The Burtons are thought to have originated in Yorkshire but by 1674 at least one branch was firmly entrenched in Shap in Westmoreland (now Cumbria).    James Burton, the father of Dean Edmond (b.1737) and Rev Edward (b.1747), was a gentleman farmer (not a clergyman as several histories state).   Edmond the eldest son and Edward the youngest were educated by a rich uncle.   They firmly believed that he would leave them a fortune but he left his money to a hospital instead.   Edmond was by then in Holy Orders.   He had been ordained at Peterborough.   He travelled to Ireland as the chaplain of Bishop Ryder whose rich niece, Catherine Baxter, he had married in Warwickshire.   They had no children but he seems to have been very fond of her.  Catherine Burton is buried on the East Side of Tuam Cathedral (the protestant one).   Her epitaph was as follows:


Under this stone lies

died the 13th May, 1782,
aged 57 years,
with tender gratitude
for 18 years of uninterrupted
happiness. Her husband Archdeacon Edmund Burton, placed this in memory
of her virtues
and his affliction


Edmund married for the second time in July 1783.   His second wife was MARTHA JUDGE born 1758/9.  Martha was one of the three daughters of Samuel Judge of Ballyshiel in the old King’s County.   Samuel is still commemorated there by ‘Judge’s Ruin’ (his house) and ‘Judge’s Bridge’.   The Judge family were very proud of their relationship (through Martha’s mother) with the Otways of Castle Otway.   The Otways of the time boasted two Admirals and this must later have helped Martha and Edmond Burton’s son, James Ryder Burton, when he joined the British Navy.   Martha was buried in Dublin.


Edmond was Rector of Hollymount, Archdeacon and later Dean of Killala in Mayo though he always lived in Tuam, Galway.   He was NEVER a Bishop.   RFB told everyone that he was but he died a Dean!


He was buried in Tuam Cathedral beside his first wife:


Here lies the body



the Very Rev. Dean of Killala

Rector of Hollymount and

Vicar-Gen. of the Diocese of Tuam,

where he was a beneficed Clergy-

man for 55 years.   He departed

this life on the 22nd March, 1817,

having attained his 80th year.

During life he felt truly thankful

to Divine Providence for the num-

berless blessings he enjoyed

“And when the hour of dissolution drew near

He quit each vain scene without a tear,

Without a tremble or a fear,

And mingled with the dead.”


When Edmond was still Archdeacon he was commemorated with his name on a bell.   I think this may still be in existence at Tuam cathedral but am not sure.

Edmond had three sons and an unspecified number of daughters!   I have seen his will  (written in 1799, 18 years before he died).   He repeatedly uses the words ‘share and share alike’ when allocating his property to his sons and daughters but never names any of them!    This terminology, though familiar now, was first used by Lord Edward Fitzgerald in his will.   Lord Edward died the year before Edmond Burton made his will and it was unusual at the time to leave property equally to all your offspring. I often wonder if the Dean had been a sympathiser of Fitzgerald.

Now to the Dean’s children:

1)  The eldest son was EDMOND (b. 1789/90).  He is usually described as Esq.   He lived in the Mall, Tuam, probably all his life.

Edmond did marry (probably the Anne who reported his death in 1870).   Edmond was remembered as a quiet man with a ‘quaker like’ wife.  He was a witness at the wedding of his  sister MARTHA SARAH and at MARIANNE/MARY ANNE/MARION’s wedding too.   He may also have been the ‘EDWARD BURTON’ who was a witness at CATHERINE BURTON’s wedding.

2)  JAMES RYDER BURTON (b. 1795/6)  Ryder (as he was known to the family) was educated at Eton (I have checked with them and they have him amongst their old boys).  He left at the age of eleven, just after Trafalgar, to join the Navy.   He had an exciting career (he could almost have been the model for Horatio Hornblower).    He received a ball of shot in his side when very young and it was never removed.  He was famous for an invention for propelling sailing ships along in a calm.   It was known as ‘Captain Burton’s Wheels’.   Eventually, he became an Admiral and had a ‘desk job’.   He was said to have become an M.P. for Tower Hamlets in London but I cannot substantiate this.  

Ryder married twice.   His first marriage is never mentioned in his official biographies.   I only found it in Lady Isobel’s scrapbook.   He was said to have married FANNY ORR.   Fanny was the widow of Rev. John Orr, Rector of Dunmore in Galway.   John was a witness at the wedding of MARIANNE BURTON and ROBERT ROE and one of the executors to the Dean’s will.   After Fanny’s death Ryder married a second widow – ANNA MARIA ROCHE.   Anna Maria (nee Plunkett)  was the youngest daughter of the 13th Lord Dunsany and thus a better catch than poor Fanny!   She had two daughters by Philip Roche and these had both married well.   Ryder and Anna Maria only had one child, a son FRANCIS AUGUSTUS PLUNKETT BURTON  who joined the British Army and married a great heiress from the West Indies  SARAH CHARLOTTE ELIZABETH ERLE DRAX.   Their only daughter was born ERNLE ELIZABETH LOUISA MARIA GROSVENOR BURTON and added PLUNKETT on her marriage to John William Plunkett, the 17th Baron Dunsany.   She later added three more names to the seven she already had – ERNLE ERLE DRAX.   She was rather a ferocious, old lady apparently.   She has many descendents.   I wrote to Lord Dunsany (now deceased) some years ago and he sent me in the direction of the Drax family at Charborough Park in Dorset.   Charborough is one of the largest privately owned houses in England.    I had been told that Mr. Hubert Drax would not talk to ancestor hunters but he replied very courteously to my letter but said that Admiral Ryder Burton’s family papers had all been lost in a disastrous house fire at Olantigh House in Kent.   He knew nothing about his Burton ancestors but wished he did!

3) SAMUEL JUDGE BURTON b.1796/7(called Judge by the family and named for his maternal grandfather).   He joined the British Army at the age of 16 and served in Quebec.   Judge settled in Canada and married a French Canadian girl, Eleanora Lemoine Woolsley, they had one daughter before Eleanora died in Jersey on her way to the South of France where she hoped to find a cure for her consumption.  She was only 23.  Judge was a customs officer and was also responsible for macadamising the roads of eastern Canada. 

EDMOND and MARTHA’s daughters were: 

1)   MARTHA SARAH.   She married HENRY IRWIN from Sligo in 1812.   Her witness beside Edmond Jnr was Robert Gore Booth who was Henry Irwin’s brother in law and grandfather of Countess Markievicz.  Martha had a son BURTON IRWIN about whom nothing is known and a daughter ANNE who married LORD EDWARD SYNGE (same family as John Millington Synge the playwright).   The Synges had a house on the Isle of Wight.

As far as I can work out, MARTHA SARAH was the only daughter to marry in her father’s lifetime.   There was a clause in his will which stated that if a girl married without her mother’s approval she would lose her inheritance.   Dean EDMOND died in 1817 and marriages followed fast!  MARIANNE in 1818, ELIZABETH in 1819 and CATHERINE in 1820.

2)  MARIANNE/MARY ANNE/MARION  married ROBERT ROE 10.12.1818.   I had the marriages of Martha, Marianne, Elizabeth and Catherine from the GALWAY FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY WEST LTD.   They found them in the Tuam marriage records.

Marianne’s witnesses were her brother EDMOND and the husband of her future sister-in-law, Rev. John Orr who was a local vicar.   ROBERT ROE is described here as ‘from Dublin City’.

3)  ELIZABETH married DANIEL SMITH of Tuam in 1819.   They had at least one child, a daughter who married a Mr. Matthews.   Elizabeth’s only witness was a William Grant.   Elizabeth is never mentioned by Lady Isobel in her collection of the Dean’s daughters.   Perhaps she married beneath her.   It is strange that the fourth daughter, Harriet was also Harriet Elizabeth.

4)  HARRIET ELIZABETH  b 10.12.1790.    Harriet (Known as Jack!) remained unmarried and lived all her life in Tuam.   She is buried in Tuam Cathedral where her tombstone describes her as 4th daughter of the Dean of Killala.   She was a well known local figure and said to have been very kind to the poor in the potato famine.

5)  CATHERINE (always referred to as Kitty in Lady Isobel’s lists of the girls) m 4.5.1820  HENRY ROE described as ‘ from St. Peter’s, Dublin’.  The witnesses were EDWARD (EDMUND?) BURTON and THOMAS HAWKESWORTH.   Galway Society tell me that Hawkesworth was the curate at MARIANNE BURTON’s wedding.  The Roe brothers were wealthy distillers who later lost their fortune when the Irish Temperance Movement took hold!

6)  MRS. GOSUT.   The only mention of this sister is by Lady Isobel and her printer had a job with deciphering it anyway.   There were Gossetts in the British Army at the time and I did track down a Gossett who may well have known the girl’s brother Ryder so he is a possibility.

7)  MRS. RYAN.   Lady Isobel includes this lady but says nothing about her.   

That is all I have on the Dean’s family.   I imagine that he must have been rather like the beleaguered Mr. Bennet of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with all those daughters!

Now to the Sir Richard Francis Burton connection:


After Dean Edmond had established himself in Ireland his youngest brother, EDWARD BURTON  b 1747 joined him in Ireland.   He became Vicar of Annaghdown in Galway.  He lived at Newgarden House just outside Tuam and married MARIA MARGARETTA CAMPBELL.  Maria’s father was said to have been one of the Duke of Argyl’s family and Maria’s mother, SARAH YOUNG, was said to have been descended from Louis XIV by a countess of Montmorency whom he may or may not have married morganatically.   This story is proving more than difficult to substantiate.   I have been nibbling away at it for years!   The Graves, Drought, Seymour, Driscoll and Odlum families in Ireland also claim descent from Sarah Young.   I am also piecing their family trees together to get the whole picture.

EDWARD and MARIA BURTON are said, in most books, to have had 8 children who survived to adulthood but I have discovered ten and there may have been more.   They are:

1)       JAMES EDMUND (b. 1776/7) known as Edmund.   He was a ‘Rev’’ and is sometimes confused with Edmond Esq.  his cousin.


James Edmund was said to have ‘wasted every farthing of his Irish property’.   He married twice 1) to Margaret Boyce and 2) to Elizabeth Meredith, nee Graves (Elizabeth’s brother was Dr. James Graves the Irish Physician who investigated Graves Disease (Hyperthyroidism).)

James Edmund had 22 children and step children.   He was a pioneer preacher in the backwoods of Canada though he retired to die in Ireland at Dysert Enos in the Queen’s County where his name is over the door of the church he built there.  James Edmund’s children include 2 military surgeons, one medical student, an officer said to have died in the Cawnpore massacre, a child prodigy on the piano, an authoress and two Canadian dignitaries!

2)  JOHN  CAMPBELL (b.1779)   He was in the Galway Militia and also studied for the Irish Bar though he does not appear to have become a solicitor.   He went out to India where he was a merchant in Calcutta and owned a boat named the Venus on which he sailed out to New South Wales and Tasmania.  At one time the Venus was captained by Eber Bunker , the ‘father of Australian Whaling’.  John was said to have died in India.   He first married HANNAH WATTS who died young in 1816 and whose tombstone stands in South Park Street Cemetery, Calcutta.  Secondly, he married an Elizabeth Caroline.   Known children were: John, Maria, Eliza, Caroline, Catherine and Sarah but there may have been several more.

3)  JOSEPH NETTERVILLE (b.c. 1782). Joseph was RFBS father.   He never reached Lieut Colonel as Sir Richard Burton claimed.   He refused to testify against Queen Caroline during the royal divorce scandal as she had been kind to him and his fellow officers and his loyalty to her, rather than to the establishment, cost him dear.   He was reduced to half pay and wandered through the watering holes of Europe with his wife and family in rather an aimless way.  Joseph married Martha Baker.   He had two sons Richard Francis (born in Torquay) and Edward Netterville and a daughter Maria Catherine Eliza.  Richard married Isobel Arundel and Maria married General William Henry Stisted.


RFB and Isobel had no children and he had no known illegitimate offspring.   His only brother never married and had to go into a mental institution after a head wound.  I have met at least three contenders for descendents of one or other of these brothers so they may have had liaisons which have not been recorded by history.  Maria Burton had two daughters, Georgina and Minnie, neither married.  Richard visited Tuam only once, on his wedding tour but by then there could have been few Burtons left in the town.

4)  FRANCIS  (b. c. 1784).    He was an army surgeon in the British Army when he was posted to St. Helena at the time of Napoleon’s incarceration there.   When Napoleon died Francis asked if he could take his death mask but it was stolen from St. Helena and another man – Antomarchi - claimed the credit for having made it.  Francis was married to Sarah Baker, a sister of his brother Joseph’s wife Martha Baker.  He had two daughters whose descendents I am still trying to track down.   Francis’ descendent, Edward Stisted Mostyn Pryce was one of the few relatives to have attended RFB’s funeral.

5)  LEWIS HENRY – He seems to have disappeared without trace.   He was said to have been a merchant in Demerara.   He may have died there.

6)  EDWARD – another shadowy figure.   He was said to have been in the Rifle Brigade but I don’t think that is correct as I cannot trace him.  

The daughters:

1)  No Christian name married a Colonel Crosse.   He was said to have been Commandant at Figuera in the Peninsular War.   During his life he received a ‘Diamond ring from the Emperor of Russia, a necklace from the Shah of Persia , the Knighthood of St. Ferdinand from the King of Spain and the Order of the Fleur–de-Lys from the King of France’.   You would not think that such a notable man could sink without trace but I cannot quite fit him in to the various Crosse families I have come across.   His son JOHN BURTON ST. CROIX CROSSE was a much loved army surgeon.  John married and had three daughters.   Am still working on the Crosses!

2)  No Christian name.  This lady married a Charles Smythe  whose father, Major Smythe, was said to have carried Wolfe off the field at Quebec.   Wolfe did have an aide de camp named Hervey Smythe who accompanied  his body back to England.  Charles Smythe was a cousin of Lord Gort’s.  He was a grandson of Archbishop Arthur Smyth (Archbishop of Dublin).

3) No Christian name.  This lady married a Mr. Matthews and I am in contact with a man who is researching cousins of the Mathews family – the Grays of Claremorris.  The renowned New Zealand Judge Moses Wilson Grey was a cousin to Mr. Matthews.

4) CATHERINE the only daughter with a Christian name here!   She married Col. George Thomas D’Aguilar in India in 1814.   They are thought to have had about 20 children.    One of Catherine’s grandsons – Charles D’Aguilar Pope died at the Battle of Isandhlwana (the one which they had just had when the film ‘Zulu’ begins).   Charlie  Pope (RFB met him and liked him very much) was found on the battlefield transfixed by a Zulu spear.   He was still wearing his monocle.   The Zulus called him ‘the man with the glass eye’.   I have yet to trace a living descendent of any of the Burton girls.  

 I am still hoping that someone, somewhere has a complete tree of the brothers EDMOND and EDWARD. 

The Burtons were desperate to link themselves with the aristocracy.   They recorded the most distant relationships with the peerage but never seemed to make any of the great marriages themselves.  Sir Richard was reported to have said that he would ‘rather have been the bastard of a king than the son of an honest man’ even though he was always berating the English as a nation of snobs!

Helen Burton 2004