Thomas Wheatley Gibson continued the Gibson family tradition of giving his children multiple forenames. A few of these names derive from the Gibson family – for example, the name of their son Frank Montague Hillyard Gibson is obviously in part a tribute to Henry Temple Hillyard who married Thomas’ sister Henrietta. However, it turns out that most of the Gibson children owe their names’ origins to their mother’s family, and they have provided me with useful clues in tracing Isabella’s hitherto obscure background.

Until recently, all I knew about Isabella Gibson was that she was born Isabella Schneider in Milan, Italy, in the early 1820s (the census records disagree about the precise year of her birth). After considerable searching, I’ve discovered that she was the daughter of John William Schneider and his wife Caroline Wilkins. John was the son of John Henry Powell Schneider (1773 – 1851) and his wife Anne Catherine Penelope Congreve (1773 – 1814), the daughter of Colonel Sir William Congreve (1742 – 1814) of the Royal Artillery. Apparently the Schneiders were merchants who came to England from Switzerland in the early 18th century.

Sir William Congreve (via Wikipedia)

Sir William Congreve (via Wikipedia)

John William Schneider was the eldest of about ten Schneider children; he was born in 1798, a year after his parents’ marriage. On 1st April 1820 he married Caroline Wilkins, daughter of John Wilkins of Chigwell, Essex. John’s work took him to Italy, where a number of his and Caroline’s children were born. Catherine Mary Harriet Schneider was born in Cremona in 1821 and Frederick Schneider in Lombardy in 1826. There was also a John William Schneider junior, born in about 1824.

None of the accounts of the Schneider family that I’ve come across mentions Isabella. However, we know that Catherine Schneider married Edward Montague Suart at Chigwell in 1845. Edward worked for the East India Company in Bombay, and he and Catherine spent much of their married life in India, their two children Edward and Constance being born there. When Edward made his will in 1855, he described Isabella Gibson as his sister-in-law, thus confirming that she was another of the daughters of John William and Caroline Schneider.

Chigwell and Woodford on Cary's map of 1786

Chigwell and Woodford on Cary’s map of 1786

As we know, Isabella’s husband Thomas Wheatley Gibson was an officer in the British army in India. So Isabella would have been living in that country at the same time as her sister and brother-in-law, who presumably was the source for another of the names of Frank Montague Hillyard Gibson, as well as the third forename of Alice Matilda Suart Gibson. Another of Thomas and Isabella’s sons was named Frederick, presumably after Isabella’s brother, who was a colonel in the army in Bombay. Finally, John William Schneider junior also lived in Bombay.

Perhaps the most intriguing names given to their children by Thomas and Isabella Gibson were those of Claude Aislabie Vigne Gibson. I’ve managed to trace their source, but unfortunately I’ve yet to establish a connection with Isabella. When Claude was born in 1858, the only other living person bearing the same two middle names was a certain Thomas Aislabie Vigne. Two years later he would marry Julia Maria Vigne, presumably a cousin, who was the daughter of Rev. George Vigne of Tillingham, Essex. Their son Percy Aislabie Vigne would be born in 1870.

Benjamin Aislabie (via

Thomas Aislabie Vigne was born in 1837 in Woodford, Essex – only a few miles from Chigwell, with which Isabella’s family was associated – the son of Augustus Vigne and Caroline Aislabie. Both of Thomas’ parents had strong associations with the world of cricket. Born in 1811, Caroline was the daughter of Benjamin Aislabie (1774 – 1842), a wine merchant, amateur cricketer, and president of the M.C.C. Augustus Vigne was the son of Thomas Vigne (1771 – 1845), who was both a merchant (he was director of the South Sea Company) and a famous cricketer; another of his sons, Godfrey Vigne (1801 – 1863) was another well-known gentleman cricketer, as well as being a traveller and explorer.

I suspect that Isabella’s family – either the Schneiders, or her mother’s family the Wilkinses – were linked to the Aislabie Vignes by marriage. However, I’ve yet to discover the precise connection.