Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sir John Campbell, Knight Bachelor, and his wife Harriet Maria: what probate told me

In 1851 and 1861, Sir John Campbell and his wife Harriet Maria were  living at 51 Charles Street, Berkeley Square, London  with four servants in 1851 and two of the same plus two new ones in 1861.

My first impression was that this was a couple who had spent 50 or 60  years together. There was no mention of children in either census, but  as Sir John and Harriet were each born in about 1781, any children they  had may well have been married and gone by 1800 to 1810.

Sir John's presumably self-described occupation changed just a little  over the 10 years. He was a Knight Bachelor and a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the Army.

The fact that he was knighted gave me some hope of finding a formal and  detailed biography somewhere, and I wasn't disappointed. Sadly, the name  "John Campbell" is hardly rare. Even "Sir John Campbell" born around  1780 isn't unique. Throughout, I've had to be careful not to get mixed  up with other Sir John Campbells and other army officers of the same time, named Campbell.

Knowing that Sir John and Lady Campbell were each 80 years old in the 1861 census, it made sense to look for information about their respective deaths first. This is following the principle of working from the known to the unknown, a good basic research strategy.

Sir John Campbell: Information from probate

I am quite grateful that the National Probate Calendar for England is available online through This index lists all the grants to people who acted as executors and administrators of estates. It often gives a few good clues about where a person spent the latter part of their life, how much money they had at the end, and often identifies one or more close relatives.

A quick search for Sir John Campbell dying in 1861 or later turned up an entry in the Wills of 1864.

Instantly, I had a positive identification:
Sir John Campbell, Knight, late of 51 Charles Street;
and some new information:
  • He died 19 December 1863 at his home on Charles Street;
  • He was Knight Commander of the Order of the Tower and Sword of Portugal;
  • His effects were originally valued at under £8,000. In March 1865, the value was changed to under £10,000.
  • His executors were Richard Onslow of Wandsworth, Surrey, Esquire, and William Campbell Onslow of 28 Leinster Gardens, Middlesex, Esquire, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of Her Majesty's Indian Army.
This provided me with clues to last a month. Wonderful stuff!

It will be confusing to start into Lady Campbell's details here but don't worry, I did the same for her and will be back with more about her, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.