No man is an island

William Duffin of York, M.D,

Blog posted 30th May 2021

Whitbread’s book “I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister, 1791-1840” introduces the reader to William Duffin of York with whom Anne Lister became acquainted with whilst she attended the Manor School, York from c. 1805. Lister was most probably introduced to Mr. Duffin through her lover Eliza Raine who was, along with her sister Jane, in the care of Mr. Duffin as one of the English executors of their father William Raine’s will. The Duffins feature largely in Lister’s early diaries specifically as Anne navigated her way from the provincial society of Halifax to developing relationships with more cosmopolitan acquaintances in the bustling city of York.

From a genealogical perspective, the Lister diaries, so far as they have been transcribed, provide limited background information on William Duffin. This is most likely due to the fact that the diaries do not cover Lister’s schooling period in York at the time she would have first become acquainted with Mr. Duffin. However there are instances in previously published work, specifically in Whitbread (1988) and also through recently transcribed passages e.g: “1826-Wales and Dublin with Charles and Mariana Lawton” where familial data can be gleamed from, such as the names of Duffin’s nieces and with whom they are married.1

Using these various sources and my own genealogical research I have constructed a descendant tree for William Duffin which is attached below. Although William Duffin did not produce any children with both his wives, his family was not just the small unit of Mr. Duffin and his wife (and his future 2nd wife in tow!) with the occasional visit from his nieces. The Duffin family through William’s brother Charles Duffin expanded and continues to this day through numerous descendants although the Duffin name has somewhat faded mainly because of the propensity of surviving female descendants through the generations.

Charles Duffin (born 1747 Ireland) died on the 27th Jan 1817 at York at his brother’s house in York according to an obituary published in the Hull Packet 4th Feb 1817. It is my belief that Charles was the Inspector General of the Irish Linen Board from c. 1785 until resignation in 1810 due to allegations of fraud. Charles Duffin, Inspector General had submitted duplicate receipts for cost and expenses to the Linen Board. I suspect that the social mortification that this would have brought to the family led to Charles’ relocation from Dublin to his younger brother’s home at York where he spent his last few years suffering from gout. Charles had an extended family in Ireland and it is more conceivable that his daughters Maria Johnstone, Isabella Oxley, Jane Duffin and Ellen Johnston would have surely been the first option to reside with rather than his ageing brother and his ill wife in York. It is my opinion that the Duffin family, probably under the direction of William Duffin chose to remove Charles from polite society in Ireland in order to limit the damage caused to the family reputation by his criminal conviction and public announcement of same in Irish newspapers.

Notice of the death of Charles Duffin at his brother William’s house in Micklegate, York: The Hull Packet, 4th Feb 1817

Burial record for Charles Duffin, brother of William Duffin. This record provides William and Charles father’s name as the
Rev. Adam Duffin of Dungannon, Tyrone, Ireland. Rev. Adam Duffin was a Presbyterian minister at Aughnacloy, Dungannon until his decease in 1770 leaving “a widow and children”. William Duffin would have been in his twenties by then and most likely already in India with the East India Company at this time.

Will of Jane Duffin (born 1743) spinster, who died in Belfast on Jul 30 1837, sister of William and Charles Duffin. She bequeaths her estate to Jane Duffin and Maria Johnstone nee Duffin “daughters of my late brother Charles Duffin”. Maria and Jane feature in Lister’s diary.

Confirmation within Anne Lister’s diaries that William Duffin’s brother was Mr. Charles Duffin, subtly lies in a loose page in Lister’s coded crypt-hand and a single diary entry from 1817.

Mr D [Duffin] from Ireland is going to spend some time at Red House I suppose and Miss D [Duffin] says in her letter she hopes her uncle will be kind to him if so don’t you think you will be wanted out of the way consult though your own real judicious judgement” (West Yorkshire Archive Service, SH:7/ML/E/26/1/0018)

February 1st 1817: “A letter from Miss Marsh, Micklegate York in the morning – to say that Mr Duffin Senior was suddenly seized with a paralytic / she believes the 4th last Sunday week and continued in a state of total insensibility till last Monday when he expired and was interred on Thursday morning “in a vault in Trinity Church yard made of course on purpose for him and attended by Mr Duffin as chief mourner, Dr Lawson, Mr G Crompton, Mr Darvall and Mr Robert Swann” (WYAS, SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0019)

These diary entries coupled with various other primary and secondary sources were used to create the following descendant chart for Rev. Adam Duffin of Dungannon, Tyrone who was the father of William Duffin of York.

It is my opinion that Rev. Adam Duffin belonged to the Duffin family of Broughshane, in present day Northern Ireland (of whom Charles Duffin M.P for Belfast was descended) though this is still to be confirmed. Genealogical notes exist in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland for the Duffin’s of Broughshane and access to this has been applied for by the author. It is my hope in time provide an ancestral tree for Rev. Adam Duffin but for now I leave you with his descendants while I ponder if William Duffin retained his Tyrone accent after all his years in India and York!

1 – transcribed by Susanne Piotrowski

5 thoughts on “No man is an island

  1. This genealogical project concerning Anne Lister and her circle is really fascinating. Is the work ongoing? And, why is the Norcliffe entry password protected? Thanks.


    1. Hi Charles, apologies for the delay. Thanks for the feedback. Yes, this work is ongoing on a part-time basis with emphasis on Anne Lister’s connections in York from the mid 18th century to early 19th century. Any restrictions to webpages on this site is a courtesy to authors who intend to use it at a future date. I hope to update the website come Autumn with research conducted during the last 2 years. All the best. San.


      1. Hi San, thank you for getting back to me about the Anne Lister genealogy project. This is definitely good work and will form a bedrock for future studies of Anne Lister’s circle. Clearly York is a great place to start; presumably a network of connections existed well beyond York though and those will also be interesting. As you are probably aware, FAN clubs (following the trails of Friends, Associates, and Neighbours ) are in vogue within genealogical circles right now. Who knows where these will lead? Best wishes, Charles


  2. Hi, please can you let me know if you have done any research into William Raine? My mum’s maiden name was Raine, and I’ve traced the family back to the Scarborough area in the 1700s, but I can’t establish a link to William! Thanks!


    1. Hi Lucy, yes I have conducted research into William Raine and I would be glad to share any information I have. There were a number of Raine families in the Scarborough area in the 1700’s. William Raine, I believe, was the son of John Raine, a surgeon and bailiff of Scarborough for a short period. Drop me an email at and I will be glad to talk to you regarding your family tree. All the best, San.


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