The Family of Edward Joseph KEITH
Edward Joseph KEITH died suddenly in Sydney on Thursday 29 May 1837, aged 35. The Coroner's inquest, held before a jury returned a verdict of "death by apoplexy". Sudden cardiac deaths, ruptured cerebral aneurysms, ruptured aortic aneurysms, and even heart attacks have been described as apoplexy in the past. Any of
these causes would match the symptoms recorded by the Coroner.
Only the burial record is available for Edward Joseph. This records his age as 35 years, giving his birth in 1802. But despite his prominence as a solicitor in Sydney in the 1820s and 1830s, very little is known about Edward Joseph. Here is all that I have been able to locate.
Various sources suggest that Edward was born in Scotland. Although the KEITH surname is found in Scotland, it is not confined to that country. No evidence has been found in the Scottish records for his birth. Edward is not a common Scots name, being much more of English origin. Also, Edward travelled to Sydney in 1825 with his new wife and the Misses F. and J. Keith. These, presumably were his sisters. Miss Jessica Keith is in the England 1841 census residing at Islington East, Middlesex, and was born in that county. Perhaps Edward Joseph was also born in London.
Edward Joseph married Anne Boleyn McPHERSON at the Church of St Gregory by St Paul, in London on 5th April 1825. According to the 1851 census, Anne was born in Canada, a "British subject". She gave her age as 58 in 1851 so was born in 1793. This would have made her nearly 10 years older than Edward.
A few days later, on 25th April 1825, the newly-weds boarded the ship "Mountaineer" at Plymouth and sailed to Sydney, where they arrived on 25th November 1825. They were accompanied by the Misses F. KEITH and J. KEITH, and Mrs Saunders, their servant. The Misses Keith were probably Edward's sisters or possibly nieces. Miss Jessica KEITH returned to London prior to 1841 but nothing further is known about either of them.
Life in Sydney
As a solicitor, Edward and Anne would have been part of the middle class society that was growing in number and power, largely on the back of the convict labourers. On 1 March 1826 Edward joined Mr W.H. MOORE's law partnership.
Edward Joseph became well known in Sydney society. He is mentioned in hundreds of newspaper articles of the time for his work in court, and as a court procter, recovering debts.
He also became involved in local politics, joining the
Australian Patriotic Association, standing for Secretary in 1835:
Edward and family are recorded in the 1828 census of Sydney, confirming their arrival on the Mountaineer.
Death of Edward Joseph KEITH
Edward Joseph died suddenly in Sydney on 29 May 1837, aged 35. There are many unsubstantiated family legends surrounding the untimely death of Edward Joseph. The most common story, as repeated on several family tree websites (e.g. The Keith-Cook Family) states "Edward choked on a chicken bone at Government House during a banquet in honour of the coronation of Queen Victoria." The problem with this version is firstly, Queen Victoria was not crowned until 28 June 1838, over a year later. She acceded to the throne on 20 June 1837, so even that date does not fit with his death. However, the Coroner's report is more authoritative:
Edward Joseph's Will received probate on 14 February 1838.
The Two Families of Edward Joseph Keith
Edward was not alone in Sydney society in having children with both his wife and his mistress. It would appear that several of his colleagues were in the same situation. Governor Philip King (1800-1806) had two sons by convict mistresses and his deputy, Judge Advocate David Collins had four children by convict mistresses.
Here I cover the two families - his wife Anne Boleyn KEITH, and his mistress Louisa HANKS. After Edward died, Anne and her children returned to London, reportedly leaving Louisa destitute. Louisa married Thomas TROY in October 1843 and they had their first child in November 1843. However Anne remained a widow in London, dying there in 1857.
Last updated: 25 April 2010