The Tragic Life and Death of Robert John Beattie

Today, I was going through some old records which I had considered “duds”, when I came across a copy of a death record from England for a Robert John Beattie. I initially had discarded the record because the approximate birth year for the person did not match any Robert Beattie I had in the family tree. As I looked over the death certificate, I suddenly remembered an e-mail that Cousin Janice Beattie had sent me telling me that there was a Beattie family member who was born in Hong Kong, China and his name was Robert John Beattie. I didn’t have him in the tree yet, because I knew virtually nothing about him.

This death certificate is for a Robert John Beattie who died in the Walton section of Lancaster, England. The death certificate indicates that he was found drowned at Langton Docks on May 20th, 1889. Robert was 24 years old and was a foreman at a business on Newark Street in Walton. Robert was last seen alive on December 8, 1888. How he got into the water is not known. The death record indicates that a death certificate was received from a coroner’s inquest held on May 21, 1889.  I will have to see if I can get a copy of the Coroners Inquest Report.

Based on the information in the death certificate, I am fairly certain that this Robert John Beattie, is the son of Robert Beattie of Kirkcudbright, Scotland and the Robert John Beattie who born in Hong Kong, China. We know that there is a Robert J Beattie (b. circa 1866), listed as a nephew, living with the family of John and Edith Mann Beattie in Everton (1871) and Kirkdale (1881). These two locations are just mile or two from Langton Docks (see the map) where this Robert John Beattie was found.


This Robert was 24 years old at the of time his death. That would place his date of birth crica 1866, which matches what we know about our Robert John Beattie based on those Census records.

What makes this story even more tragic is that his father, Robert Beattie, was reportedly murdered in Hong Kong. As the story goes, brother John Beattie sailed to China to bring his young nephew home.

So now the big question…  Was he murdered?  Did he take his own life?  Or was this just a tradgic accident?

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Philip (Phil) Hayes is the CEO of Sirius Innovations, LLC. As CEO of Sirius Innovations, LLC, he served as a Technology Solutions Consultant and Web Applications Programmer for fortune 500 companies, large municipalities and hospitals. He is fluent in the SQL, ColdFusion, PHP and Javscript programming languages. He is also a power user of the WordPress Content Management System, commonly used for blogging. Phil's latest product development includes a service called 'Map The Past'. The advanced, yet easy to use functionality offered in this product will enable its members to "Walk in the Footsteps of Their Ancestors". Phil became a Genealogy addict when in 1998, his Uncle, Lloyd W Lewis, sat he and his wife down on the deck of his Uncle's Pennsylvania home and told them the story of his Great, Great Grandfather Henry W. Lewis, the Privateer. The story was so intriguing that Phil found himself yearning for more details. Hence…. Philip Hayes, the Genealogist was born. Leveraging his technology skills, Philip has grown and developed the family tree well beyond what his Uncle could have ever dreamed of. Combining the power of technology and the primary sources from historical documents, Philip developed his own family history web site, based on the Word Press Content Management System ( Upon publishing the site, it has inspired many people to develop interest in the family's history and has connected Philip to several undiscovered relatives and their family stories. Phil is a member of numerous historical and genealogy societies, including the Association of Professional Genealogists

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