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Historical Hinterland

The real thrill of genealogical research is in its backward thrust from the many descendants to the one ancestor. In the Kissack saga the frontier between recorded data and the speculative is 1696, beyond which Lezayre, the parish where they were chiefly found, has no parochial baptismal, marriage or burial records, and the track must be made through such auxiliary documents as exist, the Presentments of the Spiritual Courts, Probates, Land-transactions, and the rare Marriage Contract.

So in the case of Lezayre (and also of Santon) there is an added section of family units so constructed, under the reference codes of PLz and PSa (P for pre-history) with Arabic numerals. Dates are usually those of death, and even so these barely extend upwards of mid-century, where there is however a useful starting-point in the Land Registers that had to be remade under the fiscal exigencies of the Civil War.

Santon having only 6 wills and no Land transactions in the 17th century, as against 17 wills and numerous land-deals in Lezayre, its four family units may be looked at first.

These reveal links with Braddan as well as the Santon records. The Robert Kiusake of (BaI) may well be the Robert of (PSa1 and PSa2), the spelling of the name there, and even more in (PSa3), having a flavour of the Irish Cusack, suggesting that in the Douglas area this may have influenced the pronunciation.

One must ask too, whether the William of (PSa1) is the same as the William of Kirk Santon mentioned in the Ballaugh will of 1600, and the first of the name to be entered in the Bendoill treen in 1598. If so he must have been 80 or more at his death in 1660. This is, however, by no means impossible, for none of the four sons of his will survived him by more than a dozen years. (It was their burials that Isabel Brew was to recall in 1731). But he could well be the William who compounded for the new rates in 1643 for Ballakissage and its intacks. Other early rent rolls name as William the grandson and great-grandson of the compounder, and it is a fair inference that this last is the William of (San who married in 1695. Yet this succession of Williams highlights the absence of the name from the wills, explicable by the custom of not mentioning the heir in a will, or even children who have already had a marriage settlement.

The real challenges lie in Lezayre. There the family holdings of Abbeylands (whose records only begin in 1610, a full century later than the Lord`s lands) in the early part of the century amounted to nearly a quarter of the whole, and were held in the names of William and Hugh. In 1643 intack land was held by Edward and William Junior.

Research produces traces of some 20 family units, disjointed and tantalising, so few details corresponding precisely with each other. So much the greater then is the incentive to press pedigree upward, with the particular objective of discovering the point of divergence of the two chief branches, where the tradesman family of Close-y-Killip parted from the senior, landowner branch of Kerrowmoar.

The transcript of an 18th century Inquest into the watercourses on Close-y-Killip explains how the area came about as the extension of Kerrowmoar seawards across the reclaimed curragh-land. By the end of the 18th century the name was obsolete, lost among the new names formed as the land was divided up and sold in parcels. The last portion of it that Kissacks held was called Close-y-Voddey. But in 1643 when the Stanlagh Moar offered his new rent settlement to landholders, all Close-y-Killip was entered under one name, William Kissack junior.

There is little difficulty in tracing the Kerrowmoar line back to the William who died in 1654 (PLz1). We might call him William the Coroner (after his murder investigation of 1639). He would have been born perhaps as far back as the 1580s. He was succeeded by Edward (PLz5) (1607-1671). An entry in the land records at the end of the century expressly states his heir was William (PLz9) his son, and William's, Ewan (LzV). Details of the inventories of the deceased and the claims made against their estates at death confirm the impression that the landed branch was already in sad straits in 1654. Almost the first act of Edward was to sell part of the Nappin to John Standish (whom he called 'my loving friend and kinsman', suggesting a link somewhere with the family of Miles Standish of the Mayflower.) Formidable debts are revealed in the wills of Edward himself, 1671, and his wife Jane Woods, 1665 (PLz5), and even more in those of William and his wife, Margaret Crow (PLz9) in 1683 and 1676 respectively. She died when only one of her four children , were of age. Ewan must have barely reached 14, when on his father's death he was summoned to court at Ramsey in March 1681/2, and required to give solemn surety for his dead parents' debts. It was a hard start for what was to prove a hard life all the way.

Ewan's uncle Hugh was made his supervisor. At his father's, (Edward) death in 1671, the Court was unsure whether Hugh had married or not. So we can assume that it was about then that he married Ann Roberts (LzIV). They had four daughters, one of whom was to marry Philip Kissage in 1707 (LzVII).

But the rest of the Lezayre Kissacks do not readily fall into any sort of convincing pattern. Indeed the families of Edmond (PLz3), Jane and her child (PLz6), Henry and Joney Kinry (PLz4), William and Joney (PLz7), William and Ellin (PLz11), William the Cooper (PLz13), John (PLz10), John and Joney (PLz15), John of the Corragh (PLz17), and even Ewan and Jane Sayle (PLz8) find no easy place. Mysterious also is the domestic situation of that William Kissage who was sent from one prison cell in Castle Rushen in 1667 to another in St. German's, until he be 'obedient unto his father as becometh a child, and respect, love and use his wife as a husband ought to do'.

In the end the challenge of Close-y-Killip is to identify the characters known (1) as William Junior, and (2) as William of the Curragh. To this end two documents are of special usefulness. One is Ewan Kissag`s Contract-Bargain of 1717, and the other the will of Isabel Kissage of 1725.

The 'Bargain' is dated June 13, 1717, and begins : 'Forasmuch as I, Ewan Kissage, Weaver, son of William Kissage Corragh, gave and made a contract-bargain to my son Ewan Kissage and his former wife, Jonny Cowle deceased several years ago . . .' Its purpose is to except a parcel of land of 1/10.5 rent in Close-y-Killip, which by right should be inherited by the eldest of his sons, John, who had just turned up after being lost to sight for 20 years. Thus the document gives a clear 3-generational descent to a Ewan who died in 1741, outlived by his second wife, Esther Kissage, also mentioned in the bargain. (These had no children left to care for them, and so finally they were to trade their parcel of land to John Corlett in return for an annuitance of house and board for the rest of their lives - in Esther's case till 1754.)

The will of Isabel Kissage is extremely full, mentioning circumstances and a wide circle of people, but basically it shows : (1) her husband was a William Kissag; they had married in 1705; (2) she herself was also a Kissack; (3) there were no children, but she named three brothers, Ewan, John and Philip, a sister Jane, and another Elizabeth, married to Edward Killey; she had a sister-in-law Esther, also Kissack by birth; (4) she had a concern that a mortgage on part of William Cowley's Close should be redeemed.

Although there must have been little difference in ages, she cannot have been Isabel of the foul tongue. Who her husband was is another conundrum. A mortgage of 1704 calls him `junior`. The same mortgage then and a decade later associates him as backer of Philip Kissage.

Philip is also a problem character. He was to marry into the Kerrowmoar family in 1707 (LzVII), and his progeny would spread far and continue long. His name appears linked with Isabel in the will of that other William who married Mariod Gill (or Killey) (LzVI). This last had died in 1720, directing in his will that Philip and Isabel settle a debt for him. This suggests a close family connection. They could hardly be his children (even if there was a Philip son of William baptised in Lezayre in 1698); could they be his brother and sister, born presumably in the 1660s?

It would be of great value to establish the paternity of this William, being a character of importance in this history. From him descend the septs of William the Merchant and Isaac, as well as the legitimate line through Ewan the Miller and Mark (LzVIII). He may have been William the Miller, entered in one of the early rent-rolls for half of Close-y-Killip with a Ewan in the other half. That he was a miller seems fair inference from the circumstantial details of his will, and the fact that his son Ewan was a miller who testifies that he was 'raised at Garrett's Mill', Lezayre. He married at Braddan in 1691, Mariod, later documented as 'Gill' but then as 'Killey', an alternative form. In 1690 Elizabeth, Isabel's sister, had married at Malew Edward Killey, a circumstance which might reflect a double brother and sister marriage arrangement. This all contributes to the possibility that William also was a son of Ewan the Weaver (PLzl4), brother of Esther`s husband Ewan, and of Philip who married Alice Kissage, as also of Isabel Kissage, Elizabeth Killey and the shadowy figures of John and Jane.

It remains then to determine William of the Corragh and William Junior, of whom no definite indication survives. One candidate for the former could be William of (PLz11). With his wife Ellin and son Ewan he features in land transactions in 1686 and 1695, the latter being with a Thomas Cowley, and so possibly concerning the parcel that so concerned Isabel in 1725, then held in William Cowley's name.

The nickname of Junior will mean different men in different generations. We are looking for a man at the height of his powers in 1643. As such he could be the son mentioned in the will of William the Coroner in 1654. (And with less dignity, in a regrettable situation that issued in a law-case whose papers have become attached to the will. Mystery must make what it can of the bare and crude facts. In August 1654, William called Jane Woods, his sister-in-law a bitch and a whore. Next January she called him a bastard-curst. After the first incident William apologised and was forgiven. The second ends with the investigating official`s comment : 'Jane Woods refused her sworn, because 'he is in her sister's child'.)

This William must have been born about 1620. It would not have been impossible for him to have been still active in 1695, and so to have been identical with the Curragh William, yet as his brother Edward and sister Christian (Quail) died in the 1670s, and his other brother Ewan in 1662, it would be more reasonable to look for "Coragh" in the next generation to Junior, and even as his son.

On this hypothesis the two major families of Lezayre would unite in William the Coroner, the last of the Optimates that the family produced After him the line declines to a lower social sphere. Geographically, Kerrowmoar rides the Lezayre escarpment from the upland plain to the marshy river-meadows (Claddaghs) at its foot. There Close-y-Killip begins and stretches flat and lowly northwards towards the coast. So in our human history, William begins the decline from a more elevated past to the low estate 'exposed to feel what wretches feel'.

The amount of conjecture in the foregoing can be assessed in the cartouches, in realising there are quite a dozen undated Williams in the period. In 1690 three Williams are involved in a single Inquest, one as defendant, and two as Quest members. And who was that hapless prisoner of 1667? In 1698 Margaret Corlett, his widow, was declaring her age as 60, her name changed back to Corlett by marriage to Robert of the ilk. She died in 1705. But no William can be found to fit the categories of birth in the 1630s, a father still living in the '60s, survived by a wife Margaret, residing in a Kerrowmoar curragh, with Curpheys for neighbours and Ewan for a son.

Nor are Ewans more distinguishable. Three of them give evidence at another Inquest in 1720; and quite six of them must have been about in the parish at the time. Ewan, husband of Jane Sayle, shows in his will that he was of Close-y-Killip, had a brother, William, and a sister Mary, but is equally un-placeable anywhere that all conditions can be seen to apply. Nor can we relate the Miller who died in 1653 with the millers at the end of the century.

When in the next chapter we consider possible lines of connection between our family branches, we shall find a key person in a Mally (or Mary) Kissack, daughter of a William Kissack of Lezayre who married John Tear of Jurby married 1634 and died in 1686. There is a singular absence of Marys in the PLz units as they emerge from parental wills, even though not only the Ewan of PLz8, but also the William of PLz9 speaks of a sister Mary. Her dates make her a contemporary of both men. Could she possibly be located in PLz1? Having had a marriage settlement in 1634, she would not normally expect any further legacy from her parents.

But here, in a genealogical jungle of fragmented personalities, speculation is apt to grow increasingly excitable, while logic halts and stares perplexed. At this point in the specifically genealogical trail it is best to stop.

Please note that the copyright of the 'Seed of Isaac' and 'The MacIsaacs' remains with the family of Rex Kissack and no part may be reproduced from this site without their permission.


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