The Life Of Thomas Kirby 1831-1911 

You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks,
Jump over the hurdles
and break through the brick wallsthat are always going to be placed in front of you.
If you don’t have that kind of feeling for what it is you’re doing,
you’ll stop at the first giant hurdle.
George Lucas

George Lucas words have never been truer than when researching our families history.
Untangling the branches of our ancestors isn’t always as easy as they make out on television. You stumble across brick wall after brick wall, some so high and strong, you feel as if you will never break through. That’s when you need to keep a level head and look at the puzzle from different angles. You may even have to travel down roads of other families history, in hopes of discovering a clue that may begin to weaken the wall that stands firm, it roots deep and it mortar indestructible.
And at times when information is there in black and white, you may have  to go against the grain and follow a feeling, a heartfelt gut feeling to get to the truth.
The brick walls are not there to keep us out. They are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.
Determination and passion are the key.
And even when you know you may never succeed at breaking through, you’ll will to never give up because your passion, your love and determination won’t let you give up.
Family history is very much like a puzzle. Every little thing that happens to our ancestors in their lives, good and bad, becomes a little piece of the puzzle of who they became.  Each person a unique piece waiting patiently to be placed on the right branch.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been using every inch of determination to discover the life’s, the secrets of my ancestor Thomas Kirby, in hopes that I can place the puzzle pieces on the right branches. 🧩 
It’s been a journey and even through the puzzle is far from complete and the brick-wall stands substantially anchored, my passion, determination and love for the souls whom came before can not be defeated.
So let me tell you what I know about the life of Thomas Kirby, my 4th maternal grandfather. Before I start, there are quite a few Thomas’s which may get confusing, so I have numbered them for you as generation 1, 2 and 3.
So without further ado, I give you,

The life of Thomas Kirby 1831 – 1911. (Through documentation.)

1831, saw the coronation of King William IVKing’s College London open, the ending of the First Anglo-Ashanti War (1823–1831), the new London Bridge was officially opened, the house which would eventually contain Abbey Road Studios was built in the St John’s Wood district of London, the Tithe War broke out in Ireland. Freeminers in the Forest of Dean led by Warren James, broke down enclosures in the Forest and my 4th Great-Grandfather Thomas Kirby was born.

Thomas Kirby, was born in Hammersmith, Middlesex, England to Thomas Kirby(1) and Henrietta Ellis.
He was baptised on Sunday, 10th July 1831 at St. Paul’s Church, in the Hamlet of Hammersmith, Middlesex, England. His parents are named as Thomas(1), a Coachman and Henrietta Kirby. They were residing in Hammersmith.

In the 17th and 18th centuries Hammersmith was a small rural village that was used as a summer retreat for the gentry and city merchants. Writing in 1705, John Bowack said:
Hammersmith has several good houses in and about it, inhabited by gentry and persons of quality and for above a hundred years past, has been a summer retreat for nobility and wealthy citizens especially from about the year 1620 and the late unnatural rebellion.
The village was situated on the main thoroughfare from the west of England into central London and was located roughly four miles from Hyde Park Corner. Rocque’s map of 1761 shows that the main roads which still define the town of Hammersmith had been laid out by this date including King Street, which was originally constructed as a royal route to Windsor, Shepherds Bush Road (formerly Brook Green), the Broadway and Queen Caroline Street. Buildings were clustered on both sides of these main roads and along the Lower and Upper Malls on the riverfront, extending westwards into Chiswick. The village was surrounded by fields and pasture.
Although Hammersmith was well connected by road, Hammersmith Bridge was not constructed until 1824 and boats were relied upon to connect the town with the Surrey side of the Thames. Stamford Brook Stream was also used to transport goods to King Street, seen on Rocque’s map between Hammersmith and Chiswick.
During the late-18th and early-19th century Hammersmith grew to be an established village with a population of 5,600 recorded in 1801.iii John Cary’s map of 1786 shows that Hammersmith, in comparison with neighbouring towns such as Ealing, Acton and Chiswick, was more developed and had a growing cluster of buildings situated around King Street, the Broadway and Hammersmith Bridge Road.
Pevsner notes that there were few buildings of importance in 17th and 18th century Hammersmith. It had no chapel or place of worship until St. Paul’s was constructed in 1650 next to Queen Caroline Street, which was rebuilt in 1882.

Thomas(2) lived at, Queen Street, Hammersmith, Middlesex, England, on the eve of the 1841 census, Sunday 6th June 1841, with his parents Thomas(1) and Henrietta and his Sister, Lucy Kirby.
His Father Thomas(1) is working as a Coachman.

Pollard, James; View of Hammersmith Broadway and Queen Street (c.1831-1838); Hammersmith and Fulham Archives and Local History Centre;
Thomas Kirby40
Henerate Kirby40
Lucy Kirby15
Thomas Kirby10

Thomas(2) was residing at, Number 4, Sheen Dale, Richmond, Richmond upon Thames, Surrey, England on the eve of Sunday 30th March 1851, with his parents, Thomas(1) and Herrietta.

Thomas(2) was working as a Omnibus Conductor and his Father Thomas(1) as a Omnibus Driver. A  conductor assisted passengers to climb aboard or depart and took fares at the rear of the carriage.

Thomas Kirby51
Henrietta Kirby53
Thomas Kirby19

Looking at the google map image, I find it very intriguing that the sign next to the house is for “Stable Motors”. I wonder if originally there would have been stables there and that’s why it’s been named, Stable Motors. Could this have been where the kirbys kept their couch horses?

We believe that around the year 1853, Thomas(2) met and possibly married Ellen Tilley. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a marriage index for them in the names, Thomas Kirby and Ellen Tilley.
I can only find a marriage record for Ellen Tilley, for the October/December 1853, St Pancras, Volume 1b Page 63.

I ordered the certificate on the 26 Oct 2017 in hopes it is the right one. Unfortunately it wasn’t and it was back to the drawing board. All these years later I’m starting to think maybe they didn’t marry or maybe she was married before and that’s why I can’t find a marriage or another possibility is, they used different names, eg their middle names. 

It wasn’t long until Ellen gave Thomas(2) the gift of their first born. A son whom they named Thomas William Kirby(3). He was born on Monday, 24th July 1854, at Number 24, Clarges Street, Mayfair, Saint George’s Hanover Square, Middlesex, England.
His Mum, Ellen, registered the birth on Saturday, 2nd September 1854. 
Ellen signed with an X and was named as, Ellen Kirby, formally Tilley.
The certificate shows the Thomas(2) was working as a Coachman.

On Thursday, 16th October 1856, Thomas(2) and Ellen, welcomed their second Son, Henry John Kirby, into the family. He was born at, Number 3, Pleasant Row, Islington, Middlesex, England.
His Mum, Ellen, registered the birth on Thursday, 27th November 1856. Ellen signed with an X and was named a Ellen Kirby, formally Tilley.
The certificate shows the Thomas(2) was working as a Coachman.

Thomas(2) and Ellen, welcomed my 3rd Great Grandfather in to the family. Alfred Kirby was born Monday, June 4th 1860, at his parents home, 3 Dorset Street, Islington, Middlesex, England.

Thomas(2) was a, Omnibus Coachman, at the time of Alfred’s birth. Ellen Kirby nee Tilley, registered Alfred’s birth on the 11th July 1860.

1861 was the year of the census, which was taken on Sunday, 7th of April 1861. It shows Thomas(2) is still residing at number 3, Dover Street, Islington, with  Ellen and their three Children, Thomas(3), William and Alfred, also a lodger Mary Hutchin.
Ellen is listed as his wife. 
Thomas was working as a Ominous Coachman. A coachman was a man whose business it was to drive a coach, a horse-drawn vehicle designed for the conveyance of more than one passenger They were also called a coachee, coachy or whip.

Thomas Kirby29
Ellen Kirby27
Thomas W Kirby6
Henry J Kirby4
Alfred Kirby10/12
Mary A Hutchin60

Thomas’s(2) Mother, Henrietta Kirby Nee Ellis, died on Wednesday 1st October 1862 at, Number 3, Dorset Street, Islington, when she was 65 years old. Cause of death was, Softening of the brain, also known as encephalomalacia. Encephalomalacia is a localized softening of the substance of the brain, due to bleeding or inflammation.
Mary Lancaster, was present and registered her death on Saturday, 4th October 1862.

Thomas(2) and his nearest and dearest, laid Henrietta to rest at Islington Cemetery, Islington, Middlesex, England, on Monday, 6th October 1862.

More sadness followed when Thomas’s Father, Thomas Kirby(1), a Gentleman, died on Sunday, 2nd December 1866, at Number 5, Bridgefield Terrace, Wandsworth, London, England, aged 66.
A Evershed, was in attendance and registered his death on the 7th December 1866. Cause of death was, Paralysis, 1 year.

Thomas(2) laid his Father to rest at Brompton Cemetery, Kensington, Middlesex, England, on Saturday 8th December 1866. I have the location (map) of Thomas’s grave, please contact me if you would like to visit his resting place.

The next census taken on Sunday, April 2nd 1871, shows Thomas(2) and Ellen and two of their children Alfred and Henry residing at, Number 15, Dunford Road, Islington, Middlesex, England.

Thomas(2) was a Bus Driver and Henry was an Errands Boy.

Household MembersAgeRelationship
Thomas Kirby39Head
Ellen Kirby36Wife
Henry I Kirby14Son
Alfred Kirby10Son

It was between 1871 and 1881, we believe that Thomas Wife/Common-Law Wife Ellen died. 
As yet there is no trace of a death or burial, in the name Ellen Kirby. 
You can read more about the hunt for Ellen here and here.

On the Eve of Sunday, 3rd April 1881, the census was taken. It shows Thomas(2) residing at, Number 46, Cloudesley Road, Islington, Middlesex, England.

The census shows Thomas has a new wife, Elizabeth R Kirby and a Step-son, David J Mercer living with him.
Thomas was working as a Omnibus Driver.

Thomas Kirby49
Elizabeth R. Kirby33
David J. Mercer13


His new wife Elizabeth R Mercer, has sent me on a discovery journey as to who she really was? Ancestry trees uploaded by Ancestry members, shows that her maiden name was Mills.
Something just didn’t sit right with me, you could call it a gut feeling. I just felt this was wrong as I found her on the 1881 and on later census show the Elizabeth Mercer Nee Mills was still living with her husband William Mercer. 

Looking closely at the census records, their Elizabeth Mills was from, Godstone, Surrey, were our Thomas’s Elizabeth, was from Kent.

The wrong Elizabeth.
The right Elizabeth.

I kept going back and forth, checking all the census records I could find, checking marriage records, over and over again, while doubting myself constantly. How could so many people have Elizabeth down as Elizabeth Mills? Was I seeing something that just wasn’t there. I checked family trees after family trees on Ancestry, looking for their source of information. There wasn’t any, only the 1881 census.

Not one tree had a confirmed marriage date for either Ellen or Elizabeth, only a guesstimate of the year.
I wasn’t getting anywhere, only twisting myself up in self-doubt. So I decided to go down and sidewards and research Thomas’s stepson David.
Firstly I found him on the 1871 census, living with his mother Elizabeth R Mercer, his Father, William A Mercer and his siblings, William A, and Henry T Mercer.

I decided to check the birth index’s for Elizabeth and Williams Children’s. There it was in plan sight. Elizabeth was not Elizabeth R Mills but Elizabeth R Newman.

I than found the marriage record for Elizabeth R Newman and William A Mercer, which confirmed they married in the district of Malling, Kent, in the July-September quarter of 1866.

We now know Elizabeth R stands for Elizabeth Rebecca.

I than looked for Elizabeth’s first husband, William A Mercer, death. I found the most likely death record for him to be in the January- March quarter of 1872 in Lambeth, Volume 1d Page 337.  He would have been 27 years old.
Elizabeth and William were residing in Lambeth in 1871. (Source : 1871 census.)

I hope that wasn’t to confusing.

Anyway back to Thomas Kirby (2).

I am 99.9% sure that Thomas’s Wife/Common-Law Wife was, Elizabeth Rebecca Mercer Nee Newman, Daughter of, James Newman and Rebecca Elizabeth Newman Nee Patch. 

Unfortunately their relationship didn’t last long as, Elizabeth Rebecca Kirby nee Mercer Nee Newman, died  on Saturday 18 March 1882 at their home, 44 Victoria Road, Islington, Middlesex, when she was 34 years old. Her Husband Thomas Kirby, was present and registered her death on the 18th March 1882.
Elizabeth died from, Typhoid Fever, a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body, affecting many organs and Cerebral Congestion, also known a Cerebral Apoplexy.

I have yet to find a burial for her.

A few short years later, Thomas and Ellen’s son, Alfred Kirby, died at number 240a, Seven Sisters Road, Highbury, Islington, Middlesex, England, on Saturday, 25th May 1889. His cause of death was from, Sudden Syncope, Heart Disease and Rheumatic Fever.
An inquest was held on Monday, 27th May 1889.

Alfred was buried at Islington Cemetery, Islington, Middlesex, England, on Thursday, 30th May 1889. He was buried with 52 others in a Poor Grave.

You can read all about Alfred here.

Thomas(2) lost his eldest Son, Thomas William Kirby(3), between April and June 1894 in the Marylebone district.

I found a possible burial for Thomas William Kirby but this can not be confirmed without the actual date and location of his death. Here it is just incase.

Thomas(2), disappears from the census records until 1901, which show him residing at Grove Road, Islington, on the eve of 31st March 1901.
His son Henry John Kirby is with him.
Thomas is listed as a widow and Henry is a single man. 
Thomas is working as a Omnibus Driver and Henry as a Warehouseman.
This census was a little tricky to track down. I couldn’t find it on Ancestry, only on, Family Search, which took me to the image on, Find My Past

On the Eve of Sunday 2nd April 1911, the census was taken, which shows Thomas(2), a widower and his Son, Henry John, a single man, residing at, Number 58, Alexander Road, Upper Holloway, Islington, a one room dwelling.
Thomas is an Old Age Pensioner and Henry a Clerk.

This census is a little confusing as it states that Thomas was married for 55 years and had 1 child born alive and 1 child still living. Was he confused by the question and only listed his one son still living?

Thomas Kirby79
Henry John Kirby54

Unfortunately the next documentation I have for Thomas(2) is his death index, which shows Thomas died in the October-December quarter of 1911, in Islington, at the age of 80.


Of course I ordered the certificate which shows, Thomas Kirby, died on Friday, 20th October 1911, at number 58, Alexander Road, Islington, Middlesex, England.
His Son Henry, was present and registered it on Friday, 29th October 1911.
Thomas died from, Mitral Disease, known now as, Mitral Valve Disease.
Mitral valve disease is a problem with the valve located between the left heart chambers (left atrium and left ventricle).

Thomas was laid to rest on Monday the 23rd October 1911, at Islington Cemetery, Islington, Middlesex, England. Grave reference Q/19459.

I really hope Thomas had a good life, that even though he lost two wife’s and two Sons, that he was happy.
There are a many of my ancestors whom I would love to sit down and drink coffee with, while listening to their stories. Thomas is definitely on that list.
Can you imagine the things he saw while working on the streets of London.
I wonder how he would’ve summed up the stench, the poverty, even the riches.
I wonder if he ever carried someone famous in his carriage, or what scandals he saw.
If only these were documented so we could really see the characters of our ancestors.
I’m so very grateful for all the documents available online but how I wish there was more in-depth information into their lives, their loves, their dreams, their goals, their achievements even their secrets.
How wonderful that would be.

Thomas Kirby.

Death has robbed us our best,
but it has not extinguished the light.
The fire will continue burning forever.


I have brought and paid for all certificates throughout,
Please do not download or use them without my permission.
Thank you.

2 thoughts on “The Life Of Thomas Kirby 1831-1911 

  1. Intriguing.
    My coachman Kirby’s lived not too far away Paddington, Kensington and Knightsbridge areas. The earlier generations were in St Margarets Westminster.
    My paper trail from my father takes me back to a Richard Kirby who married a Mary Colyer. He then married again just before 1851 census and this named his father John. The family all were coachman or other horse related travelling occupations.
    I have DNA tested on MyHeritage and uploaded everywhere possible. I have confirmed the line up to Richard’s son Frederick via one of his second wife’s children.


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