Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Cussans, John Edwin

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CUSSANS, JOHN EDWIN (1837–1899), antiquary, born in Plymouth 30 Oct. 1837, claimed descent from the family of De Cusance or Cusancia, settled in Burgundy in the thirteenth century. Upon the revocation of the edict of Nantes in 1685, Thomas de Cusance, son of Claude and Isabella de Fontenoy his wife, left France and settled first in Hampshire and then in Jamaica. Cussans, who claimed descent from this Thomas de Cusance, was the fifth child of Thomas Cussans, who had been a lieutenant in the Madras horse artillery, by his wife Matilda Ann (Goodman). After education at North Hill School, Plymouth, he entered a commercial house, in connection with which he visited America (1858) and Russia (1861). After his marriage in 1863 he became a professed author and devoted the best part of his life to heraldic and genealogical studies. In both these departments he achieved work of lasting value. His first work, 'The Grammar of Heraldry, with the Armorial Bearings of all the Landed Gentry in England prior to the Sixteenth Century' (London, 1866, 8vo), was followed in 1869 by his better-known 'Handbook of Heraldry … with Instructions for tracing Pedigrees and deciphering Manuscripts,' a book remarkable for its attractive clearness (London, 8vo, several editions). In the meantime Cussans, who established his home in the north of London, had commenced those studies into the genealogical and other antiquities of Hertfordshire which resulted, after fifteen years' labour, in the completion of his most important work, 'A History of Hertfordshire, containing an account of the Descents of the various Manors, Pedigrees of Families, Antiquities, Local Customs, &c.' (Hertford, 16 parts forming three folio volumes, 1870-81). Cussans's work is an important supplement to the existing histories of Chauncey and Clutterbuck. The preface was dated from 4 Wyndham Crescent, Junction Road, London, on Christmas day 1880. Cussans subsequently moved to 46 St. John's Park, Upper Holloway, where he died on 11 Sept. 1899. From 1881 to 1897 Cussans had been secretary of the Anglo-Californian Bank in Austin Friars. He married, on 10 March 1863, Emma Prior, second surviving daughter of John Ward of Hackney, by whom he left eight children.

[Times, 12 and 15 Sept. 1899; Antiquary, October 1899; Athenæum, 1899, ii. 303; Hertfordshire Mercury, 23 Sept. 1899; private information; Cussans's works in British Museum.]

T. S.