Anatomy of a Family (More about the Kissacks) - R. Kissack

The following initially appeared in the IOMFHS journal in 1983


The October 1980 number of the Journal (Vol II, No. 4) carried an account of my research into the Kissack clan as a whole, as information about it survives in the record at the Manx Museum. It mainly issued in statistics showing the spread of the family throughout the parishes.

Since then you might say I have been taking the skeleton of the family out of the locked cupboard of the past, and putting the bones together as best I can. The reconstruction is not complete - how could it ever be ? - but a beginning has been made. Earlier than the 18th century must be considered prehistory, such records as there are present only scattered and disjointed bones. Even the records of the 18th century can do little more than suggest likely articulations, such are the gaps and discrepancies. And I have yet to tackle in depth the period from 1800 onward, when there was compulsory registration of births, marriages and deaths, and the research will be more painstaking but ultimately more satisfactory. So what I write here are the outlines of the family's anatomy between the 17th and 19th centuries.

That paragon of genealogy research in our Island, Goodwin, left scrapbooks regarding every Manx family and among his notes on the Kissacks, he lists the numbers of households of the name in the 1880 edition of Kelly's directory, under the different parishes. In all there were 64. I have taken therefore the same unit for my basic reconstruction. I have used the baptismal registers of the parishes to make cartouches of parents with their children, one-generational 'trees', including ' all dates and places of marriages and baptisms, and burial dates as I could find. At a rough count I have about 350 of them. I have indexed each household under the parish it appears) with letter symbols for the parishes, and Roman numerals for the household. Where other documents, censuses, wills, etc., record discrepancies or additional information, I have tried to add this too.

I see no point in trying to fit these cartouches into a complicated Tree, requiring some vast roll of wall paper and a confusion of lines. Rather my purpose is to make it possible for anyone to construct his own tree, as wide or as restricted as he wishes by providing cross-references. I have therefore given each household a 'from' reference attached to the father, and a 'To' reference for as many male children as I could. In this way the line can be traced up and down. (I acknowledge that as yet I have not tackled the vastly more complicated problem of daughters, while being certain that it cannot pretend to be a proper anatomy without them.)

The nub of accuracy, of course, lies in these up-and-down references. In most cases probability must be the rule. Yet corroborative information may exist. Even before civil registration, the 19th century house-by-household censuses with information of age and birth place can produce a very high degree of certainty. But earlier there are frequent logical impasses, which of course become challenge issues for detective work in research.

But if the family trees are blurred, the Kissack wood as a whole presents certain general features which can be accurately mapped

We know, for instance, from Manx recorded history, that the family was established in the Michael Sheading at the beginning of the Stanley regime in 1405, and sufficiently important to have its members among the earliest known lists of the 24 Keys. They were in trouble in 1422, through their armed assault on Tynwald meeting in Kirk Michael. Two of them were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Yet the family fortunes do not seem to have suffered. It is even possible that they were reprieved. At any rate the name regularly appears among the Keys down to the middle of the 17th century, after which it has never featured there again.

At the beginning of the 16th century the name features among landowners in Rushen, and more significantly in Ballaugh, in the treens of Broughjearg and Balymoaney, where they probably lived in 1422. But a series of burial entries in the first years of the 17th century seem to account for three generations in less than a decade and lead to a complete absence of the name from Ballaugh baptismal entries for over a century. Yet the will of a William Kissack who died in 1600 contains a legacy of a Filcher and follower to William Kissack of Kirk Santan. Since the name Kissack appears in Santan for the first time in 1598, in the Bendoill Treen, it seems sure that the Ballakissack family derived from the Ballaugh branch. Early in the 17th century the family had extensive holdings in the Abbeylands of Lezayre, where documents imply that Kerrowmoar was 'antiently held' by the name. But there is no evidence that they came from Ballaugh. the family hold on Kerrowmoar was gradually weakened by mortgage and sale, and passed out of the family in the second half of the 19th century when John and Ann Kissack died childless But there were several branches of the name in 17th century Lezayre, settled on lands adjacent to Kerrowmoar, notably Close-y-Killip, intack land reclaimed and taken in to Kerrowmoar from the Curragh. It seems a fair inference that these families, millers, coopers and wheelwrights, came out of the Kerrowmoar family. Already in the late 17th century the name was borne by millers also in Maughold. From one of these, John Kissack, who married Mariod Christian in 1692, descend several northern ramifies which can be traced with likelihood to today, one line associated for long with the Port-y-Vullen mill. another with the Andreas family in Close-y-Sayle.Other Ramsey and Maughold families derive from Phillip and Alice Kissack, Alice's father being Hugh Kissack of the Nappin, Lezayre. The Rhenab Kissacks so descend to Major Jackson Kissack (who now resides on Ballamona, Ballaugh, the treen where the name lived in 1500), and his brother John, currently Town Engineer, of Ramsey. Descendants of another (the Ballagorrey) branch are living today in California. From the Close-y-Killip branch stemmed the line that produced James Kissack the Grocer. A John Kissag (1705-1775) became a shopkeeper in Ramsey, his son Willliam (1745-ISI ) diversified and vastly increased the business, and was worth ?10,000 at his death. His son William (1775-1824) had a Ropeworks and ships, and his son James (1816-1893) set us his grocery business in Prospect Hill, Douglas. In turn his son Edward Thomas as director of the IOM Railway, had locomotive 13 named after him in 1910. One of his sons was Col. Harry Kissack, for many years sword-bearer at Tynwald, one of whose sons, William, has just retired to the Island after service with the Rhodesian Police. My own family is of the Close-y-Killip branch, and comes from Ewan Kissack, a half-brother of John, the shopkeeper of Ramsey. Ewan, a Miller of the Kella, had 14 children and 30 grandchildren. In fact out of the 118 Kissack baptisms in the 18th century Lezayre, 40 were either his children or grandchildren. But it is only through his youngest (and illegitimate) son Isaac (1776-1838) that his line can be traced to today. Isaac had 5 sons and 6 daughters. William (1754-1861) moved about 1820 from Lezayre to Cronk-y-Voddy, and from him descends my grandson, Robert Ghan (b. 1975). From Thomas (1797-1892) descends the family of Alex Kissack of Onchan, and from the third son John, Miss Mabel Kissack, of Warrington. There are evidences of Kissack families in the17th century in Lonan and Douglas. Indeed some early 18th century wills suggest some linkage between the Millers of Maughold and Kissacks of Douglas. It is probable that the family established in Rose Cottage, Crosby, descend from a William Kissack of Douglas (the Fiddler, and maybe also called 'the Soldier'), through a son Philip (b. 1701) and a grandson, Henry (b. 1726). Certainly they descend from the Philip, whom I take (without evidence at all) to be Henry's son, a Cottier, and later Margaret Kinread. His sons and grandsons, and their progeny have followed constructional and engineering careers. The Crosby Kissack tree can be traced with great precision to such contemporaries as Derry Kissack the Builder. Another family, represented today by the Rev. Westby Kissack and Mr George Kissack, the Registrar, can be traced back with confidence to a Thomas Kissack who married Jane Bridson at Braddan in 1808. One of their sons, James (b. 1813) was a Flax-dresser at Tromode. James's eldest son Thomas was a Miller at Union Mills and later Glen Wyllin. His second son William was a Coachman in Douglas in 1871, a third, Philip, married Ann Jane Cornish in 1865, the fourth was James, a Mariner, (1849-1932), whose wife was Eliza Clague, and from them descended the late Frank Kissack, the accountant of Crosby. The youngest son, Robert (b. 1855), a Blacksmith of Hope Street, Douglas, was the great grandfather of Westby Kissack, Steam Packet Captain and ordained priest on retirement. Jurby was the parish with most Kissack families in the 19th century. They nearly all derive from a William Kissack who married Ann Kewish at Lezayre in 1726. Their one surviving son married Esther Garrett in 1751, and they had 4 sons and 2 daughters. These sons (John, William, Thomas and Stephen) ensured that the line went on through 13 grandsons. Some moved into Lezayre. One of Stephen's grandsons, William, married Elizabeth Quiggin of Michael in 1851, and emigrated to Wisconsin, whence one of their great-grand-daughters Vesta B. Hendricks belongs to our Society. Other descendants are the family of John Alfred Kissack, Builder of Kirk Michael, whose daughter is married to Tom Cashin, the Schoolmaster. It is unclear whether Ann Kewish's husband was one of the William Kissacks born at the turn of the 17th century in Lezayre or Maughold, although it is more likely that he would descend from the William Kissag who had married Mary Garet in Jurby in 1679. Most of the Jurby Kissacks were in agriculture, though one family to shoemaking. Patrick suddenly developed a Kissack population in the 19th century. And most of them descend from a Richard Kissack, of Arbory, a Tailor, who had also served in the Manx Fencibles. Most of his descendants in Patrick were Miners, though some combined fishing and crofting with it. A descendent of this family is Mrs. Edna Harbottle, nee Clarke, of West Hawk Lake, Manitoba.In Santan a family maintained its presence in Ballakissack from 1598 to 1870, when John removed on retirement to 14, Drungold Street, Douglas. Both he and his eldest son, John, died the next year. Two other sons, Allen and Alfred, went to Ballafageen, Michael whence their mother Elizabeth Cannell had come. There were other Kissacks in Santan in the 19th century, notably at Ballahowin and Ballavale, who descend from a William Kissack from Malew who married Ann Duke in 1821. Another was that of Thomas Kissack, of Port Grenaugh, the son of Isaac from Lezayre. These families would account for about one half of the households enabling us to see the general lineaments of the family. Despite the strong early association of the family with milling and ancillary trades, as of cooper and wheelwright, and occasional clothmaking, the great majority of the family were in agriculture, farmers, crofters, but chiefly labourers. Whatever our prehistory seems to hint at only three families attained even t notability. The Ballakissack family sustained a solid yeoman farming status for over 250 years. The Crosby Kissacks continue almost as long a tradition in the building and mechanical sector, including the development of the Peel bubble-car. But most notable were the Ramsey merchant family which had reached financial eminence early in the 19th century. They entered the professional field, as well as the commercial and industrial. James (1789-1825) was a doctor, Edward William (1837-1902) held several parish livings. Edward Thomas (1850-1928) was a dentist, his brother Alfred Douglas (1 0- 1945) took up professional photography, practised at Windsor, and became official photographer to Eton.

There remains one feature of the family, and that is the mystery of the MacKissacks. These enter the parish records with the baptism at Patrick in 1760 of Robert, son of Gilbert MacKissack, and Ann Quayle his wife. This couple had 4 other sons, William (1761), Ross (1762), John (1764, died in boyhood). and Quayle (1769-1834).

The first mystery is that of their mobility. There are traces of them in 7 parishes, but particularly in two - as far apart as Andreas and Malew. Quayle and Robert were mainly in the north, Ross in the south. William's was a tragic family. He married Isabel Corlett at Michael in 1798 They had 3 sons and a daughter. The sons all died before their early twenties. William himself was a pilot, and drowned in Douglas Bay, Dec 14th 1809, when an American ship Minerva, dragged her anchors and sank in a gale on the Pollack Rocks.

The second mystery is the prefix itself. Only one branch of the family kept it up for any time. A great-grandson of Gilbert, John, born 1829, who became clerk to the Santan Lime-kilns, passed it on to his 7 children who were using it at the end of the century.

But elsewhere it disappeared. It had passed out of the northern records by 1830 Indeed it was never consistently used even of Gilbert himself. In 1771 'the wife of Gilbert Kessage' was a purchaser at a farm sale in Lezayre. Yet in Andreas registers round about 1800 it was occasionally written, seemingly gratuitously of families who never otherwise, bear it. The William Kissack who married Ann Duke in 1821, seems to have been the son of Ross MacKissack born 1795, hut no trace of it is found in the Ballavale family of Santan.

Yet the mystery appears in other epochs. It is almost as if it were a vogue in Andreas about 1800 to spell the name with it, and as if there had been a similar fashion for a year or two among vicars and parish clerks, about 1760. The name like all Manx names had been regularly spelt with the Mac two hundred years before, but not usually since the 16th century. Then in 1762 the Ballaugh register records the baptism on Jan 11th, of Philip son of Michael Machissack and Eleanor Kewley of Lezayre. It goes on to explain that the floods of the Sulby River kept him from his own parish church. Yet Michael was one of the Close-y-Killip family, which never elsewhere uses the Mac.

Yet the form is found again in several deeds of sale or mortgage about the year 1690, in transactions over the Kerrowmoar property, with John MacKissack of Mutehill , Kirkcudbright, North Britain. In these John MacKissack refers to Hugh Kissage as "my loving friend and Kinsman". Has this any significance ? There is no record of any baptism or marriage of Gilbert on the Island. Was he then from Scotland? John had written into his mortgage that if he were constrained or compelled to flee from Scotland, he reserved the right under such conditions to have as moity of the mortgage back. Was Gilbert one of John's Family, constrained to leave Scotland after the '45 maybe Did he marry a Manx girl and elect to stay. Both of them died in 1773/4. Or did the Lezayre Kissacks have their connections with Kirkcudbright. After all Lezayre is nearer to Kirkcudbright than Castletown.

My enquiries have been greatly stimulated when I have had questions or information from other bearers of the name, near or far, and if the above comes to the notice of any other of the ilk, I could be greatly helped by any information about any branch of the family that they might be so good as to send it to me.

R. Kissack

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