Richard Fairbrother's little secret: good settller, bad genealogy
Anthony J. Camp
I have for some years been interested in the family of the actress Sarah Fairbrother (1816-1890) who in 1847 illegally married HRH Prince George, Duke of Cambridge. Recently, in attempts to sort out the various Fairbrother families in London, I have been looking at pedigrees of Richard Fairbrother (1808-1892), an early and respected settler at Carterton near Wellington in New Zealand. No connection with the actress or the duke is suggested or implied by this interest.
Differing accounts of Richard Fairbrother's family have appeared in pedigrees available on ancestry.co.uk. Some, although false or highly questionable, have sadly been given, without additional stated evidence, a bogus authority as a so-called 'source' (which of course they are not), denoted 'Ancestry Family Trees', and then extensively copied into other pedigreees. They may contain useful information but they do not direct researchers 'to determine if records are original, derivative , or authored' [see the discussion in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, vol. 103, no. 4 (December 2015) pages 304-5]. Overall I consider their conclusions, unless supported by other evidence, generally worthless, as this example shows.
Richard Fairbrother's early life
In 1835 a young Richard Fairbrother was a carpenter in south London. For six weeks he worked for William Priest, an auctioneer and furniture broker in Great Charlotte Street, off Blackfriars Road, in Southwark. Here Richard had, in Priest's words, 'the entire charge of the business', receiving money which he accounted for to Priest each afternoon.
Early in February 1835 the rooms immediately above Priest's shop were rented by John Cogger, of Water Street, Blackfriars, and Richard sold him a table and some chairs, a carpet, fire irons and other things. For these Cogger gave Richard, on Priest's account £6-11-6 in two instalments of gold and silver, firstly £4-10-0 and then on 6 February, the balance of £2-1-6. Richard left Priest's employ without notice or payment on 10 February 1835, writing to Priest and offering to pay these amounts by instalments. A very annoyed Priest said that he would not accept even the full amount and took the argument to the Central Criminal Court.
Richard then said that he had been out on a holiday and had been robbed as he came home early in the morning. Priest owed him his wages and a commission on things sold and Richard's mother had offered to pay off the lost amount by five shillings a week, but Priest said that he would make an example of him. Richard had not told Priest that he had been robbed and Priest had not paid Richard's wages because Richard had sold a bookcase three weeks earlier but had not yet obtained the money for it. Priest had insisted that this be received, and the wages taken from it.
Robert Flynn, who lived then in Priest's house, gave evidence that he remembered Richard coming home with about £5 or £6 in gold, 'because he would not leave it in the shop', and later saying that he had been robbed. Flynn had begged Richard to face Priest, but he would not do so 'as his master was so good to him'. This was about three weeks before Richard left.
Richard then also said that the money he had lost was not the money received from Cogger, but money received for other goods. Apparently with the optimism of youth, he had taken Cogger's money to pay for the goods he had lost earlier, hoping to pay for Cogger's goods by savings from his own wages.
A local turner, a cabinet maker and a chairmaker all gave Richard good characters, and he was recommended to mercy by Priest, 'because', the True Sun wrote, 'he understood that the punishment was fourteen years transportation', a comment which drew laughter in court. However, the jury found Richard guilty, and the Recorder ordered that he be confined in the House of Correction for three months.
These details come from the Old Bailey Proceedings Online, taken from contemporary published reports. There is a very short report in Bell's New Weekly Messenger for 21 June 1835, page 12. The True Sun for 16 June 1835, page 8, adds that Richard was to be kept to hard labour, probably on one of the many treadmillls then in use.
Richard had initially been held at Newgate Prison where the Prison Calendar has his name as Richard Henry Farebrother and says that he was aged 26, of Chelsea, a carpenter, and had been brought into custody on 25 May, being 'disposed of' to the House of Correction on 25 June 1835 [The National Archives, HO77/42 folio 7]. The Criminal Registers say, it seems incorrectly, that Richard Henry Farebrother could not read or write [The National Archives, HO26/41]. This important contemporary evidence, however, indicates that Richard (Henry) Fairbrother was born in 1808-9 and not in 1826 as shown on his tombstone and in The Cyclopedia of New Zealand: Wellington Provincial District: Ex-Mayors (Wellington, 1897).
Richard's location for the next few years is not known, but a child, Helen Sophia Fairbrother, was born on 16 April 1840 to Richard and Sophia Elizabeth Fairbrother, and baptised (as though legitimate) at Christ Church, Hoxton, Middlesex, as from 16 Old Street Road, on 21 January 1849 [sic; Entry 263, page 33], the father being described as a carpenter.
A record of the birth of this child in the surname Farebrother, which was not registered in England, is held by the Registrar General at Wellington in New Zealand, and reads, '10 May, Helen Sophia daughter of Richard Farebrother late of Hackney Road, London, and Sophia Elizabeth Sanderson, Born 16 April 1840, Wit Charles Rodgers, Wm Taylor' [New Zealand, Birth 322], which indicates that the child was illegitimate.This child does not appear in the pedigrees on Ancestry and its parents were not married in England. The mother, Sophia Sanderson, seems likely to be the Sophia Sanderson, aged 31 years, of Union Street, who was buried (for a fee of 8s 6d) at St John the Baptist, Hoxton, on 7 May 1840 [Registers, Entry 2394, Page 300].
It is curious that an entry for the birth of this child, 'Births. On the 16 April, Mrs Richard Fairbrother, late of Hackney-road, London, of a daughter', had swiftly been placed in the New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator for 20 June 1840 [vol. 1, issue ii, 20 June 1840, page 2d] and that a Notice in the same paper for 5 June 1841, page 4 (repeated on 12 June 1841, page 1), said that 'One small bale, directed "Mr Richard Fairbrother, Port Nelson"', had come on the "Lord William Bentinck", and 'lies unclaimed in the Stores of Ridgways, Guyton and Earp'.
The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in New Zealand states that he has no information about who provided the entry relating to the birth in 1840 or exactly when it was provided, though it is on a page headed '1840' (which may merely be there for filing purposes). The registration of births in New Zealand did not commence until 1848 and it was only after 'An ordinance for Registering Births Deaths and Marriages in the Colony of New Zealand, made on 15 October 1847, that a more consistent template started to be applied to the Registration of life events (including those 'born at sea or out of the Colony, of parents whose ordinary place of abode is within the Colony'), which should have included 'When registered' and 'Signature of Deputy Registrar'.
I speculate, but it looks as though Sophia Sanderson (or perhaps Richard's mother?) had caused the entry to appear in the press in New Zealand to inform Richard of the birth of his child, knowing perhaps that he had earlier talked of going there. The subsequent history of the child has not been found.
However, Richard Fairbrother enlisted in the 49th Regiment of Foot in London on 11 November 1841 having joined the Regimental Depot at Canterbury on 14 October 1841. He was given the Regimental Number 1818. The Musters of the Regiment (in the War Office papers at the National Archives) state that he was born in London and a labourer by trade. The musters have been searched throughout his period of service in order to clarify the basic facts about his life and movements.
In 1841 the Service Companies of the 49th Foot were in China for service in the 'Opium War' and Richard embarked with a reinforcement draft to join them there on 29 November 1841, The draft arrived at Hong Kong on 4 June 1842. By the end of August 1842 Richard was at Chusan (Zhoushan) and on 1 November 1842 he joined the Head Quarters of the 49th Foot when it arrived on troopships there.
Following the peace with China signed on 29 August 1842, the Service Companies sailed from Chusan and arrived at Calcutta in India on 6 February 1843 and in March the Head Quarters of the 49th Foot returned from there to the UK, arriving at Gravesend on 24 August 1843. From there it marched to Deal in September, then to Portsmouth in October, and on to Winchester in April 1844.
The long search of the Muster Rolls unexpectedly revealed that whilst his Regiment was at Winchester, Richard Fairbrother was in military confinement, his pay being stopped, for a military offence from 17 to 24 March 1845 and that he had on 25 March 1845 been sentenced to 28 days in the Clerkenwell or Middlesex House of Correction (also known as Coldbath Fields Prison) [TNA, WO12/6068]. This appears to have been considered entirely a regimental matter and no mention of it has been found in the registers listing District Courts Martial at home and abroad in March 1845 [TNA, WO86/5].
Richard left London on 1 May 1845 and joined his Regiment a day later, it having moved from Winchester to Devonport. On 30 August 1845 the Regiment embarked at Devonport for Ireland, landing at Kingstown on 1 September 1845, and from there marching to Dublin.
Richard Fairbrother's marriage at Castlerea (recorded as 'Castereagh'), Roscommon, Ireland, to Winifred Conboy on 25 March 1846, was found and published on Ancestry by Alison Brison in 2018. The register entry shows that Winifred Conboy, who made her mark, was aged 17, a servant, the daughter of Thomas Conboy, labourer. Richard Fairbrother, who signed the register, said that he was aged 21, meaning that he was over 21 and thus of 'full' or legal age to marry. No other early indications of his date of birth had been found, but we later found that he was born in November 1808 and he was thus some years older than his wife. The marriage entry says that he was the son of 'John Fairbrother, servant'.
Richard was then on detachment duty at Phillipstown (November 1845), Ballinasloe (August 1846) and Westport (September 1846), marching to Dublin in September 1847. There he gained the penny/day long service and good conduct pay, 20 November 1847. The birth of a William Fairbrother, probably his child, had ben registered at Dublin in the Returns of the 49th Regiment for 1847 [GRO Army Births & Baptisms, vol. 112, page 12, and again vol. 961, page 4] but this child seems to have died young and has not been found mentioned elsewhere.
The Regiment marched to Tullamore, 19 November 1848, and thence to Clogheen on 15 January 1849. Richard's detachment was moved to Cahir, 27 March 1849. It re-joined the Head Quarters of the 49th Foot at Templemore in October 1849. Richard was then on furlough from 1 November to 12 December 1849.
The birth of Richard's daughter, Mary L. Fairbrother, appears in the 49th's Rgimental Returns at Templemore, co. Tipperary, in 1850 [GRO Index to Army Births & Baptisms, vol. 961, page 7] though the entry has not been seen and is not quoted anywhere. Her tombstone at Carterton says that Mary Louisa Fairbrother, wife of Adam Armstrong (1846-1910), was born at Tipperary, 11 February 1850, and died at Carterton, 21 March 1925 [NZ Cemetery Records, 1800-2007, Wairarapa, No. 1536].
On 15-19 1850 Richard's detachment marched from Templemore to Fermoy, co. Cork.
Ionian Islands 1851-2
On 15 February 1851 Richard embarked at Cork in the first group for passage from the UK to the Ionian Islands. His Company was on detachment on the island of Fano (Othonoi) but had re-joined the Head Quarters by July 1851.
The birth of Richard's daughter Saphire (sic) Fairbrother is listed in the 49th Regiment's Returns as taking place at Corfu in 1851 [vol. 961, page 8, and vol. 5, page 20] though a certified copy of the full entry has not been purchased and again it is not quoted anywhere. This seems to be the child generally called Sophie, wrongly said by the Pedigree Resource File and many online pedigrees to have been born in Corfu on 15 December 1854, who married as Sophia Fairbrother in 1879, Charles Gibbs Beckett, a journalist.
Richard gained the second penny/day long service & good conduct pay on 25 November 1851, but over the end of July 1852 he was in hospital for a total of twenty days.
On 8 November Richard, still in Corfu and having served in the Army for eleven years, paid £5 to be discharged from his engagement.
A son, Richard Henry Fairbrother, whose birth was not recorded in the Regimental Returns or registered in England, was baptised to Richard and Winifred Fairbrother at St Mary, Lambeth, on 21 August 1853 [Entry 2213, Page 277], when Richard was a shopkeeper, at 7(?) Vauxhall Walk (?) but the register entry is very indistinct.
Shortly after this birth, on 5 Sepember 1853, Richard decided to join the Metropolitan Police in London. His application, available online from The National Archives [MEPO 4/334 folio 187, Warrant No. 31707], shows that in reply to the question, 'By whom recommended?', he gave the standard answer, 'A Parchment Certificate from 49th Foot'.
The baptism of Richard and Winifred's next child, Robert William Fairbrother, took place at St Jude, Southwark, from 1 Gray Street, Southwark, on 8 April 1855, the father being described as a Constable [Entry 187, Page 24]. Robert William Fairbrother was thus not born in 1856 as is sometimes stated.
The newspapers indexed online by the 'British Newspaper Archive' show that Richard Fairbrother gave evidence as a Police Constable in Southwark in cases reported in the London Evening Standard on Friday, 13 April 1855, page 4 (the arrest of a religious impostor), in the Sun (London) on 20 December 1855, page 8, also in The Era, on 13 January 1856, page 15 (when two card sharpers, whom he knew, were imprisoned). There may be others.
However, on 21 November 1856 Richard Fairbrother formally resigned from the Metropolitan Police in London and nine days later took his family to New Zealand, settling at Carterton in 1858.
New Zealand 1857-92
A cutting headed 'Shipping Intelligence' communicated to Ancestry on 18 February 2012 by Joanne Warby, taken from an unstated newspaper, noted that the ship Ann Wilson arrived at Wellington, New Zealand, on 29 March 1857. The ship had left Liverpool on 30 November 1856. The newspaper reported that the steerage passengers included, "Caroline Kersie, Thomas Blackman, Richard, W. Mary, L. Sophia, Richard, Henry Lairbrother" [sic], presumably meaning Richard Henry Fairbrother.
Winifred Fairbrother's obituary says that after a short residence at the Hutt they moved to Greytown, and moved from there to Carterton in 1858. Richard's obituary says that they had opened a general store on the Greytown Road but were washed out by flooding and moved to Carterton then known as the Three Mile Bush. Richard Fairbrother was one of the 'inhabitants of Greytown and Carterton' who signed a letter to the Wellington Independent, 7 October 1859, page 3. The Wellington Independent for 7 June 1861, page 7, shows him (No 1956) as having a Crown Grant, dated 16 May 1861, of 8 acres, 2 roods and 9 poles of land at Carterton. He was appointed a Captain in the Carterton Rifle Volunteers, 18 Seotember 1863 [Wellington Independent, 15 October 1863, page 3] but resigned 10 June 1867 [Evening Post, 17 June 1867, page 2]. His advertisment in a supplement to the Wairarapa Standard, 23 March 1867, page 1, said that he was at "Carteron, wholesale and retail storekeeper, importer of boots and shoes, timber dealer, a good assorted stock of sawn timber, and all material for house building always on hand; shingles, palings, posts and rails split to order". However, as of Carterton, storekeeper, he was adjudged bankrupt on his own petition on 2 September 1869 [Evening Post, 7 September 1869, page 3] and a meeting of his creditors was held 11 October 1869 [Evening Post, 8 October 1869, page 3; Wellington Independent, 9 October 1869, page 7] which asked for statements of account, 6 April 1870 [Wellington Independent, 7 April 1870, page 4]. He and his wife had become owners of the farm Dalefield at Carterton, 8 April 1869 [Alexander Turnbull Library, MS papers 11226-22]. He was Chairman of the Carterton Town Board for thirteen years and when Carterton was constituted a Borough in 1887, no other candidates being nominated, he was elected the first Mayor of Carterton, 6 July 1887 [Evening Post, 6 July 1887, page 2] and re-elected without opposition, 21 November 1888, 19 November 1889 and 19 November 1890 [Wairarapa Daily Times, 20 November 1890, page 2; Ex-Mayors in Wellington Provincial District, in The Cyclopedia of New Zealand (Wellington, 1897).
The published transcripts of inscriptions in Clareville Cemetery include [No 1664, Block 6-D facing north] the inscription, "In memory of Richard Fairbrother born in London March 10 1826 settled in Carterton 1858 died May 13 1892 - a good settler and accepted leader of most local matters in Carterton for over 30 Years, whose maxim was for the cause that lacks assistance and the good we can do. Also his wife Winfred Fairbrother died June 22 1926 aged 83. In loving memory of Louisa Davis died July 9 1899 aged 75 also Ethel Cliffe died Nov 30 1889 aged 16".
An obituary of Richard Fairbrother appeared in the Wairarapa Daily Times for 14 May 1892, saying that the area had been robbed of one of the most sterling of its pioneer settlers [Wairarapa Daily Times, vol. xlll, isssue 4113, page 3] but gace no age or date of birth. An obituary of his widow, Winifred, appeared in the Manawatu Standard for 25 June 1915, vol. xli, issue 10106, page 5, said that she wasborn at Castlereagh in 1831 and had married at the age of fifteen.
Richard and Winifred Fairbrother's later children, all born at Carterton, were for the record (from the New Zealand Registration indexes): [a] George Augustus Fairbrother, born 1858, married 1879, Emma Hart; [b] Eliza Ann Fairbrother, born 1859 [her tombstone incorrectly says 11 October 1860], married 1881, George William Deller [not Dellar]; [c] Charles Fairbrother, born 1861, married 1888, Florence Edith Cliff; [d] Thomas Frederick Fairbrother, born 1863, married 1894, Beatrice Emily Cliff; and [e] Rupert Fairbrother, born 1866, married 1892, Ellen Nevada Armstrong.
With the above information there seems little doubt that Richard's baptism is that recorded at St Luke, Chelsea, on 1 January 1809, as Richard Henry Fairbrother, son of Thomas Fairbrother and Mary Worrall Fairbrother, born 25 November 1808, and there can also be little doubt that his parents were the Thomas Fairbrother, of St Botolph Aldgate, widower, and Mary Worrill Hinton, of the same parish, who had married at St Botolph Aldgate, on 19 August 1800, he signing the register as Thos Fairbrother and she as Mary Worrall Hinton. Banns for the marriage had been read at St Botolph's church on 27 July, 3 August and 10 August 1800 [Banns Register, Entry 444, Page 88; Marriage Register, Entry 296, Page 140]. The witnesses signed as Thos Dixon and Mary Fairbrother.
Richard had two brothers and three sisters baptised at Chelsea, all entered as children of Thomas & Mary Fairbrother: Mary Ann, born 27 November 1801, and Elizabeth, born 11 March 1803, both baptised 11 September 1803; Richard, born 18 May 1804 and baptised 19 August 1804; William, born 2 August 1805 and baptised 6 April 1806; and Martha, born 7 April 1807 and baptised 24 May 1807. The first Richard presumably died young, though no burial entry for him has been found, and was replaced by Richard Henry Fairbrother, born on 25 November 1808 and baptised on 1 January 1809.
Richard's father, Thomas Fairbrother, was buried at St Luke, Chelsea, aged 33, on 8 May 1808, and administration of his estate (£100), as of Exeter Street, Chelsea, was granted to his widow Mary Fairbrother on 23 June 1808 [TNA, Prerogative Court of Canterbury, PROB6/?, folio 657]. The Death Duty Registers have an entry for him (No 733), as of Chelsea in 1808 [not seen]. He seems likely to be the Thomas Fairbrother, son of Thomas and Mary Fairbrother, of Aldgate parish, who was baptised when four days old at St Katherine by the Tower, in the City of London, on 23 April 1775.
The early death of Thomas, whom Richard had never known, would perhaps account for his son giving his name as John in 1846.
Richard's mother, Mary Fairbrother, who was alive in 1835, seems to have died before the 1 841 Census, but her death or burial has not been found. She was not the Mary Farebrother who died at 2 Angel Place, Webber Street, aged 69, who was buried at St George the Martyr, Southwark, from Angel Place, 9 August 1838, aged 69 [the wife of Robert Fairbrother], or the Mary Fairbrother [the widow of Edward Farebrother, farrier], who died from 15 Pelham Street, Mile End New Town, Middlesex, on 11 April 1843, aged 75, and was buried at St Mary Whitechapel workhouse, on 14 April 1843, aged 74, who is in the 1841 census at Pelham Street, aged 70, independent, born Middlesex [HO107/711-5-13]. She could be the Mary Fairbrother, aged 60, born in foreign parts, in the 1841 Census at Battersea High Street [HO107/1046-2-48r], lodging with a family of Hopkins, but not otherwise identified.
In what appear to have been misguided attempts to provide an alternative ancestry for Richard Fairbrother and to divert attention away from this very minor 'criminal', or perhaps in complete ignorance of the truth, some family members seem quite quickly to have given details that cannot now be accepted. Some descendants and other genealogists with access to Ancestry, unwilling to reject these old fictions, have sadly attached these spurious details to his family history.
Believing that Richard Fairbrother was born somewhere in England on 10 March 1826 (the false date on his tombstone and in the 1897 Cyclopedia), a pedigree on Ancestry makes him the son of a Henry Fairbrother (born in the City of London on 18 October 1795 and said to have died in Surrey on 25 April 1828) by a wife Mary Ann Flynn (said to have been born about 1796 and to have died at Norwood, Surrey, about 1869), the daughter of Edmund Flynn. However, no marriage of a Henry Fairbrother and Mary Ann Flynn can be found.
This Mary Ann Flynn is said to have married secondly (when she would have been a middle aged widow) at St Nicholas, Liverpool, on 14 September 1841, where the entry (No 188, Page 94) actually describes her as a minor and a spinster. Her supposed second husband was John Moore, described at the marriage in 1841 as a minor, of Cross Hall Street, Liverpool.
Mary Ann Moore, the widow is also said to have been buried in Norwood Cemetery on 31 July 1869, but the Mary Ann Moore buried there was from 7 Denmark Row, Camberwell, aged 73 [Entry No 32078]. The 1861 Census of that address [RG9/364-144-10] tells us that the head of the household there was not John but William Moore, a retired master mariner, aged 73, born in Scotland, and that Mary Ann Moore was aged 65 and born in Marylebone, Middlesex.
With them was a son, William Moore, unmarried, aged 35, a mechanical draughtsman, born at Stepney, Middlesex, who seems likely to be the William Moore baptised at St Dunstan, Stepney, on 16 July 1826 [Registers, Page 253, Entry 1668], son of William & Mary Ann Moore, of Mile End Old Town, master mariner. The elder William Moore, master mariner, died on 9 January 1867 at 7 Denmark Row, and his will (dated 3 October 1835) was proved in the Principal Registry by his widow, Mary Ann Moore, on 22 February 1867. However, she died without administering the estate and administration was granted on 23 August 1869 to her son, 'the only child', William Moore.
As Richard Fairbrother was born late in 1808 these stories about Mary Ann Flynn being his mother are obviously false, but they were being told by someone shortly after Richard's death in 1892 as they appeared in 1899 when the death of Louisa Davis , said to have been Richard's sister and named without relationship on his tombstone, was registered.
Louisa Davis appeared as a widow at Carterton in Electoral Rolls in 1893 and 1896 and she died at Carterton , 9 July 1899, aged 75, without rank or profession. Her death certificate, completed by a local undertaker, states that she was the daughter of Henry Fairbrother, a builder, and Mary Ann Fairbrother formerly Flynn. It claimed that she was born in London, England, had been 25 years in New Zealand, and had married at an unknown age, George Davis. She was buried at Carterton on 12 July 1898 [NZ GRO Death, No 4144].
A 'Public Member Tree' (with a claimed portrait of Mary Ann!) on Ancestry says that George Davis died at Ilford, Essex, in 1868, aged 44. However, no such death on that date or marriage to Louisa Fairbrother has been found. Her identity and the relationship to Richard remain unknown.
Other inventive persons have made attempts to identify the baptism of the younger Richard Henry Fairbrother in 1853 with that of Rowland Fairbrother, whose birth was registered at Camberwell in the March Quarter of 1853 [GRO Birth Indexes, 1d 450], but Rowland's birth entry shows that his mother's maiden name was Green and he was undoubtedly the son of the Rowland Fairbrother, lath-render, and his wife Mary Anne Green who married at St Augustine, Watling Street, in the City of London, on 10 August 1845. His father, John Fairbrother, also a lath-render, was of Cardigan Street, Oxford, in 1841, when his son Rowland was aged 16.
The General Register Office Death Indexes for England and Wales show that a Richard Fairbrother died in Chelsea Registration District in the June Quarter of 1888, aged 80. The 1871 Census also shows him, born in Chelsea, an inmate of Chelsea Workhouse, aged 67, a widower, and a carpenter. If these entries relate to the same person, the 1881 census shows that he was then an inmate of the Workhouse in Renfrew Road, Lambeth, aged 70, a widower, and a carpenter, but then saying that he was born in Birmingham, Warwickshire.
With cross-accounting some Poor Law Unions took trouble to check the details given by the inmates of their workhouses, Their sources were limited and if an inmate claimed to having been born in Chelsea and a seemingly appropriate baptismal entry was found in the Chelsea parish registers, that would have been accepted by the Poor Law's Relieving Officer until better evidence came along. The above example provides, not for the first time, good evidence to question the accuracy of some Relieving Officers and their records, but the Fairbrother genealogy here undoubtedly needs further work. The involvement of those family members who have inherited records, if any have survived, would also be necessary.
London, 6 September 2022.
Feedback 30 October 2022
On 29 September 2022 I wrote to a descendant of Richard Fairbrother, "if you accept that Richard was your ancestor, a carpenter, and had been involved in a court case in 1835, that the prison calendar of that cae has his name as Richard Henry Fairbrother and says that he was aged 26, of Chelsea, a carpenter. A Richard Henry Fairbrother was born on 25 November 1808 and baptised in Chelsea on 1 January 1809. Do you not think it likely that this is the same man?"
The descendant replied later that same day, "No I don't accept your current determined conclusions. I accept that Richard Fairbrother was my ancestor, and as to the rest, you draw lots of conclusions, including the fact that his widow hid his secrets. I will consider discussions with others who are working on this. One question we raise is Would Richard have stood and won for Mayor of Caasterton at age 79? However much respected - unlikely. We are sticking to our documentation, without discounting your army records, but other deductions not in agreement with". I have, however, heard nothing further.
When warned in July that the details did not seem correct, another descendant wrote, "Thanks for your message about Richard Fairbrother, but on thinking about exactly who they were and what they did or didn't do in the criminal sense is not what I would delve into as I would leave other people's criminal convictions with them. I will choose to stay with what others in the family have already researched and the family tree information handed down at the reunion I attended many years ago."
I should perhaps just add that (from the indexes of births, marriages and deaths in New Zealand available online from 1848 onwards), there was no other Richard Fairbrother or Farebrother living in New Zealand prior to the 1890s, who could have been their ancestor. The birth of Richard's child in London in 1840 would seem to destroy all their arguments about his age. No contemporary record of a birth or baptism in 1826, let alone of the marriage of his claimed parents, has ever been produced. Further comment would, of course, be appreciated.
London, 30 October 2022 (with additions, 21 November 2022 and 7 March 2023).
No further comment has since been received. If the documentation said to exist does, in fact, exist, no descendant seems willing to disclose it. 19 February 2023.