Monday 1 April 2019

RCBL solves Chicken Choker Kinmonth's ancestry puzzle

The RCB Library's Archive of the Month for April looks to the parish of St Anne’s, Shandon, where a genealogical mystery concerning the family of Kinmonth was solved recently. While originally a family name of Norman origins, and with strong links in Scotland, Kinmonth is not a typical Cork name, yet some older Corkonians would have heard of the Kinmonth family as being poultry and egg merchants during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The interior of St Anne’s church in Shandon, with the
original baptismal font from 1629 in the foreground.
Photo: Michael Foley.
In 1911, William Kinmonth was a town councillor, a JP, and President of the Cork Rowing Club, and lived in a fine house called Ferney, overlooking Lough Mahon in Blackrock. Cork wits called him ‘Chicken Choker’ Kinmonth.

Researching his wife's ancestry, Michael Foley hoped to find the ancestors of ‘Chicken Choker’ Kinmonth in the Cork parish registers held by the Representative Church Body Library. He was looking for another William Kinmonth who had come to Cork in the early 18th century; he was, he recalls, “not prepared for the mountain of records of Kinmonths” that he found recorded among the entries of baptism, marriage and burial – most of them in the registers of St Anne’s, Shandon.

The earliest was the baptism of a Thomas Kinmonth on 29 April 1780 – some 249 years ago this month. Thomas was the son of William and Elizabeth and the elder brother of Hugh Kinmonth who was baptised on 17 August 1790 and the great-great-grandfather of Michael’s wife.

It did not end there, however. Searching in later registers he found the baptism record of Hugh’s son, Thomas, and, stepping forward again, the baptism of Thomas’s son, William Kinmonth – the poultry man – on 4 May 1842. Three generations, all in the records of Shandon and all baptised in the same baptismal font that is used today.

As well as reconstructing the movement of specific branches of the family, Michael made other interesting findings during his research. One was the detail given in entries about sponsors of children baptised – or ‘surities’ as they were called – which paint a picture of a close-knit community with the Kinmonths ‘living in each other’s pockets’ of families such as the Clarks, Craigs, Franklins, Shuttleworths and Woods, acting as sponsors of each other’s children.

William Kinmonth was born the son of a weaver but went on to become a wealthy poultry merchant, and was able to buy the grand house on an estate of 25 acres. After his death, his family were the last residents of Ferney and sold it in 1940. The house lay empty for some years before being demolished. By happy coincidence the land in the front and to the right of the house was used to build St Luke’s Home, which for 130 years has provided residential care and support services to older people in the Cork region – a virtuous circle!

Michael Foley says: “Working in the RCB Library is a real pleasure. Its intimate and warm space provides the perfect atmosphere for scanning thousands of records without distraction – and the task demands concentration. The staff are ever so helpful at finding the exact register one is looking for and bringing it to readers in the reading rooms. To an amateur genealogist like myself their efforts let me bask in the anticipation of what treasure I might find in the next register.”

Dr Susan Hood, RCB Library Archivist, says: “It is most rewarding when visitors like Michael not only find what they are looking for but share their stories – so inspiring others in their research.”

More about the parish of St Anne, Shandon

Title page from the earliest register for St Anne’s, Shandon, RCB Library, P. 537/1.1