John Kay & The Lamb Family Tree

One of the memories of my youth is being told that we are related, on my mother’s side, to John Kay, the inventor of the flying shuttle. We have never, until perhaps sometime very soon, been able to prove this. However a constant possession in the family, which currently resides with me, one of his flying shuttles, suggests that the link is real

John Kay's flying shuttle
A flying shuttle, perhaps an original belonging to John Kay

It is something that I’ve been wanting to prove (or disprove) for some years, and finally I have had the time to research through the records available at and got very close, but without proving the link so far. However, at this point, as you shall see later, there is probably one generation missing. And that one generation is the difference between a proven link and no relation.

One of the challenges of such research is deciding upon an approach. To a certain extent it was a matter of either working from the present towards the past, or from the past towards the present. I already had records and memories going back to my great-grandmother, which meant that was a good place to start, especially as John Kay and his wife, Anne Holte, had 10 children plus 2 who died in childhood so I didn’t fancy tracking those 10 children moving forwards as there was too much potential for dead ends.

You will see from the screenshots, taken from that there are still some gaps to be filled in, particularly around dates and deaths. As is the nature of research like this, you are also sometimes making presumptions around the earlier research of others before assimilating it into your own research.

Here is a short video of Mr Weasley from Harry Potter (Mark Williams) talking about John Kay’s invention.

Phase 1 The Present to 1875

Family Tree
From myself to Rachel Kay (b. 1875)

It may seem a little self-centred to start with myself and work backwards, but it helps to have a central point, and after all, I am the author. However this story is also about my brother, Andrew, his three children, my three children, and those who come after, for whom I am trying to document this.

The first part of this story is about women.

My mother – Shirley Hulme (b. 1942 – that is a story in itself, to be eventually told here)
Her mother (my grandmother) – Muriel Hulme (b.1920)
Her mother (my great grandmother) – Alice Hind (b.1897)
Reader’s note: this is far back as my memory goes, I have some memories of my ‘nan’, in particular a very stern face and a hallway in Garston (where Alice, Muriel and Shirley spring from) full of upright pianos.
Her mother (my great great grandmother) – Rachel Kay (b.1875)

This was the point where I first got excited, as we have the first evidence of a Kay in the family.

Phase 2 – 1875 to 1801

Phase Two – from Rachel Kay to Moses Kay

Unsurprisingly, as one delves into the past, records become more elusive and the process slows down. However, I seem to have discovered the following:

Rachel Kay – her parents were Thomas Kay (b.1852) and Emma Mills.
The parents of Thomas Kay were Moses Kay (b.1801) and Leah Partington. This may have been Mary Partington, and along with Entwistle is a surname that appears more than once around this time in the family tree. It is interesting that in a whole generational trend of classic English names of the time, we suddenly have a Moses. This may not be so surprising however when one considers the names of some of John Kay’s own children a few generations earlier – Lettice and Shuse for example.

This is where the research gets more interesting (and difficult) as we move into phase three, as we shall see multiple names that overlap with John Kay’s children, but don’t appear to be them. As tempting as it is to draw tenuous links, I want to be as rigorous as possible in the research and get it right.

Certainty here is much more useful than speculation, and even when I think I have everything right, and I am confident in phases 1 and 2, I will go back and double-check everything as well as adding more details to build up the picture of the movements and histories of the various family members mentioned.

Phase 3 – From Moses to John

Phase 3 – From Moses to William?

As one gets closer to the years of John Kay, and particularly his children, it is tempting to jump to conclusions or get overly excited when one sees a name that matches one of his children, as it can imply a link that isn’t yet proven.

Moses’s father is called James Kay, and that could be the James Kay that is the son of John Kay, but the dates don’t match. James, father of Moses (this is getting very biblical) seems to have lived from 1756-1823, whereas James, son of John, seems to have lived a little earlier, from 1738-1818, and is said to have William as his father. If William Kay who is the father of James Kay is also the son of John Kay, that still seems unlikely, as he seems to have lived from 1745-1828. This would have made William around 11 when James was born. Not impossible but very unlikely. suggests that the William Kay who was the father of James who was the father of Moses was born in 1730.

So that leaves me with three main options:

1. In spite of the coincidences, there is no family link, and continued research working backwards will shoot backwards past John Kay without any definitive link, although I think this is unlikely.

2. There is an error somewhere in the tree, or some of the dates are wrong, for example James and/or William are a match.

3. The link is less direct, for example, we could be related more directly to one of John Kay’s father’s other children (John Kay was the fifth of ten children).

Either way, and I feel the link will be there eventually in some way, it has been an interesting journey that continues.