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Townsend coat-of-arms

This website hosts the genealogical records of the Townsends/Townshends of Castletownshend in County Cork, Ireland. The family traces its roots back to Colonel Richard Townesend (sic) who was an officer in Cromwell's Irish Army. Much research has been undertaken to trace Colonel Richard's origins but nothing is known about him before 1643 when he was appointed to command a company in Colonel Ceely's Regiment.

Colonel Richard retired from the army sometime before 1654 and finally settled in Castletownshend in about 1665. He died on 25th September 1692 and was buried in the churchyard at Castlehaven; his tomb lies in the chancel of the old church and is marked by a slab bearing the words "This is the burial place of the Townesends". He had a large family with seven sons but of these it is only through his son Colonel Bryan Townsend that the male line exists today and the family thrives in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada.

From time to time different members of the family have drawn up some account of their ancestors but all of these remained unfinished or incomplete. In an attempt to correct this Richard Baxter Townshend and his wife Dorothea collected these accounts and records, both public and private, and published in 1892 a book entitled An Officer of the Long Parliament — Being an Account of the Life & Times of Colonel Richard Townesend of Castletown (Castletownshend) & a Chronicle of his Family. It contains much fascinating and interesting material and forms a comprehensive basis upon which to continue the account of the Townsend/Townshend family.

Since the book was published five generations have entered the world and much valuable information has been lost over the intervening years, particularly in the first half of the 20th century. Using this unique record of the family, the 1976 Edition of Burke's Irish Family Records and an illustrated family pedigree drawn up by the Honourable Judge John FitzHenry Townshend in 1869, I have sought, over the last 50 years, to emulate the good work of Richard and Dorothea Townshend and bring matters up to date by producing a record for every member of the family from Colonel Richard to the present day.

I have used many sources other than those I show above and these are listed in the Sources page. In addition, through the Internet, much new and valuable material has come to light that was not available before. In each record I have sought to encapsulate the life and achievements of the individual concerned and, where material is available, I have included a 'Personal Scrapbook' containing items such as photographs, letters and material of interest. With every record I also show the lineage from Colonel Richard and the relevant genealogical table, which can be printed off for easy reference.

The page Recollections contains two journals and a collection of letters that all make for fascinating reading:

Journal of Edward Hume Townsend - an account of his childhood and early years in India working for the East India Company.

Journal of Henrietta Townsend - an account of her travels to the Cape of Good Hope and India between 1841 and 1845 with Edward, her brother-in-law and other members of the family.

Letters from the Peninsula War - experiences of Colonel John Townsend during the Peninsula War with his brothers Maurice Fitzgerald Townsend and Abraham Boyle Townsend.

Colonel Richard spelled his name 'Townesend' and this subsequently became 'Townsend'. In 1870 the then head of the family, the Reverend Maurice Fitzgerald Townsend, following consultation with George Villiers, Marquis Townshend of Raynham, Norfolk, requested that the whole family incorporate the 'h' into their name. Not all did so and this continues to be the case today — some branches spell their name 'Townshend' and others 'Townsend' but there are also variations within branches! However, the inclusion of 'h' in the family name was something of an issue 50 years before 1870. Edward Hume Townsend recorded in his journal that his grandfather, the Rev Edward Synge Townsend, said to him in 1820 "Edward never suffer yourself to be persuaded to alter the spelling of your name by the addition to it of the letter 'h' ".

Few families have the luxury of a book covering their family history, which is available on-line for all to read, as well as a family website. There are now (2023) over one thousand individual entries on the website and, without reading them all and An Officer of the Long Parliament, it is difficult to get an understanding of history of the family. I have sought to correct this in the page Family Overview where I have chronicled developments thematically. For those wishing to get a more detailed insight I suggest you read the page Family Houses.

I published the results of my research in the form of a database in Microsoft Access format. Based on this database, my son Dr Richard Townsend created these web-pages using the open-source MySQL database engine and PHP scripting language. We hope you enjoy learning about the rich and varied history of the Townsends/Townshends of Castletownshend. The website is dynamic and there will be changes as it is developed further and new material is added. If you have any questions or comments, or you would like to pass on information that helps to extend the family tree, please do not hesitate to get in touch via the Contact page.

On a final note, if you are interested in comparative values for the money sums quoted in the records, visit MeasuringWorth.com. In rough terms, £1,000 in 1850 was worth £76,553 in 2005.

Colonel John Townsend
March 2023