1913 Letter to Charles J Foskett

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This is a copy of a letter sent to Charles J Foskett of Cleveland, Ohio, in 1913, following an enquiry about a Sir William Foskett. Unfortunately many Americans have taken this letter as some sort of proof for the origins of the Fosketts. I repeat the letter beneath with my comments, pointing out the numerous errors it contains.
I have also tried to find a Sir George Hanby in the 1901 census for England. The only George Hanby of the correct age is a sub-postmaster - certainly not a knighted gentleman at that time.


The letter with Sandra's comments in italics.

Dear Sir:

Your letter has been referred to me and as I am somewhat interested in genealogy I have taken the pains to look up the record of the Foskett family in England, and have traced them back to 1559. In that year which was turbulent time in France, there was a Sir William Foskette lived in the south of France. In defence of his home his entire family was killed and his estate confiscated by order of Henry 2nd, King of France.
(No sources quoted; no record of this has ever been found. There is no single source where you can "look up" the record of a family.)

Sir Knight William Foskette was next heard of at Fontency where he was given the title of Sir William Foskette and an estate settled on him at Warwickshire, England, By his bravery in that famous battle he saved the banner of the King,
(The Battle of Fontency took place in 1745. Doubt whether a 200 year old Sir William was still fighting battles!! I have never found any evidence of a Foskett saving the King's banner and certainly no Foskett, William or otherwise, was knighted)

Sir William Foskette married a Scotch lady and from this union was born six children, five boys and one girl.
(I suspect that this story is tied up with Joseph Foskett, who became a very wealthy merchant in the weaving trade in London in the mid 18th century, It would appear that he went to some lengths to hide his humble beginnings and he did become armigerous. He had 5 sons and 2 daughters and one son was born in Dunbar in Scotland, so there is a possibility that his wife was a Scot. This same family also claimed Huguenot ancestry, claiming they arrived in England in the late 17th century. However, the family were in Hertfordshire in the late 17th century and I believe their origins were Buckinghamshire, England)

I found from the army records that there has always been some of his decendants in the English army, three losing their lives in Spain, two at Waterloo. and three in the Indian Mutiny in India,
(There is an element of truth in this statement if one assumes these are the sons of Joseph Foskett. His son William Reynolds Foskett served as an ensign in Madras, India and his son Joseph Foskett was also a Colonel in the 31st Regiment of Foot. However, at least the latter survived into his old-age and died in England. Joseph (senior) had a brother Henry Foskett who was a Captain in the 15th Hussars at the time of Waterloo, but who also died of old-age in England. There is evidence that Henry was destined for Spain during the Peninsular Wars, No other Fosketts are found in Army records at this time.)

There was no family in England until the coming of Sir William, at least the name does not appear in any records.
(Not true)

After the settlement of America, or about 1690 one family went over and early in 1700 three families went and settled in Massachusetts, and at the time of the war of the Revolution I find one of them was an officer in the American Army.
(Well, the dates aren't correct, as John Foskett is found in Massachusetts in 1657/8 and served in King Phillips War. A number of Fosketts did fight in the Revolutionary War)

There is yet in England a good many of their descendants and all are good citizens and respectable people.
(Not all of them! And in fact this particular branch of the family had no living Foskett descendants at the time this letter was written)

Two families live at Odell in Ayreshire.
(No Odell in Ayrshire which is in Scotland. There are Foskett's living some 350 miles away in Odell, Bedfordshire in the 1800's - all agricultural labourers- and several common criminals! Saying that Odell is in Ayrshire is like saying New York City is in California.)

Now, Mr. Foskett, I only hope that the Fosketts in The United States are as respectable fine people as are those remain on old England. The Cross of St. George is known the world over equally as the flag you call Old Glory, Long may they both journey side by side in the civilization and Christianization of the world. I am very glad that I could be of any assistance to you as I am well along in years, being ninety five years old, and like all gentlemen of England, I am trying to do some good in my old age.
(95 years old and slightly gaga in his old age?)

With best wishes to you and all Fosketts in the United States, I am,
Very truly yours,
This is an exact copy of a letter received by Charles J. Foskett of Cleveland, Ohio about 1913.

© Sandra J Smith MBE 2007