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  • An October birthday - Caroline Mylne

An October birthday - Caroline Mylne

Sometimes the slightest of clues can lead to large results when researching ancestors. Even if the first impression is that the clue seems totally unlikely, it can lead by circuitous routes to whole branches of the family tree that had not previously been known. The Mylne family are a case in point and they also illuminate the sometimes complicated inter-marriages within families and how that can lead to confusion.

A slight clue and a circuitous route

Recently I visited the Hunterian Museum in London to see the kidneys of Robert Boyne Home, 1713-1786, which John Hunter, 1728-1793, had preserved after performing the post-mortem on Robert, his father-in-law.  I then browsed their catalogue entries to do with Robert Home, 1752-1834, painter and son of Robert Boyne Home, and found an intriguing note on an entry. It was a note from William Cliff (John Hunter’s assistant) :-

“One of the sons of Mr. Robert Home came to England about three years ago, i.e. (1837 or1838) and was present at the funeral of Mr. Hunter’s only Daughter, Lady Campbell at Brighton. This Captain or Colonel Home about that time married a daughter of William Mylne F.R.S. of the New Rover Head, a first or second cousin: Mr Mylne being the son of Mr. Robert Home’s sister.”

The son of Mr Robert Home, as mentioned, was Robert Home, 1784-1842, who had married Harriet Campbell, 1805-1895, in Buckinghamshire in 1836.                                                                                                       

Campbell is not Mylne – so from where came the relationship?

I knew that the Mr. William Mylne referred to above was William Chadwell Mylne, 1781-1863, who was son of Robert Mylne, 1733-1811. William’s mother was Maria Home, 1748-1797, a sister of Robert Home, the painter, and a daughter of Robert Boyne Home.  So I decided to research Robert Mylne’s descendants hoping to understand the link of “cousin” between “Captain or Colonel Home” and the woman he married. It was Robert Mylne’s daughter, Caroline Mylne, who gave me the next clue to unravelling this mystery.

Caroline Mylne, 1775-1844.

She was born on 28th October 1775 and was baptised at St James Clerkenwell on 28th November 1775. The parish register stated her parents were Robert and Mary Mylne. Her father, Robert, an engineer, won the competition to design and build Blackfriars Bridge, was Surveyor to St Paul’s Cathedral and the New River Company. Robert married Maria Home in 1770 and they had 9 children – William Chadwell was the 5th. Maria counted among her siblings, Robert Home, the painter, Ann Home, 1742-1821, the poet who married  John Hunter, the famous surgeon, and Sir Everard Home, 1756-1832.

On 26th June 1797 Caroline married Colonel William Duncan, 1747-1830, of the Honourable East India Company’s Service at St James Clerkenwell. He was 49 and she was 21. The Scots Magazine reported the marriage as :-

At London, Col. Wm. Duncan, in the East India Company’s service, to Miss Caroline Mylne, daughter of Robert Mylne, Esq; New River Head”

The Parish record shows the witnesses were Robert Mylne Caroline’s father, Sir Everard Home her uncle, and Charlotte Mylne her sister.

Sadly, within less than three weeks of this wedding, Caroline’s mother, Maria, died on 13 July 1797 at Amwell. The house there had just been finished by Robert and the family had moved there on 9th July.

William Duncan, 1747-1830.

According to India Office records William Duncan was the son of Rev. Alexander Duncan, 1708-1795, minister of Smallholm from 1743 until his death in 1795. William’s mother was Helen Home, 1718?-1748, the daughter of William Home of Greenlaw Castle. Therefore Helen was the sister of Robert Boyne Home, making William the first cousin of Maria Home, the wife of Robert Mylne. So William Duncan and Caroline Mylne were not only husband and wife but also 1st cousins once removed.

William died in 1830 and is buried at Great Amwell. Caroline had no children and she remained a widow for the rest of her life.

Caroline’s sister Harriet Mylne, 1774-1834, married Duncan Campbell, 1774-1858, in 1803. Then her father died in 1811 and was buried in the crypt in St Paul’s Cathedral. Her only brother William Chadwell Mylne married in 1813 and finally her sister Charlotte Mylne married Charles Greaves in 1815.

Caroline signed her will a few days before her death in April 1844. She made a number of bequests to various nephews and nieces but one bequests stands out :-

“my niece Harriet Home the widow of Colonel Robert Home”

Colonel Robert Home and Caroline Duncan, formerly Mylne, were 1st cousins – Caroline’s mother and Robert’s father were brother and sister.

So how was Harriet the niece of Caroline?

Harriet Home the widow” was Harriet Campbell the daughter of Caroline’s sister Harriet who had married Duncan Campbell in 1803. Harriet and Robert Home, therefore, were not only husband and wife, but also 1st cousins once removed – her grandmother and his father were brother and sister.

Duncan Campbell

The father of Harriet Mylne’s husband had the same name. Duncan Campbell Senior, 1726-1803, owned plantations in Jamaica, had the contract for prison hulks on the Thames and possibly provided convict ships taking prisoners to Australia. His nephew was Rear Admiral William Bligh.


There is one last close familial connection. Charles Dugald Campbell, a son of Duncan Campbell and Harriet Mylne, married Bower Caroline Mylne, a daughter of William Chadwell Mylne – they were 1st cousins as they shared a grandfather – Robert Mylne, the engineer.


While William Cliff’s note is not totally accurate, it does convey the familial relationship between Harriet and Robert. They were not 1st or 2nd cousins, as he suggested, but were 1st cousins once removed. Nor was she a daughter of William Chadwell Mylne but his sister, No doubt William Cliff had a right to be somewhat confused as a daughter of William Chadwell Mylne had married her 1stcousin, a Campbell.

Certainly without the original clue I would not have gone looking for the parents of Harriet Campbell, nor would I have looked so closely at Robert Mylne and his children – my focus had been on the Home family. So many family relationships could have been so easily missed.

However by trying to understand William Cliff’s note I found Harriet’s family. I also found the connection to William Bligh and an important part of late C.18th social history.

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