As many of my regular readers are aware, my introduction to family history came at an early age when I was presented with a beautifully handwritten copy of the family tree. It was given to the family by Philip Aynsley-Smith my grandfather’s cousin during one of his visits to Northumberland. The tree was the result of many years of painstaking research carried out by his father George, which as I am sure you can image, generated a mountain of supporting documentation.
Earlier this month I was lucky enough to become the custodian of part of this wonderful collection when it was passed to me by second cousin Viv, one of George’s granddaughters, whom until this moment I had never met, and can now honestly say, I wish didn’t live so far away!
The collection contains some amazing information, the mystery of a disappearing skeleton, a case of English cholera, and the poor unfortunate chap who met his end when a hen collided with his bicycle! It also contains numerous letters exchanged between George Aynsley-Smith and George Grey-Butler, son of Josephine Butler in the quest to resolve the “Grey” areas of the family’s mutual pedigree. These letters amongst other documents highlighted my total lack of familiarity concerning the Aynsley family, so this month I have decided to introduce you to them through the notes on the family written by George himself, with a foreword written by his son Philip.
Foreword by Philip Aynsley-Smith 1907-1997
"These notes on family history were probably written by my father in 1940. Certain omissions and queries in the original manuscript clearly suggest that he was writing from memory and without access to .the information he had himself assembled over the years. This suggests in turn that in turn the notes must have been written in the months after he and my mother had left their flat in Lissenden Mansions, Highgate (following the outbreak of war). Their furniture and effects were put into store, where they remained until late in 1940, when my parents moved into Westcroft, Norham-on-Tweed. It was at this time that my father's health was beginning to fail (though, characteristically, he said nothing of this to his family) and he tired more easily.
Perhaps this explains why, for instance, his account of the complex Grey connection under the Aynsley section seems to lack clarity. My impression is that by the time he had reached this stage in his narrative he was wanting to bring it to a conclusion as quickly as possible. Had he been in better health and, possibly, had he been prompted (for he was a reticent man), he could undoubtedly have said so much more. He does not mention, for example, that his mother Hannah Aynsley and her sister Mary were strikingly beautiful as young women and were known locally as "The Flowers of Coquetdale. Not important, perhaps, but a charming legend and worth preserving.
The letter which has survived from my great uncle George to his sister Jane, written in the year of Queen Victoria's accession, illustrates admirably the friendly relations between the Trotters and the Smiths.
Lastly, I have taken it upon myself to correct one or two small slips that I happen to have noticed in transcribing the notes."
Westleton February 1986
PHILIP AYNSLEY SMITH
The "Flowers of Coquetdale"
Notes on the Aynsley Pedigree
Augustine Birrell KC (19 January 1850 – 20 November 1933) was an English Liberal Party politician, who was Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1907 to 1916. In this post, he was praised for enabling tenant farmers to own their property, and for extending university education for Catholics. But he was criticised for failing to take action against the rebels before the Easter Rising, and resigned. A barrister by training, he was also an author, noted for humorous essays.
His Grandfather was Henry Grey who married his first cousin Margaretta Grey, sister of John Grey of Milfield. (Father of Josephine Butler nee Grey)
The “Grey” area continues to rumble on and myself and Claire Grey of the http://milfieldgreys.co.uk/ are now firmly of the opinion that it will only finally be resolved through DNA, so if you are a direct male descendant of the Earl Grey of Howick line, and would be willing to spit in a tube in the name of science, Claire and I would dearly love to hear from you too!!