Edmund Affleck and the Gibsons

In her last will and testament, signed and sealed on 30 October 1789, Sarah Gibson, younger sister of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth nee Gibson, left the sum of twenty pounds to ‘my godson Edmond Affleck Gibson son of my … brother Bowes John Gibson’. As I’ve mentioned before, Edmond is the only one of Bowes John Gibson’s children (he appears to have had about 18, in the course of his two marriages) for whom I haven’t managed to find any records.  However, I do have a possible explanation for this particular child’s unusual name.

In my earlier post about the children of Bowes John Gibson, I noted his habit of giving unusual forenames to his offspring: and of course, his own name is fairly distinctive. In all probability these names had some special family significance, though at this historical distance it can be difficult to discern what that might be. However, in the case of Edmund Affleck Gibson, I think I’ve worked out the origin of his name, and it points to another possible relationship between the Gibsons and a famous contemporary, as well as perhaps providing a glimpse into the life and career of Bowes’ father John.

Battle of the Saintes, 1782

When Bowes John Gibson married his first wife Elizabeth Hindley, at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, on 13 October 1766, there were two witnesses. One was Sarah Gibson, who I assume was the bridegroom’s sister, mentioned above. The other was Edmund Affleck. When I ‘googled’ the latter’s name, I discovered that it belonged to a noted 18th century naval officer and baronet.

Sir Edmund Affleck, baronet, the fifth son of Gilbert Affleck of Dalham Hall, Suffolk, was born in about 1725 and entered the navy at a young age.  He was raised to the rank of lieutenant in 1745, commander in 1756, and captain on 23 March 1757. According to the Dictionary of National Biography (accessed via Ancestry) he served during the seven years’ war, first on the Mercury and later on the Launceston. In 1778 Affleck was appointed to the Bedford and later distinguished himself in action against the French in the West Indies, particularly at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782. On his return to England in 1784 he was promoted to Rear Admiral. A supporter of Pitt, he served as M.P. for Colchester from 1782 till his death in 1788.

Admiral Philip Affleck, younger brother of Sir Edmund

Now, it’s entirely possible that the Edmund Affleck who witnessed Bowes John Gibson’s marriage, and after whom he named his son, was an entirely different person. Certainly, there are other Afflecks to be found in the Stepney parish records around this time, though no Edmund. On the other hand, one of the few things we know for certain about Bowes John’s father John Gibson – my 6 x great grandfather – is that he was styled ‘Lieutenant’ in the will of his father-in-law Joseph Greene, written in 1737. And it’s not as though the family were without naval or at least seafaring connections: Joseph Greene’s own father was Stepney mariner Captain William Greene; John Gibson’s daughter Frances married Captain Michael Bonner; Bowes John himself would work for the East India Company, his sons George Milsom and John Thomas would serve as military officers for the same company, and his daughter Esther would marry Thomas Lay, a mariner.

Although Edmund Affleck was some twenty years younger than John Gibson, it’s possible that the two men served together, or at least that they were acquainted through naval business of some kind. Is it possible that Affleck agreed to stand as witness to the marriage of the son of his former colleague, who had died three years earlier, in 1763?

It’s a continuing frustration that we know so little about John Gibson’s life and career: I’m still searching for his will, and he appears to be missing from the available naval records.

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