Betham, William, Sir (1779 -1853)
Sir William Betham was the eldest son of the Reverend William Betham, headmaster of the endowed school at Stonham Aspel in Suffolk, and Mary Damont. Apprenticed to a printer, in 1805 he went to Dublin to look for records for a publication he had undertaken to edit on behalf of the London bookseller John Stockdale. He discovered the Irish records to be in disorder, and requested to be given the post of Deputy Keeper of the Records at Dublin Castle. This he was granted, and at the same time was also appointed deputy to Admiral Chichester Fortescue, then Ulster King of Arms. He was knighted in 1812 and became Ulster King of Arms in 1820, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1825. A large collection of manuscripts in the Irish language were purchased from him by the Royal Irish Academy in 1850. Books and manuscripts from his library were sold by Sotheby and Wilkinson 1 and 2 June 1854, and his genealogical and heraldic manuscripts 10 May 1860. Some of his manuscripts were sold by R. H. Evans 6 July 1930. The genealogical notes that Betham had taken from virtually all of the prerogative wills of Ireland from 1536–1800, and which he formed into chart pedigrees, provided an invaluable service to Irish genealogy. For when most of the prerogative wills were destroyed in the Public Records Office fire at Four Courts in Dublin during the Irish Civil War in 1922, Betham’s notes ensured that the records were not lost forever.