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Sri Lankan Burgher Family Genealogy


SKEEN Family #1143



[information supplied by Philip Somervail -]


Robert Skeen (b. 9/10/1797; d. 16/3/1879[2])

m. 3/7/1819 to Sarah Slinn (b. 13/12/1798; d. 18/1/1878)




A. James Skeen[3] (b. 29/5/1820; d. 23/6/1879)

            m. 24/12/1843 to Lydia Moy (b. 12/7/1818; d. 10/4/1885)

(1)   Robert William (b. 25/9/1844; d. 1st qtr 1919)

(2)   James Curtis (b. 29/10/1845; d. ??)

m. Margaret Long (?-?)

(a)   Sarah Kathleen (b. 1/12/1872; d. ??)

(b)   Harry (b. 1st qtr 1875; d. ??)           (issue)

(3)   Sarah Slinn (b. 8/8/1847; d. 24/3/1852)

(4)   Thomas Moy (b. 8/8/1849; d. 29/5/1858)

(5)   Susanna Lydia (b. 18/11/1851; d. 3/9/1899)

m. 2nd qtr 1876 to Frederick Lester (b. c. 1847; d. ??)

(a)   Lydia Florence (b. 13/11/1877; d. ??)

(b)   Annie Louisa Ellen (b. 20/2/1880; d. ??)

(c)   Winifred Alice (b. 16/1/1882; d. ??)

(d)   Frederick Stanley (b. 31/1/1883; d. ??)

(e)   Kate Madge (b. 18/12/1885; d. ??)

(6)   Mary (b. 29/1/1854; d. 23/7/1931)

m. to Alfred John Smith (?-?)

(a)   Annie Justina (b. 27/1/1888; d. ??)

(b)   Frederick Thomas (b. 29/6/1895; d. ??)

(7)   Rebecca Justina (b. 21/2/1856; d. 17/8/1856)

(8)   William George Charters (b. 25/3/1860; d. 15/7/1860)

(9)   Annie Louisa (b. 21/12/1864; d. 20/10/1890)


B. William Skeen[4] (b. 9/1/1822; d. 1872)

(William) m. (1st) 11/7/1845 to Louisa Matilda Kemp (b. 1821/2; d. 1864[5])

(1)     William Lewis Henry (b. 1/7/1847; d. 1903)

(2)     George Justin Athelstan[6] (b. 1852/3; d. 11/7/1906)

m. Clarissa Louisa, née ? (?-?) (living in Jan 1914)

(a)    George William Robert[7] (?-?) (issue)

(b)    Ernest H K (b. ??; d. 6/1/1914[8])

(3)     Robert (b. 1856/7; d. ??)

(4)     Louisa Justina Mary (b. 19/9/1858; d. ??)

(5)     Frederick Albert Edward (b. 29/4/1861; d. ??)

(William) m. (2nd) 17/6/1865 to

Frances Elizabeth Ann Johnson[9] (b. 1821/2; d. 12/12/1899)


C. Robert Skeen[10] (b. 3/10/1823; d.1/5/1897)

(Robert) m. (1st) 1842 to Catherine Potter (b. c.1822; d. 15/9/1854)

(1)   Benjamin (b. 20/11/1843; d. 1899)

m. 19/5/1874 to Margaret Jane Strong (b. 1852; d. ??)

(a)  Reginald William (b. 1891/2; k. 5/9/1918[11])

(2)   William Henry (b. c. 1846; d. ??)

(3)   Sarah (b. 28/9/1849; d. 1903)

m. 23/9/1880 John Drew (?-?)

(4)   Catherine (b. 17/8/1851; d. 9/1/1925)

(Catherine) m. (1st) 1875/6 to Henry King (?-?)

(a)   George (?-?)

(b)   Robert (?-?)

(c)   William Allan (?-?)  (issue)

(Catherine) m. (2nd) Henry Dunbar Johnson[12] (?-?)

(d)   Albert Dunbar (King) (?-?)

(e)   Jessie (King) (?-?)

 (Robert) m. (2nd) 1/1/1857 to Jane Liston (b. c. 1830; d. 1903)

(5)   Robert Lowis[13] (b. 14/1/1862; d. 1916)

(6)   Wilson (b. 4/5/1863; d. ??)

m. Minnie Egan (?-?)

(a)   Bruce (b. 1907/8; k. 22/5/1941[14])

(b)   [son drowned at Wanganui Beach aged 14]


D. John Frederick Skeen (b. 1/2/1826; d. 16/11/1827[15])


E. Margaret Justina Skeen (b. 24/12/1827; d. 28/1/1871)

            m. 1859 to George Charter[16] (b. ??; d. 1866)

(1)   Sarah Ethel (b. 3/2/1860; d. ??)

(2)   Robert (b. 27/6/1861; d. ??)

(3)   William Henry Skeen (b. 19/4/1863; d. ??)

(4)   Margaret Louisa (b. 6/12/1864; d. ??)


F. Alexander Skeen[17] (b. 4/7/1829; d. 20/3/1899)

m. 1st qtr 1852 to Emma Bone (b. 1830; d. 27/12/1884)

(1)     Emma (b. 6/8/1853; d. 7/1/1860)

(2)     Edmund (b. 25/2/1855; d. 4th qtr 1916)

(3)     Annie Elizabeth (b. 15/2/1857; d. 10/11/1861)

(4)     Alexander (b. 12/12/1858; d. 25/2/1864)

(5)     Sarah Slinn (b. 1/2/1861; d. 22/9/1949)

(6)     Robert Nesbit (b. 6/2/1863; d. 23/2/1864[18])

(7)     George Rice (b. 1/2/1865; d. 4th qtr 1912)

(8)     Margaret Justina (b. 28/3/1866; d. 10/1/1925)

(9)     Benjamin Bedford (b. 1/3/1868; d. 6/2/1889)


G. Henry Skeen (b. 16/7/1831; d. 26/12/1852[19])


H. Anne Elizabeth Skeen (b. 12/1/1833; d. May 1886[20])

m. 19/7/1862 to William Skeen[21] (b. 14/7/1833; d. Dec 1897[22])


I. Sarah Slinn Skeen (b. 31/12/1834; d. 28/8/1836)


J. Sarah Isabella Skeen (b. 18/9/1837; d. 25/7/1840[23])


K. Samuel Slinn Skeen[24] (b. 19/7/1839; d. in ??) (living in 1891)

m. Charlotte Warren (b. c.1840; d. ??)

(1)     Sarah Ellinor (b. 1868; d. ??)

(2)     George Sharp (b. 1869; d. ??)

(3)     Robert Ernest (b. 1870; d. ??)

(4)     William Henry (b. c.1873; d. ??)

(5)     Frederick A (b. c.1878; d. ??)

(6)     Jessie L (b. c.1880; d. ??)

(7)     Claud Montague Benson (b. 5/6/1884; d. ??)



L. George Norman Skeen (b. 22/2/1842; d. 19/11/1871)

m. 4th qtr 1865 to Matilda Overton (b. c. 1831; d. 19/12/1905)

(1)  Henry George (b. 14/6/1867; d. ??)



NB:     I have underlined the names of those who were buried at the Moravian Burial Ground, Milman’s Street, London SW3


Philip Somervail: 9th June 2001




(i)         Register of Births & Baptisms and Register of Deaths & Burials, Moravian Congregation, Fetter Lane, City of London[25] (‘Moravian Registers’)


(ii)        Autobiography of Robert Skeen (pub 1876, Wyman & Sons, London). [British Library Ref: 10855.C.20 (6)] (‘Autobiography’)


(iii)             Index of Births, Marriages and Deaths, Family Records Centre, London (‘GRO’)


(iv)       Index of Wills and Administrations, First Avenue House, London (‘Wills & Admons’)


(v)        Burials Register for West Norwood Cemetery, London[26] (‘West Norwood’)


(vi)       British Census (‘Census’)


(vii)      Commonwealth War Graves Commission website[27] (‘CWGC’)


(viii)          Parish Records


(ix)       Information received from Ian King, descendant of Robert Skeen (1823-1897) (‘IK’)


(x)        Info received from Raymond Seymour, descendant of James Skeen (1820-1879) (‘RS’)


(xi)              From the Sri Lanka Genealogy Forum ( – info supplied by Gladys Skene and Hugh Karunanayake (‘Sri Lanka Genealogy Forum’)


(xii)      Info received from Lorraine Hamblyn, descendant of Robert Skeen (1823-1897) (‘LH’)


(xiii)     From ‘History of Samoa’ by R M Watson (website[28]) (‘Watson’)




Robert Skeen and Sarah Slinn


RS’ birth-date is in Autobiography (p.1) – and likewise their marriage date (p. 9). SS’ date of birth is in Moravian Registers – she was born in Wallingford, Berkshire. Their dates of death, and burial information, are also recorded in Moravian Registers – as is the date that they were formally admitted into the Moravian Church.




A.                  James Skeen and Lydia Moy


Where exact dates given for births and deaths, information came from Moravian Registers. Where only year and quarter given, info obtained in GRO. James and Lydia’s marriage is recorded in the Register for St Bride Fleet Street, London. Info re Harry Skeen, including his parents’ names, supplied by RS.


B.                 William Skeen, and

(1st) Louisa Matilda Kemp

(2nd) Frances Elizabeth Ann Johnson


As for ‘A’ (above) re births and deaths. William (senior)’s two marriages are recorded in the Register of St Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street, London. Info re William in Ceylon is contained in Autobiography (pp 45-48), in Census (1861), and in British Library Index (re individual books published). In addition, Sri Lanka forum provided information on careers of the Skeens in Ceylon. George J A Skeen’s death is recorded in Wills & Admons, as is that of Frances, his stepmother. Ernest Skeen’s death was announced in The Times (as indexed at Society of Genealogists, London). The death of Louisa, William’s first wife, is noted in Autobiography (p. 46). The births of both of William’s wives are approximate, derived from Census (1861 & 1881). Similarly, Robert is mentioned in Census (1861); like several of his siblings, he was born in Ceylon (British subject). Info on George William Robert Skeen came from Sri Lanka forum (Gladys Skene).


Additional information on William Skeen’s family (courtesy of Sri Lanka Genealogy Forum):


William Lewis Henry Skeen studied photography at the London School of Photography. He returned to Ceylon in 1863, where, from then until his death in 1903, he managed J Parting’s photographic business (41 Chatham Street, Fort, Colombo), which had been purchased for him by his father.


Frederick Albert Edward Skeen, William’s brother, and former assistant (from 1878-1887), took over management of J Parting’s in 1903, after William’s death, having run a similar business in Rangoon from 1887.


(Photographs of 19th century Ceylon by the Skeen family are keenly sought after.)


C.                 Robert Skeen, and

(1st) Catherine Potter

(2nd) Jane Liston


Robert’s date of birth is recorded in Moravian Registers. An indication of the date of his marriage to Catherine Potter is contained in Autobiography (p. 31). Information on Robert’s family, and on dates, names, etc, after he and Catherine settled in New Zealand was provided by IK. Info on Robert Lowis Skeen’s career was also supplied by IK (in a photocopy from the Encyclopaedia of Tonga, p.53); the year of his death is noted in Watson. Margaret Strong’s year of birth, and her full name, were provided by LH. Details of the deaths in wartime of Reginald William Skeen and Bruce Skeen came from CWGC – and IK clarified where they fitted into the family tree. Autobiography (pp 31-33) contains an account of Robert’s experiences after he settled in NZ.


D.        John Frederick Skeen


Moravian Registers


E.        Margaret Justina Skeen and George Charter


As for ‘A’ (above) re births and deaths. Their marriage is mentioned in a side-note in one of the Moravian Registers. Justina’s life and times are described in Autobiography (p. 36) – for example, an account of the sea journey from Colombo to London lasting 254 days, including near shipwreck off the Cape of Good Hope, which, newly widowed, she took with her four young children.


F.                 Alexander Skeen and Emma Bone


As for ‘A’ (above) re births and deaths – other than re the deaths of Edmund and George Rice Skeen, which come from GRO.


G.        Henry Skeen


Moravian Registers – and also Autobiography (p. 45). Information on his brief time in Ceylon, and in respect of his grave, was found in Sri Lanka forum.


H.        Anne Elizabeth Skeen and William Skeen


Anne’s date of birth is in Moravian Registers. William’s date of birth is recorded in the Parish Register of St Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh. Their marriage is in the Register of St Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street, London. Burial info from West Norwood. William’s career as Royal Navy engineer is mentioned in the will of his father in law (1879), as is their address in Southsea. More info on Anne Skeen is in Autobiography (pp. 35-36).


I.                    Sarah Slinn Skeen


Moravian Registers.


J.         Sarah Isabella Skeen


Moravian Registers. Her name is recorded on a gravestone at Tweedmouth Parish Church, of which details (and of burial) are held at Berwick Record Office.


K.        Samuel Slinn Skeen and Charlotte Warren


Samuel’s date of birth is in Moravian Registers. The dates of birth of their six elder children were found in the Vital Records Index (British Isles) published on CD-ROM by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Samuel’s career is described in Autobiography (pp. 41-42). I found the Myton upon Swale information on the Internet, in GENUKI: a transcription by Colin Hinson of the relevant page from Bulmer's Directory (1890 edn) – which I then cross-checked in Census (1891). Claud’s date of birth obtained from certificate supplied by GRO (unlike his siblings, who were born in Ireland, he was born in Lambeth, London).


L.         George Norman Skeen and Matilda Overton


As for ‘A’ (above) re births and deaths – other than Matilda’s approx. date of death, which is in GRO. George is mentioned in Autobiography (p. 45).




[1] Robert Skeen (1797-1879), printer, was eldest son of William Skeen (1773-1855), salmon fisherman of Tweedmouth, Northumberland, and Margaret Skeen (née Nesbit) (1774-1846). Robert and Sarah were formally admitted into the Moravian Congregation, Fetter Lane, London, in Sept 1820. He published his autobiography in 1876.

[2] Buried at Southsea – as was his wife Sarah. They had retired to Southsea to live with their daughter and son-in-law, Anne Elizabeth & William Skeen.

[3] Printer, London

[4] Appointed first Government Printer of Ceylon in 1849. (See note under ‘Sources Used’ for additional information concerning his sons’ careers.)

[5] She died of fever whilst in Colombo.

[6] Government Printer of Ceylon from 1881 until his death.

[7] Moved to London 1890, where trained as doctor. Changed spelling of surname from Skeen to Skene.

[8] Died at Lahore, India

[9] After the death of his wife, Louisa, William returned home to London for 12 months – during which time he married Fanny Johnson, a fellow member of the Moravian Congregation at Fetter Lane.

[10] Emigrated to NZ in 1842/3, travelling aboard the ‘Westminster’, with his new wife, Catherine, whom he married the day before sailing from England. He was one of the earliest settlers in NZ from the UK.

[11] Killed whilst serving with NZ Field Artillery; buried at Neuville-St Vaast, Pas de Calais.

[12] Their children took the surname King.

[13] Prior to 1901, when he moved to Tonga, practised law in Samoa. Appointed Chief Justice of Tonga in Jan 1905. Also sat as Cabinet Minister and Privy Councillor there.

[14] Killed near Athens whilst serving with NZ Infantry; no known grave: commemorated on Athens Memorial.

[15] Buried at St John’s Churchyard, Clerkenwell

[16] Engineer, Ceylon. Justina & George lived in Ceylon from the time of their marriage until his death. Their four children were born in Colombo.

[17] Printer, Clerkenwell

[18] A double funeral was performed on 27/2/1864 for Robert Nesbit Skeen (aged 1) and his brother, Alexander Skeen (aged 5).

[19] Appointed assistant Govt Printer in Ceylon, and arrived there in July 1852. He died, however, later that year. His grave is at the Galle Face Burial Ground, Colombo.

[20] Buried 25/5/1886 at West Norwood Cemetery, London SE27

[21] They were first cousins. He was for many years a Royal Navy engineer.

[22] Buried 22/12/1897 at West Norwood Cemetery, London SE27

[23] Buried at Tweedmouth Churchyard, Northumberland

[24] Ordained by the Bishop of Down in 1869, having previously been a teacher (and prior to that was in brother’s photographic business in Ceylon). For many years he lived in Co. Dublin, Ireland – where he married, and where his first six children were born. By 1890 he was vicar of Myton upon Swale, North Riding of Yorkshire.

[25] Held at Moravian Church Archive Library, Muswell Hill, London

[26] Microfilm copy held at Minet Library, Lambeth, London