Saturday, April 23, 2016

Aren’t you done yet?

I am channeling my inner Laurie McConnell – a friend who is fearless in the silly selfie department. Read on, and my choice of this as opening might make sense.

Much of this project, that I embarked on a decade ago, in totally naive innocence, is akin to a game of Whack-a-Mole. I hammer down one peg, and up pops another. Am I done yet? Obviously not. I still want to make sure that I don’t find out something in the eleventh hour that substantively shifts the course of the narrative - at least the part that I have assembled so far.

One of what I call My Great Unknowns is that I still can’t find Sir Thomas JACKSONs farm in Co. Kildare. A few years ago, I did find out that Patrick Lynch, the Kildare farmhand who he hired in 1892 to manage his Cavananore farm in Co. Louth, came from Lughill, Parish of Monasterevin, Co. Kildare. That locale might be a clue. A few years ago, I listed all the townlands in Co Kildare where Jacksons  lived or owned leases, not that there were any compelling slam dunks. After spending the past two weeks in the Deeds Registry in Dublin, I have many more names and places to add, and will update that page when I get home. Perhaps the truth will turn out to have been staring me right in the face all along.

Part of why I keep pursuing this question about the missing farm is that it might help to explain some other aspects of Thomas’ early childhood. It might even be linked to the reason why his father lost the lease to their Co Leitrim farm in the late 1840s. That happened when Thomas was about seven or eight years old. He and his parents, and brother and sisters ended up moving back in with his grandmother. His father was reduced to managing his mother’s farm, surely not a moment of triumph for him.

Then there is the question of the shovellers – the birds that Sir Thomas had on his heraldic arms when he was first knighted and then made a baronet.

Jacksons - three shovellers
This crest is connected to the JACKSONs of Doncaster. Both the motto and the birds are also present in other JACKSON crests.
Crest of Jackson of Stanstead
 This is Sir Thomas Jackson's arms: ARMS: Ermine on a pile azure between two fountains in base proper a Sheldrake or. CREST: Upon a fountain proper a Sheldrake or. MOTTO Aut Mors aut Vitoria (Either death or victory).
.Does the inclusion of these birds – they are not common -  mean that Thomas’s family were related to the Jacksons of Forkhill, Co Armagh, or did his family merely believe that they were related – without any proof? Or – a third possibility - did the Chief Herald who designed the crest simply decide that the birds were a good fit? Unfortunately, there are no records of the why of this decision, but we do have a written record from 1912 where Sir Thomas referred to himself and the Forkhill Jacksons as kin. It amounts to a smoking gun, but no cigar. Not yet.

At least one line of the Irish shoveller JACKSONs, if not all of them, descended from a Rev. Richard JACKSON (1603-1689) of Kirkby Lonsdale, Westmorland. Not only did he sire twenty plus children with two wives, but he also went from being totally down on his financial gums in the 1640s, to ending his life as a decidedly a wealthy man in 1681. How did that happen? Part of it was likely thanks to the money made by his sons in Ireland.

In the mid to late 1600s, William Jackson, who owned significant holdings in a handful of townlands in Coleraine, was reputed to be a bit of a buccaneer. He felled trees on land that wasn’t his and then sold them, and he also harvested fish without a license and sold them as well. He also stacked the votes on the local Council. That’s probably only the half of it.

One of William’s younger brothers, Samuel JACKSON, seems to have been a successful builder and property developer taking advantage of the post-Cromwellian reallocations of lands. At the time of his death in 1706, at Mary’s St. in the City of Dublin, he was worth more than 30,000 pounds sterling, and also had extensive holdings in Counties Meath, Monaghan, and Dublin. His sister-in-law, Susan Mitchelburn aka Jackson aka Beresford died on the same day that he did – he died in the morning, she in the afternoon. She was the widowed wife of his brother William, and was also the estranged wife of the much celebrated Col. John Mitchelburn of Derry fame. What is more, she died at Samuel’s home on Mary Street, where the two of them had lived with a houseful of servants.

Samuel left all his lands to various brothers and nephews, and most of the bequeathed estates stayed intact in the extended family until well into the late 1800s. Even the seemingly improvident marriage of the fifty-four-year-old Abigail Jackson to the twenty-seven-year-old Oliver Crofton, didn’t diminish the family coffers. She ended up with most of the lands after her brother Rev. Robert Jackson of Tatham’s death in 1726, but Oliver got his hands on none of them. It seems - so far - that none of Samuel Jackson’s money found its way into the pockets of Thomas’ branch of the family, unless they lost their share of it somewhere along the way. There is a family story of an ill fated card game where Thomas g-g-grandfather is alleged to have bet the farm in the early 1700s, and lost. That would fit.

Now, if Sir Thomas was related to these Jacksons of Westmorland, then at least one more question is especially tantalizing, given that Sir Thomas became a world-renowned international banker. Was Thomas related - in any way - to the John JACKSON who was Oliver Cromwell’s treasurer? This is not as big a stretch as it might seem since one of Rev. Richard’s many sons was a John Jackson who apprenticed in London as a goldsmith. He might have been a tad young to have assumed the post as Treasurer, but perhaps one of his uncles was also named John Jackson and he worked for him. If so, it would go a long way to explaining how the brothers were able to lay claim to such choice bits of land in Ireland in the mid-1600s. In a few weeks, I plan to visit the Goldsmiths Library in London to see what else I can learn.

All this being said, I do realize, that at some point, very soon, I will have to draw a line in the shifting factual sands, and then say - with as much finality as I can muster - I am done… at least for now.

My page of Jackson Crests is due for a major update when I get home in June. This coin is one of many bits that will be added. This coin was used by a Sir George JACKSON in 1795.


  1. They laws of heraldry do Vary. Some Authorities are more pure in their interpretation. Within the British Isles the Lord Lion is the least lax. The achievement is the personal property of the Grantee. It can be inherited by decent as provided for in the grant. The picture in the blog is the achievement of Sir Thomas Jackson. The Principal parts are The Shield and The Crest. If one can show Blood relationship to an original Grantee one can matriculate arms with a suitable difference. There is a scheme of difference which shows the subordinate relationship of the person matriculating. If one is seeking a Grant anew the Authority may decide that those with the same name e.g Jackson are one family and design a shield based on Jackson shields but with at least two differences. Thus new grants have more ornate shields, old shields have simple designs and fewer colours or tincture. They may of course design a new unique shield if there is good reason. The presence of Shovellors may therefore mean no more than the grantees share the Name Jackson. The Crest is another matter. It reveals little to the Genealogist. Two Brothers may have different crest as indeed do my two sons. Since Victorian times the crest on rings has had little relevance as commonly it was decided by the customer and the Engraver consulting Fairbairn and picking a crest associated with some completely unconnected person of the same name.