltar, in Sicily and the Greek Islands then in Italy. Lord William Bentinck, under whom he served in Italy, appointed him deputy judge advocate-general. In the American War (of 1812) he was present at the taking of Washington, at the Battle of Baltimore, and ultimately at the fatal repulse at New Orleans when he was made prisoner within the enemy’s lines being one of the very few who had succeeded in crossing the works. His last service was with the army of occupation in France in 1815. He left Valenciennes in November 1816 and was almost immediately called to the bar.

The law and its reform

Fonblanque was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn, London, 26 November 1816 having kept the necessary terms at Lincoln’s Inn during his residence at Cambridge. The next year Lord Eldon appointed him one of the then seventy commissioners of bankruptcy. The abuses and imperfections of the bankruptcy system did not escape his attention and long before law reform became fashionable he published a pamphlet on the subject. Having attracted the notice of Lord Brougham as a law reformer Fonblanque was appointed one of the original Commissioners of the newly instituted Court of Bankruptcy.

There are lots of mentions of him in old newspaper articles as a commissioner of bankruptcy. This is a role he carried out for nearly 50 years.

Legal writer

With John Paris he wrote Medical Jurisprudence published in 1823. It was awarded the first Swiney Prize for works on jurisprudence; and it remained the only guide on the subject for many years.

He was one of the founders of The Jurist in 1826. A quarterly journal of jurisprudence and legislation The Jurist was the first periodical which systematically advocated the amendment of the law. This was considered a bold step.

Family life

Fonblanque married Caroline O’Connell, daughter of John O’Connell of Cork on 18 September 1819 in Dublin. They had two sons and a daughter. I am descended from one of the sons and the daughter as their descendants married.


He moved around quite a bit according to the records I have found, from living in St Marylebone in 1803 (tax records) with chambers in Brick Court, Temple in 1820 and to Twickenham in 1832. He’s also mentioned as living at 19 Hamilton Terrace, St Johns Wood between 1842 and 1850. He’s then at 48 Hamilton Terrace in the 1851 census.

Death and Burial

He died at 24 Marine Parade, Brighton on 3 November 1865. He was buried at All Souls in Kensal Green, London on 9 November 1865.

Will and Probate

He left under £7,000 in his will according to the probate entry.

Thanks to Wikipedia for some of the information above.

So that’s John Samuel Martin de Grenier Fonblanque. He’s another writer in my ancestry and this may have contributed to my love of writing.

I have written about several of my other ancestors in previous blog posts.

Have you an interesting ancestor? If you’d like help compiling your stories please get in touch.

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