The Brooksby Family

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Brooksby of Falkirk
"Sergeant Thomas"

This family has been very difficult to piece together and there are still large gaps in the Scottish part of it, but this is largely because Edinburgh is a long way off rather than because there is no material. Of great value has been the fact that the founder of this branch, SERGEANT THOMAS (1721-1788) of the 12th Regiment of Foot, left a notebook which is in the hands of one of his great-grandsons. In the way of family papers, this does not give as many details as one could wish, but it gives some which are invaluable, and irrecoverable from any other source.

The book says that SERGEANT THOMAS (1721-1788) was born in 1721. A descendant has added that he was born in Scotland. A later descendant says that he thinks this is unlikely. He certainly died in Scotland, in Falkirk, in 1788, and the book gives a list of his six children, all sons, with the dates and places of their births.

So far, a close search of all the known BROOKSBY families and of the parishes where they lived or might have lived, has not disclosed the christening of a THOMAS BROOKSBY in 1721 or thereabouts, otherwise unaccounted for, who might have left home to join the army. When one considers the thousands of possible parishes, as well as the non-conformist meetings, it is obvious that the search has just begun, and it is to be hoped that some of SERGEANT THOMAS's descendants will take up the search. Meanwhile, reasonably intelligent guesswork is the only basis.

Soldiering has always been a way of escape from low pay, shortage of work, or other more private problems. For people whose limited means prevented them from seeing the world in any other way, it was also the road to adventure. So the clue to SERGEANT THOMAS's birthplace may lie in the history of the regiment he joined.

The 12th Regiment of Foot was the East Suffolk regiment. Was SERGEANT THOMAS an East Anglian therefore, who joined his local regiment?

This is a possibility. Suffolk is not an easy county to research, and Essex is worse. The main BROOKSBY family did in early days have a Suffolk branch, which seems to get lost in 1559 with the will of BARTHOLOMEW BROOKSBY of Great Bradley, who at his death left three sons. But 1559 is a long time before 1721, and Great Bradley a very long way from Ipswich and Colchester, which were the centres for the 12th Foot. There is no indication of a continuing local family in those 170 years, though there are scattered indications later in the 18th century of BROOKSBY's in Suffolk and the borders of Norfolk.

The 12th regiment had distinguished itself in 1745 at the Battle of Fontenoy, and had been specially praised for its courage by the mike of Cumberland. Fontenoy was one of those messy battles without any clear outcome, but surrounded by romantic tales which stood a regiment in good stead when it was looking for new recruits.

The 12th came back from the continent after Fontenoy, disembarking at Gravesend in December 1745. Prince Charles Edward was now in the ascendant, and the government wanted as many troops as possible in the north, but the 12th did not go immediately to Scotland. They had suffered badly at Fontenoy and had to pick up recruits to fill the gaps. Half the regiment was distributed through parts of Suffolk and Essex, but the other half was marched through the midlands, certainly calling at both Northampton and Coventry, and then south again to Surrey on its way to gather again at Chatham and embark for Scotland where, incidentally, it did not arrive until Culloden had been fought and the Young Pretender's bid for the throne defeated.

It could be, therefore, that SERGEANT THOMAS (then plain THOMAS, aged 24) could have been one of the recruits picked up in Northamptonshire, when he could have gone to Scotland until 1748, thence to Holland, thence to Minorca, returning to England again in 1751.

The title page of the pocket book reads "Corporal Brooksby, His Pocket Book bought in Winchester Aug. 15th 1751".

The meagre facts do not preclude Corporal Brooksby having joined the regiment before Fontenoy. He could hardly have joined after they left for Holland in 1748. He could after all have been a Scotsman who joined in Scotland between 1745 and 1748. Probably the mystery will be solved one of these days. If he was indeed a Scotsman then there will be a fresh mystery to be cleared up how and why did his family get up there?

The most attractive of the three suggestions on the available information is that he was a Northamptonshire man and joined about December 1745, which would give him six years to get his corporal's stripes.

Drawing of Sergeant at ArmsAt a more factual level, we may imagine CORPORAL THOMAS and his unit marching from Winchester to Scotland in 1751, where the regiment was to be employed on road building for four years. The regiment's uniform, listed in 1729 was: "A good full-bodied coat, well-lined, which may serve for the waistcoat the second year, a waistcoat, a pair of good kersey breeches, a pair of good strong shoes, two good shirts, two good neckcloths, and a good strong hat well-laced." In the re-organisation of 1751 when the regiments were numbered, and their uniforms made distinctive, the 12th were issued with scarlet coats, lined and faced with yellow, and must have made a brave sight as they marched north, probably up the so that perhaps a Northamptonshire recruit might have a hope of seeing his home, or at least some members of his family, on the way.

At this time the inspection report on them was "an extremely fine regiment, perfectly well disciplined, and when supplied with a new set of arms, will, in all respects, be fit for service".

But as yet the arms most needed were pickaxes and spades as they laboured at building roads needed to keep the Highlands in subjection. During this time in Scotland SERGEANT THOMAS married MARY THOMPSON (1736-1796) and their first son JOHN was born at Craigenard, Aberdeen. No such place appears in the road atlas, but SERGEANT THOMAS's spelling - and pronunciation - were a little wobbly. JOHN was born on July 31st, and baptised at Crawthy (Crathie) August, 5th 1753 "the time we was making the road between Bremar (Braemar) and Gorgaff (Gorgarff)".

Six sons were born to THOMAS and MARGARET BROOKSBY, and the bare list of their birthplaces gives a hint as to what it was like to be a soldier's wife in those days. JOHN, 1753, Craigenard; SAMUEL, 1756, Maidstone; ALEXANDER 1759, Munster; THOMAS, 1761, Crimpson (?); DAVID, 1764, Stirling; WILLIAM, 1767, Falkirk. There is no record of when or where any of them died, but being a soldier's child was a good deal more dangerous than being a front-line soldier.

The children's birthplaces underline the regimental history. The 12th left Scotland in 1755 to march south again and embark for the continent, where yet another war (which the history books call the "Seven Years War") was beginning. SAMEL must have been born in Maidstone as they went towards Deal to embark. ALHNNDER was born in Munster, not far from Minden where on August 1st 1759, a battle was fought which became the l2th's proudest battle honour. An officer wrote home "The noise of the battle frightened our Sutler's wife into labour; and next morning she was brought to bed of a son, and we had him christened by the name of Ferdinand". One wonders whether a pregnant, or a recently-delivered, MARGARET BROOKSBY was as near to the battle as that. But these things will not be found out, not even whether SERGEAAT THOMAS was wounded on that day. Regimental lists only find officers worth identifying by name, and a search for the l2th's muster rolls or for pension papers in the name of THOMAS BROOKSBY has had no success.

When the war in Europe ended, the regiment went back to Scotland for several years, and was then stationed in Gibralter for fourteen more. But it seems likely that the Sergeant was by that time honourably retired, and settled in Falkirk for the rest of his life, leaving what the Inspector-General called "as good a regiment as I believe there is in our service or in any in Europe".

It is easy to follow the fortunes of WILLIAM (1767-1811), the youngest son of SERGEANT THOMAS, because he is the ancestor of the holder of the pocket-book, but there are other lines of Scottish BROOKSBY's which do not stem from WILLIAM, which have as yet not been properly researched.

In 1790 one ROBERT BROOKSBY, a labourer, was married to GRIZEL DEANS in Edinburgh, the year after WILLIAM (1767-1811) also married in Edinburgh. There must surely be a connection between them, but we know they were not brothers (SERGEANT THOMAS would not have left one child's name out of the list in his pocket book), and even the eldest of SERGEANT THOMAS's sons, JOHN (b. 1753), if he had survived, was hardly old enough to have a son marrying in 1790.

Is this, then, evidence that SERGEANT THOMAS really was born in Scotland, and had other relations? Not necessarily, though it is possible. It is equally possible that this was a relation from England who came to join the family at some time.

There were two BROOKSBY families in Lancashire in the 19th century. One stemmed from JOHN, born in Kincardine in 1809, and another from JAMES born in Scotland in 1832. There is a family living in Falkirk, who have not been researched, and who themselves can throw very little light on their antecedents, but who would appear not to come from the WILLIAM (1767-1811) stock. And there is a London familydescendedfrom one THOMAS, a young seaman born about 1866, who keep the tradition "As far as I know most of our ancestors came from Scotland". Again, there is a good reason to suppose that this is not the WILLIAM family.

But leaving these traces aside, we can follow WILLIAM's family in fair detail. WILLIAM (1767-1811) was a gentleman's servant in Edinburgh when in 1789 he married BEATRICE CONGLETON. Within three years he lost wife and child, and remarried 1792 MARY GILCHRIST, who gave him seven children, three of them sons. GEORGE (b. 1795) and WILLIAM (b. 1803) are at present lost to history, but the youngest, ALEXANDER MACKAY (1808-1892) survived, emigrated to London, and carried on the line in which we are interested. He was apprenticed to a cabinet maker in Edinburgh, as his family remembers, but later specialised in organ building, a trade for which his family became well known. He had eleven children between 1837 and 1861, and as the first to be registered in London was JOHN BALLANTINE (1849-1931), we may safely assume that the family left Scotland before that event, but later than the birth of the previous child WILLIAM (1847-1937).

Two of ALEXANDER MACKAY's (1808-1892) sons have distinct surviving families, and a third may have. One had a family which has since died out in the male line (the last surviving BROOKSBY was an unmarried lady who died in 1972 in Barnet), and the youngest son, GEORGE (b. 1857) disappears from the records.

The two sons who were organ builders like their father (ALEXANDER MACKAY b. 1844 and JOHN BALLANTINE b. 1849) appear to have split up intentionally. There may have been a family quarrel, since one pursued his trade in Edinburgh, the other in London, and the present-day descendants have quite lost touch with each other.

It is not easy making up family trees from the registrar-general's indexes, and many errors may have crept in, so it seems best to list here the whole of the family of the first ALEXANDER MACKAY (1808-1892).


ALEXANDER MACKAY (1808-1892) m. BARBARA CHAUDERS (1818-1875) and had issue:

  1. BENJANIN (b. 1837) m. 1860 - , and had issue:
    1. EMILY (b. 1661) m. 1903
    2. ELIZA JANE (1662-1926?)
    3. ARTHUR WILLIAM (1864-1941) m. 1889 - , and had issue:
      1. THOMAS WILLIAM (1890-1973) m. 1909 ALICE JAMES (1889-1965), and had issue:
        1. THOMAS WILLIAM (b. 1909)
        2. JAMES A. (1916-1918)
        3. GEORGE A. (1921-1974) m. 1970 - JONES
      2. ALICE LOUISE (1892-1893)
      3. ARTHUR ALEXANDER (1694-1897)
  2. MARY (b. 1839)
  3. ALEXANDER MACKAY (b. 1844) m. 1867 ELIZABETH RYAN (or RUSSELL) and had issue:
    1. MARY ANN RYAN (b. 1869) m. 1909
    2. CHRISTINA RUSSEL (b. 1871) m. 1899
    3. ALEXANDER MACKAY (b. 1875 d. in Canada) m. 1896 BEATRICE RICHARDSON, and had issue:
      1. ALEXANDER RICHARDSON (1897-1901)
      2. HAROLD OTTO (1898-1965) m. 1922 LUCY DORAN, and had issue:
        1. GORDON ALEXANDER (b. 1923) m. 1954 BETTY GLEDHILL, and had issue:
          1. ANGELA BEATRICE AmIS (b. 1956)
          2. DORIAN ANDREW GORDON (b. 1960)
      3. HARRY BADEN (1900-1901)
  4. BARBARA (b. 1845 d. inf.)
  5. WILLIAM (1847-1937) m. 1892 MATILDA - (1849-1944) and had issue:
    1. ERNEST WILLIAM (1872-1873)
    2. ADA MATILDA (b. 1874) m. 1903
    3. BESSIE M. (b. 1877) m. 1911
    4. GERTRUDE (b. 1879) m. 1905
    5. GRACE E. (1880-1944)
    6. EVA (1882-1972)
    7. WILLIAM REGINALD (1885-1890)
  6. JOHN BALLANTINE (1849-1951) m. 1873 CHARLOTTE BAGNALL (1851-1938), and had issue:
    1. GEORGE BAGNALL (1874-1959) m. (1) 1904 JEAN MACFARLNE and had issue:
      1. MARGARET ARNIT
      m. (2) 1912 ELIZABETH BURNS and had issue:
      1. JOHN BURNS (b. 1914) m. MURIEL WEIR, and had issue:
        1. ELSPETH ANN (b. 1942) m. 1964 - FIREBRACE
        2. IAIN ALASTAIR (b. 1945)
    2. BARBARA HELEN (1875-1956)
    3. JOHN BALLANTINE (1878-1961) m. 1904 and had issue:
      1. DOROTHY FLORENCE (b. 1905) m. 1940 - DAVIES
    4. FREDERICK HAROLD (1879-1965) m. 1902 - WILKES and had issue:
      1. HAROLD G. (b. 1913)
      2. OLIVE N. (b. 1918) m. 1939 - SHERLOCK
    5. EDITH CLARA (1885-1893)
    6. MAY LILIAN (b. 1893)
  7. BARBARA MARGERY (1852-1855)
  8. MARGARET BRUCE (b. 1854)
  9. MARY CHALMERS (b. 1854) m. 1895
  10. GEORGE (b. 1857)
  11. BARBARA CHALMERS (b. 1861) m. 1889

Members of the family of THOMAS BROOKSBY (stonemason). Presumed descendant of the Scottish BROKESBY's

THOMAS (stonemason) had issue:

  1. THOMAS (b. 1866) m. 1891 EMMA HARDY (b. 1868) and had issue:
    1. THOMAS WILLIAM (1890-1890)
    2. ROBERT ARCHIBALD (1891-1971) m. 1922 - NIGHTINGALE and had issue:
      1. ARCHIBALD A.. (b. 1923) m. 1951 - DENISON
      2. RONALD (b. 1925) m. 1950 - ATKINS and had issue:
        1. SARAH L. (b. 1951) m. 1970 - BATES
        2. JANICE 2. (b. 1955) m. 1977 - PACK
    3. SAMUEL THOMAS (b. 1894)
    4. THOMAS (1899-1899)