Select Bird/Byrd Surname Genealogy

Here are some Bird/Byrd stories and accounts over the years:

Bird and Byrd

The name was originally Bird with an i and would continue to be spelt on that basis until the beginning of the 16th century.  Then it could be either Bird or Byrd. 

There were in fact several examples of this occurring in the same family, with two siblings selecting an alternate spelling.  Thus we have John le Byrd, born in 1620, and his two brothers Thomas Bird, born in 1621, and William Bird, born in 1621.  Their father Thomas Bird, born in 1600, had married his first cousin Elizabeth who was sometimes Bird and sometimes Byrd. 

The Bird spelling is most common in England, Byrd in America.  The following are the approximate numbers

Numbers (000's)

The Byrds of London and Virginia

It was William Byrd I, the first of the Byrd family in America, who came to America in 1674 as heir to his uncle Captain Thomas Stegge.  The inherited land included the present site of Richmond and some of the best land in Virginia. 

His father John Byrd was a London goldsmith who had married Grace Stegge and they were to have six children, including William.  London forebears of John Byrd were Thomas Byrd a vintner, who was born in 1599, and Thomas LeBird, who was born in 1574.  The Byrds were said to have had ancestral roots in Braxton, Cheshire.

Alfred Bird and His Custard and Baking Powder

Alfred Bird developed Bird's custard and baking powder because his wife Elizabeth suffered badly from digestive disorders.  Eggs gave her heartburn and anything containing yeast, like bread, brought on dyspepsia.   Fortunately for her, Alfred was an experimental chemist, the kind of man who saw opportunity where others saw only problems. 

To begin with he sought to solve the bread problem.  He knew he had to perfect a yeast substitute.  After six years of experimenting he developed a baking powder called Bird's Fermenting Powder.  It produced bread, cakes and buns of a much lighter texture than those that had used live yeast.  Mrs. Bird tried the bread and found it had no aftereffects whatsoever. 

Alfred's next task was to eliminate eggs from custard. Traditionally, custard consists of beaten eggs, milk and sugar, which is either baked or boiled in a saucepan.  He based his new recipe on cornflour, and, like his baking powder, it produced a dish every bit as palatable as the original.  It was easier to make, cheaper than the conventional and, most importantly, didn't give Mrs. Bird heartburn. 

Alfred Bird manufactured and sold both products from his chemist's shop beneath the old Market Hall in Bell Street, Birmingham.  At first the public were unsure about the new baking powder and sales were slow.  To publicize his new products, Alfred had calendars printed which he gave away, making him one of the first businessmen to exploit the selling power of calendars.

The Byrds and the Badsey Estate

Thomas Byrd had been one of the big landowners at Badsey and Aldrington in the Vale of Evesham in the late 18th century.  However, the family subsequently fell on hard times and left the area for Birmingham where Henry Byrd found work as a clerk in a brewery.  The family moved into a terraced house in Aston in 1885. 

Henry Byrd had inherited some properties from his father in Badsey and had always wanted to return there. He did so in 1903.  His house there, Pool House, was rented out.  So Henry rented The Firs on the other side of the church to Pool House. 

Henry died in 1908 and Percy, his eldest son, inherited the land.  But Percy got into debt, taking out a number of mortgages.  The debt proved to be too much and eventually, in 1912, the lands had to be sold (although one part of the estate, Rye Furlong, has stayed with descendants of the Byrd family). 

Percy himself died at sea in 1922, having contracted double pneumonia whilst on a cruise in the Canary Islands.

Birds in the South

John Bird, born in Virginia in 1742, was a Patriot in the Revolutionary War and had later moved south to South Carolina.  The collapse of the cotton market there in the 1820s prompted the family removal to Cherokee county, Georgia.  Daniel Bird was one of the first settlers there.  His sons fought on the Confederate side during the Civil War. 

Alexander Bird, too young to fight, became a physician and moved to Alabama.  Sometime during the 1880s he changed the spelling of the family name from Bird to Byrd.

Birds in Nova Scotia

Samuel Bird, his wife Letitia, and five children left Londonderry for New Brunswick in Canada in 1825.  It was said that they went first to the Miramichi, but then received grants at what became known as Birdton (the Bird settlement) in the parish of Douglas. 

According to his granddaughter Ellen, Samuel and his brother left their families in the settlements by the river that first winter.  They would walk back to their grants, work all week clearing the land, and return to their families for the Sabbath.  She said that for food they would take a mess of frozen boiled potatoes one week and frozen boiled turnips the next until they decided that they were more palatable mixed together.  But this diet could be supplemented easily with game in the early 1800s. 

Samuel Bird was killed by a falling tree at the age of 72 years, probably in the 1850's.

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