Lowcay Family History

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A Genealogy Story

William James Robert Lowcay (9 October 1860 - 4 December 1902)

William James Robert Lowcay was born in Plymouth, England, in 1860. He migrated to Dunedin, New Zealand in 1882 as a bank clerk. Three years later, he joined the military. Having married in Lyttelton in 1893, he moved with his young family to Wellington in about 1895. He took a position as a military clerk in Defence Headquarters.

Early in 1896, William opened a copy of the local newspaper, and was drawn to an article by the visiting South Australian Chief Inspector of Vineyards, entitled “Culture of the Vine in New Zealand”. What interested William the most was that it was written by a man named Frederick Henry Lowcay. Surely, he must be a relation?

He wrote to Henry, who paid him a visit. It transpired that they were indeed second cousins. Henry was able to show him the medal that his grandfather had won at the battle of Trafalgar, and his great uncle’s medal won at the Battle of the Nile. William was able to tell Henry that the great Uncle’s sword was in safe keeping at his mother’s house in Liskeard, England.

William also showed him a copy of the family coat of arms. He had copied this from an old letter written by Henry’s grandfather, which was said to have copied from an old family memorial in a church at Kilhile, Ireland. Henry was astonished, as he had an identical copy. The two shared a common ancestry in south west England, and Henry wondered if there were still relations living in Ireland. William was aware of the Irish Lowcays, but had never met them. The two decided to keep in touch, as they surmised that they were the only two Lowcays in the southern hemisphere.

William duly wrote a letter to Jonas King Lowcay, who he believed to be resident at Kilhile. He was keen to get information on the family history, and share it with Henry. Six months later, he received a letter from a firm of solicitors explaining that Jonas had died some four years previously. He was unmarried, and had left no will, so the farm had passed into the family of his late mother as nearest living relatives.

Undeterred, William wrote back to the solicitor, asking if the cousin would be so kind as to forward any family history, or photographs, that he could spare as mementos. There is no record of the ensuing events, but it transpired that besides the farm at Kilhile, there was a considerable personal estate left by Jonas.

It would appear that Henry felt that he had closer kinship to Jonas than the cousin who had inherited the farm. William agreed, and offered to do all that he could to help prove that Henry was the rightful heir at law to the farm. A lengthy correspondence ensued, with family history collected from relatives and carefully documented and presented for consideration. However, the solicitors judged that the Irish cousins were indeed a closer relation, so entitled to the personal estate. However, as Henry was the closest direct male relative (second cousin), he may have a legitimate claim on the farm.

It is not known if Henry pursued this claim. However, the documented family history still exists.

The above is compiled from my great grandfather William’s correspondence.