A Lambert who settled in New Zealand

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A little over five years ago when I first decided to make a concerted effort to learn about my family history, I knew that the maiden surname of my paternal grandmother was Lambert but knew nothing whatsoever about her forebears and nor did any relatives known to me at the time. She had passed away in 1962 so I couldn’t ask her. My parents were also deceased. How I regretted my lack of curiosity when I was younger. I obtained photo-copies of the register entries for her birth, marriage and death and learned that her father’s name was William Hyacinth Lambert whose occupation was given as a Master Mariner.

I then obtained copies of the entries for William’s marriage and death. The latter was especially informative, among other things, giving his age, stating that he was born in Galway (sic) Ireland, that his parents (my 2nd great grandparents) were John Lambert, Barrister Q.C. and Jane Lambert, formerly MacNamara, and that he had lived in New Zealand for 29 years. (If accurate, this means he arrived between 24 Jan 1867 and 24 Jan 1868.) Delving further, I obtained a copy of the notice of William’s marriage on 31 December 1873 that had been published in the local newspaper of the day. This described him as the 6th son of Mr. John Lambert, Q.C. of Castle Lambert, Co. Galway, Ireland.

For some time after that I made no further progress. Eventually, I discovered the existence of Burke’s Irish Family Records and earlier editions called Landed Gentry of Ireland but found no reference to a John Lambert who married a Jane MacNamara. I began to wonder if my great grandfather was not who he claimed to be. The most likely possibility appeared to be a John who married Jane Peyton. According to Burke they had a family of 6 sons and 2 daughters who, unfortunately, were not named. Deciding to check out the Peyton family if that was possible, I discovered Peyton of Laheen, Co. Leitrim, in the 1912 edition of Burke’s Landed Gentry and ascertained that Jane’s father, Lieut.-Col. John Peyton, died (or perhaps was killed?) in May 1806 when Jane was a very young child, perhaps only a baby. Her mother subsequently married a Richard MacNamara. Jane had obviously been given his name, either officially or unofficially. At last I was on the right track.

Attempting to go back another generation I discovered a contradiction in the Lambert and Peyton charts published by Burke. According to the former, John Lambert was a son of Thomas Lambert and (unknown) Wood, of Chapell Field, Co. Sligo, whereas the latter referred to him as “2nd son of Walter Lambert of Castle Lambert.” This had me pulling my hair out for a time but the more I studied the charts the more I became convinced that a generation was missing from the Lambert one. On checking the I.G.I. (International Genealogical Index) I found listed a John who had been christened on 25th September 1800 at Athenry, his father being named as Walter with his mother not named. Through the local Mormon Family History Centre, I obtained on loan from their head office in Salt Lake City in America, a film of the relevant parish records. This gave no additional information concerning the identity of John but proved very informative in other respects.

Clutching at straws, I began checking all available earlier editions of Burke’s publications and, to my great surprise, discovered that a very early one, “History of the Landed Gentry”, pub. 1879, had a different version of the family. This edition clearly shows John as the 2nd son of Walter Lambert of Castle Lambert and Elizabeth Persse who were married in 1791. Walter is shown as the son and heir of Thomas Lambert and E. Wood. (Two daughters, Margaret and Anne are also named.) This convinced me that, in later editions, two generations have mistakenly been combined. In other words, most of the children shown as those of Thomas were, in fact, his grandchildren, the children of his son Walter and daughter-in-law Elizabeth. The parish records helped identify which were which. (I have been informed by Andy Lambert of Hampshire that the forename of Thomas’ wife was also Elizabeth. Andy quotes research done in the 1890s, on behalf of Dr. Walter Eyre Lambert, by a genealogist named Wharton Dickinson.)

Further confirmation that the 1879 edition contains the correct version of the family has lately been found in a book entitled Irish Narratives: To the Land of the Free from this Island of Slaves which is largely comprised of letters written by Henry Stratford Persse in the years 1821-32 to his sons who had emigrated to America. Henry was a 1st cousin of Walter Lambert’s wife, Elizabeth Persse, and the book contains numerous references to Walter Lambert of Castle Lambert, Elizabeth, and various members of both families. Henry Stratford Persse, though a son of a prominent landlord, was obviously a humanitarian who sympathised with the plight of those less privileged and I earnestly recommend the book to anyone interested in the conditions prevailing in Ireland during the time span it covers. It is edited by James L. Pethica and James C. Roy and was published in 1998 by the Cork University Press.

Getting back to my great grandfather, William Hyacinth Lambert, who settled in New Zealand, I do not know the exact date of his birth but the age given on his death certificate (presumably correct) means that it was later than 24 January in 1843. The Galway Family History Society West Ltd. has informed me that he was christened on 24 May 1843 in the Ballinakill parish. The Society confirmed that his parents were John (Solicitor) & Jane Lambert” whose address was given as Errislannen. The society also identified a sister and two brothers, giving their christening dates, namely, Elizabeth (13 May 1830) of Athenry parish but christened in Dublin, Charles Edward (18 October 1841) and Richard (20 January 1845). The boys, like William, were christened in the Ballinakill parish.

Another son of John Lambert and Jane Peyton has been identified from marriage and death certificates sent to me by an Australian descendant. His name was Robert Charles and he was born in Dublin about 1835. (In 1859 he married Ellen Dixon in Victoria, Australia, and they had 13 children though seven died young.) It appears to me that siblings yet to be identified would also have been born in Dublin (1831-40) but enquiries to Dublin Historical Societies have so far proved fruitless. However, I am informed that work on the Church of Ireland records has not been completed so hope remains. A point of interest is that Burke states that the family comprised six sons and William Hyacinth claimed to be the sixth As his brother Richard was christened some 20 months after him it would appear that there were at least seven sons. Perhaps one died in infancy.

As already stated, William Hyacinth Lambert was a master mariner and, according to a book on the history of the district in which he settled, he came out in command of Lord Brassey’s yacht. The author does not state the source of his information and is, unfortunately, deceased. The book Voyages and Travels of Lord Brassey 1862-94 refers to no voyage to the vicinity of New Zealand prior to 1883 when he sailed as far as Australia. William, though, according to his death certificate, would have arrived in New Zealand during 1867. He would have been only 24 years of age which, to me, seems a young age to have been in command of a vessel.

William’s marriage was to a widow, Mary Ann Houghton Bevan nee Cawte who had already borne five children, the eldest of whom had died in infancy. The surviving children (two boys and two girls) were aged between 2 1/2 and nine years of age, their father having died from tuberculosis only one month after the birth of the youngest. Mary Ann was the eldest surviving daughter of John and Emily Cawte from Hampshire, England. She and William had an additional eight children – Mervyn Hyacinth (1875), my grandmother Mabel Emily and her twin sister Kathleen Jane (1878), Frank George (1880), William Frederick Byrne (1881), Eileen Annie (1882) who died as an infant, Walter Richard D’Arcy (1883), and Cyril de Courcy (1888).

After his marriage William became a hotel licensee, first in Picton and later in Blenheim – small towns in the Marlborough district of the South Island. He was, however, adjudicated bankrupt in 1890. He died from stomach cancer seven years later at the early age of only 53. By that time one of Mary Ann’s sons of her first marriage was a hotel licensee in the gold-mining town of Kumara on the West Coast (South Island). William and Mary Ann had moved there prior to William’s death and it appears that she assisted in that venture thereby providing support and accommodation for her second family, the youngest of whom was only eight years of age when William died.

Apart from the sketchy information given in Burke’s publications, I know very little about the Lambert ancestors of William Hyacinth. One, Charles of Greg Clare (my sixth great grandfather) who died in 1689 at the siege of Derry is of particular interest because my mother was a McShane descended from a transportee from co. Derry to the penal settlement of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania). If any McShanes were involved in the siege they and Charles would certainly have been on opposite sides of the city walls. Food for thought?

After Charles, the line of descent is by way of Walter of Greg Clare (who died 1770) and then Thomas (referred to previously). As his son and heir is known as Walter of Castle Lambert, I assume that Thomas was the person who purchased Aghrim Castle in 1756. (Thomas was not the eldest son of Walter of Greg Clare so I doubt that he would have inherited the property.) An article published in The Irish Genealogist in 1986 entitled The Composition of the Galway Gentry states that the Lamberts replaced the castle and bawn with a modern mansion and changed the name from Aghrim to Castle Lambert.

With reference to Thomas’s son Walter, Irish Narratives (referred to previously) describes the Lamberts of Castle Lambert as ‘one of Connacht’s premier families’ who suffered hard times. One of the letters (dated 14 Jan 1823) published in the book refers to Walter’s desire to send his son Robert to America and the difficulty of finding ‘five pounds to fit him out”. (Robert did eventually emigrate and married Martha Keese in New York in 1846.) The parish record for the diocese of Tuam states that Walter died aged 55 years on 16 December 1824 and was buried in the churchyard of Moore Aughrim in Castle Lambert.

Readers may have observed that, strictly speaking, William Hyacinth Lambert was stretching things a bit in the notice of his marriage by referring to his father, John, as of Castle Lambert. John, being Walter’s 2nd son, did not inherit the estate. His older brother who did so was another Walter (1795-1867) who had married Ann Eyre in 1817. On his death, the property was inherited by Capt. Thomas Eyre Lambert. The maiden name of his wife was Sarah Trousdell and they had no children. I understand that Castle Lambert passed to a member of the Trousdell family about 1892 but, at the time of writing do not know whether the new owner purchased or inherited the property.

Regarding my second great grandfather, John Lambert the Barrister, I know very little. Irish Narratives relates that, as a young man, he served as Register to Judge Vandeleur. He evidently went on to become a Q.C. though I have been unable to positively confirm that.I am keenly looking forward to publication of the book for which this article has been written, being sure that I will learn a great deal from it. I am also very keen to hear from readers who are distant relatives of mine, i.e. people who have Lambert, Persse, or Peyton ancestors.

Peter Wood for “The Lamberts of Athenry” 1999.
Peter Wood lives in Hamilton, New Zealand.

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About this record

Written by Peter Wood

Published here 08 Feb 2021 and originally published 1999

Page 121 of the The Lamberts of Athenry Book archive.

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