Simon's Family History
Thomas GALBREATH was born about 1735 (from age of 64 yrs given in burial records and tombstone inscription of 1799). He was most likely born in Scotland, as documentation referred to below will indicate.
There is no corresponding baptism in Scotland for Thomas around 1735. We know that he had a brother William born about 1745 [see William's will]. William was a Scotch factor in London. This lack of baptismal evidence continues with the children Thomas had with wife Mary Ann or Marian (apart from James in 1769), with no further baptisms for children from that marriage in either Paisley, Glasgow, New York or London. It is possible that his 1st wife was Janet Russell, and the children from this marriage are recorded in the baptismal records. Fortunately Thomas left other evidence in his activities as a merchant, in newspapers and directories etc., in his will, and the Bunhill Fields burial records and inscriptions [see items further below]. Thomas may not have been of the mainstream Church of Scotland, which may explain the lack of church records. In London he used the non-conformist Islington Lower Street Church.The family tradition is that my Galbreath family were originally from Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. There is a family comprising a Thomas Galbreath and his wife Janet Russell in Paisley in the mid 1700's. Two of the children named in Thomas's will, Margaret & David, match baptisms of Thomas G. & Janet Russell, and are possibly the surviving children of that marriage, if indeed it is the same Thomas. The fact that Thomas' daughter Margaret married Paisley man William Sharp, tends to confirm the Paisley origins or connections.
The Paisley Thomas :-
The Marriage Proclamation in the Port Glasgow Register for Thomas Galbreath & Janet Russel/Russell reads :-
"18th Sept 1756 Thomas Galbraith Mercht in Kilbarchan and Janet Russel daughter to the deceased David Russel farmer in the parish of Lanark, were booked in order to proclamation for marriage."
This Thomas demonstrated his mobility and desire to move and explore new opportunities, as the records of Thomas Galbreath & Janet Russel have the marriage at Port Glasgow, with Thomas being a resident of Kilbarchan, their first child being baptised in Port Glasgow, and the rest in Paisley. There is no doubt that this is all one family as Janet is always shown as Janet Russel[l] in the records. Thomas's surname is variously spelt in the same records as Galbraith & Galbreath.
If the Paisley Thomas is the one, then his first wife Janet Russell must have died, with Thomas subsequently marrying Mary Ann or Marion/Marian McBeth. No record has been found of a burial of Janet (Paisley burial books have not survived), nor of his marriage to Mary Ann. Recorded in the Burgess Books of Pailsey, is the purchase of a burial lair in 1762 in the Paisley Laigh (Low) Church by Thomas Galbreath, Merchant. He buried at least one child in Pailsey, as two baptisms are recorded for a child named Jean.
Thomas Galbreath & Janet Russell had no more children baptised after 1766 in Paisley Low Church, hence the possibility that she had died. There is a baptism in Paisley Low Church in 1769 of a James Galbraith, son of Thomas Galbraith and Marion McBeth. Thomas Galbreath of Islington buried a son James in Bunhill Fields, London, in 1800, he was aged 31. This fits the age of the Paisley baptism in 1769. Also in Bunhill Fields, Marian a daughter of Thomas, was buried in 1797. The burial book records her as Mary Ann, whereas the Monumental Inscription records her as Marian. It is therefore equally possible that the burial records for Thomas' wife showing Mary Ann, could actually be for a Marian or Marion, especially given Thomas would have had a Scottish accent. This would then match the Paisley Low Church baptism of James in 1769 to a Thomas & Marion.
Thomas in Glasgow
Regardless of whether Thomas is the same man as the Paisley Thomas or not, he can definitely be traced from Glasgow, to America, and finally to London. Thomas was trading in Glasgow as a merchant (Thomas Galbreath & Co.) before which he went to New York, as evidenced in the following Probative writ :- Glasgow Discharge of Assignation 1777.
If the Paisley Thomas is the same person, then he must have moved to Glasgow, probably shortly after James was born in 1769.
Thomas in America
Thomas arrived in America in June 1771, from Scotland in the Friendship. He traded as a merchant in New York in the haberdashery, millinery, hosiery and men's furnishing trade. [Son David's biography in the Biographical Register of Saint Andrew's Society of the State of New York by William M. MacBean; 1922]
Several newspaper advertisements tell us more about his time in America - For full details see newspaper items.
He is mentioned as one of forty associates being granted a Patent for 30,000 acres on the East side of Lake Champlain, New York State. Whilst the patent was granted in 1774, the first petition for the patent was lodged in 1771. See Patent transcript.
Mr Galbreath is twice mentioned in letters by Hugh Simm, New York, to
his brother Andrew Simm in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland :-
Thomas was the first signatory in a petition in 1775 by 15 New York merchants regarding the shipping of flax seed to Ireland - see petition.
In 1776 & 1784, Thomas sold some of his Scottish lands, the papers
of which were recorded in 1787 in the Register of Deeds, of the Court of
In 1777 Thomas was summoned to appear in Court of Session, Edinburgh, Scotland over a debt. The Court documents in the National Archives of Scotland [ref - CS16.1.170] are in too poor a condition to be copied. Only a copy of the summons was available. See Court of Session summons.
Thomas may have got himself into trouble during the American War of Independence. If so he must have traded in or moved to Newark, New Jersey at some stage, most likely traded as all documents at this time have hime as a resident of NY. See NJ Inquisition of Thomas Galbrath 1778. We also see in the next para. that he fell foul of the American side. His son's father-in-law, John Stites, suffered a similar fate whilst trying to do business across the same military lines between New York & New Jersey during the Revolutionary War. John Stites situation is recorded in his claims to the British for compensation (see John Stites). Perhaps Thomas was similarly involved?
In 1779 Thomas was involved in a dispute before the Chamber of Commerce which ruled in his favour. [See excerpt]
Thomas moved to London in 1779, as per his New York newspaper advertisement of 23 Oct 1779. See newspaper items. It is possible that the prospect of an American victory, coupled with the New Jersey troubles, scared Thomas into leaving? This can further be deduced from a petition lodged by a T. Galbreath with the Privy Council in London in 1783 where he claims to have been branded a spy by the Americans. Thomas continued to do business in America after his move to London with his son David, who stayed in New York until he also moved to London in 1791. It looks like a couple of former customers took advantage of their credit :- NJ Supreme Court case re. Thomas & David Galbreath 1792.
The London Thomas :-
There are two entries of the surname Galbreath (without any
further information as to first names or event) in the Islington
Lower Street Independent Church Register in 1781 & 1783. His grandson John was baptised in 1791 in the same
church, soon after Thomas's son David also moved to London from New York.
He is also recorded as subscribing to :-
Thomas is shown in various partnerships in NY and London as evidenced in
newspaper reports and court documents. It appears that one partnership was
involved in weaving :
Thomas was involved in at least three Court cases in relation to
his business dealings :-
2. Court of Chancery - Miller v Galbreath (PRO ref. C12/191/17)
They had at least one child - Augusta GALBREATH, born 21 March
1795 at Islington, London.
His Last Will and Testament was proven in
the Prerogative Court of Canterbury in London on the 10 June 1799.
Obviously the first Jean died before 1764. This leaves only one of the children baptized in Paisley unaccounted for in documentation found so far, the 2nd Jean, in order for Thomas to be definitely confirmed as the most likely for the Thomas of Paisley. Given mortality rates in the 1700's this lack of documentation for the 2nd Jean is not unusual.
Copyright © Simon Parker-Galbreath