Monthly Archives: February 2013

Three ancestors on one OPR page

I decided it was time to spend some money downloading the actual OPR pages from ScotlandsPeople for some of my early Fraser ancestors rather than going just from FamilySearch entries. And I hit lucky with my very first download.

For whatever reason, a lot of the Cruden OPR looks like a copy, as it’s all in the same hand writing and is not in date order. The order of the baptisms listed on the one page I downloaded are 1828, 1854, 1849, 1852, 1845, 1853 and 1830. My suspicion is that when official registration began in 1855, someone decided to produce a copy of the Cruden OPR that wasn’t in chronological order. I’d love to know why, but I have to be grateful it was done as the result is that just one page contains three baptisms that are of my ancestors – so I got three for the price of one.

Isabella Fraser 1828

This is the baptism of my GG Aunt Isabella Fraser in 1828, which gives a good deal of detail for an OPR. But on the same page I found two more relevant baptisms.

William Fraser 1830

This is the baptism for my GG Uncle William Fraser in 1830, again with some very useful detail.

Mary Ann Matthew 1854

And finally, this is the baptism for the illegitimate daughter of my GG Aunt Janet Fraser with Thomas Matthew. This one has left me intrigued to know who the witness Robert Fraser was, as so far there is no Robert Fraser on my family tree so I don’t know how he was connected. A good clue to follow up, though.

Buried in a woollen shroud

I came across this burial record when looking through the OPR for Royston, north of Barnsley. I am very grateful that Royston has been included within the West Yorkshire OPRs that have been digitised and made available on Ancestry, as it’s where my Senior or Senyer ancestors lived.

Burial Thomas Senyer
I think it says:

1680 “Thomas Senyer of Notton was buried January the 19th George Senyer of Notton aforesaid did make an oath the 26th day of January before Jasper Blytheman Esquire that he was buried only in woollen, —– Harison and Joseph Norton did set their hands and seals to the said affidavit as witnesses”

(Has anyone any ideas what Mr. Harison’s first name might be?)

The reason for making such a formal oath was the Burial in Woollen Act of 1678 which made it the law for everyone, except those who died of the plague, to be buried in a shroud made only from English woollen cloth. The law required an affadavit to be sworn in front of a JP. Anyone not complying was fined £5, which was a lot of money in those days. The act was brought in to give the English wool trade a boost, and to prevent the use of imported cloth.

The woollen fabric most often used would a kind of flannel, in white or as near to white as they could get. It was most often like a long shirt which wrapped over the feet. The body might then be put into a wooden coffin, but some people, particularly the not so well off, were simply buried in the shroud. Some churches had a communal coffin that could be used to transport the corpse, but it wouldn’t be buried with the corpse.

Some OPRs just have A of Aff next to the burial entry to indicate the affadavit had been made, but whoever kept the Royston Parish Register obviously wanted to make absolutely certain nobody had to pay the £5. Exemption was allowed for the very poor, and their burial entries can sometimes say “naked”, meaning the body hadn’t been wrapped in a shroud.

The law wasn’t repealed until 1814, but by the early 1700s it was mostly being ignored. However, woollen coffins are today making a comeback on environmental grounds – there’s a company here in Leeds making them.

Working as an ag lab until at least age 81

I’ve recently been doing online research into a line that links into my Fraser line by marriage. What a joy it was to come across a marriage of two people who were both baptised in the same parish some years earlier, went on to have all their children baptised in the same parish, and lived long enough to be in the 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 census, always at the same address.

It makes me wonder what their life together was like. Peter Watt was born in Bourtie, Aberdeenshire in 1779 and his future wife Helen Alexander in the same parish in 1785. They married in Bourtie in 1805, and over the next 17 years had at least 8 children. They made their first appearance in the census in 1841 at age 60 and 55, at a place with the wonderful name of Meikle Wartle. Peter Watt was a good old ag lab and was still an ag lab at 72 in 1851 and at 81 in 1861. By 1891, at 93 years old, he’d finally progressed to being a retired ag lab.

Most conveniently for their future family historians, they both waited until after the 1871 census to say goodbye to life. Helen went first on 1 January 1872 at 86 and Peter soon followed her in May 1872 at 93. On both death certificates the cause of death is given as simply senile debility. Clearly working as an ag ab for 70 years didn’t do Peter any harm, and puts grumbling about raising the pension age to 66 into perspective!

If all my ancestors had lead lives like theirs I’d have a lot more names on my tree than I do (and I have an awful lot). But on the other hand, I enjoy tussling with a problem. As nice as it was to race backwards so quickly, I suspect my research would start to feel a little dull if it was that easy with all of my ancestors.

Family sports day late 1920s or early 1930s

I love this photo as it’s informal as opposed to the usual highly posed studio ones. It was taken at Beckett’s Park, Headingley which is up the hill from where most of them lived in Kirkstall, Leeds. I’m not sure who everyone is but I can pick out:
– Third from the left crouching is my grandfather James Fraser
– Standing with her hands on her hips abd back to the camera is my great-aunt Edith Green who later married Joseph Martin (funny how can I pick her out from the way she’s standing!)
– With the cricket bat is my grandmother Clara Fraser nee Green
– The rather plump lady towards the right in the hat is my great-grandmother
– Second from the left in the cloche hat is my great-aunt Ethel Jessop nee Green

Sports Day2

And this one was taken on the same day.
– Sitting on the grass third on left is my great-aunt Ethel Jessop nee Green
– The couple standing on the right are my grandparents, Clara Fraser nee Green and James (Jim) Fraser
– The first child from the left is my mother’s cousin Margaret Jessop, who became Margaret Johnson.
– Next to Margaret is my aunt, my mother’s older sister.
– Second from the right, in front of her parents, is my mother, Dorothy Strachan nee Fraser.

Sports day1

Thank heaven for Scottish ancestors

I’ve spent some time over the last couple of days trying to sort out a friend’s genealogy mystery. This involved rummaging around in records from both Sussex and London. I’ve sent a report to her of what I’ve found, but it’s all still a tangle.

The experience, however, has made me so very grateful that the vast majority of my ancestors were Scottish. Being able to download digitised copies of BMDs and OPRs, as well as some other records, is wonderful.

I’m also very grateful that Scottish BMDs contain so much more information than English ones. Being able to read, on a death certificate, who the person’s parents were (providing the informant knew, of course) makes building a family tree so much easier. Always having the mother’s maiden name on birth certificates is a big help too.

I’ve also noticed quite a few female ancestors reverting back to their maiden name in the census once they were widowed, and some being called by their maiden name in the census even when they were living with their husband. Clearly, a woman’s name in Scotland was the one she was born with and wasn’t ‘lost’ when she got married. So saying something such as “William Fraser and his wife Christian Hutcheon” would have been perfectly normal in Scotland.

More Scottish records online

Got an email from ScotlandsPeople today to say the following have been digitised and put online.

Dog tax, 1797-1798
Cart tax, 1785-1798
Carriage tax, 1785-1798

So did any of my ancestors have a dog or a cart? I will look and see. I’m sure none of them had a carriage, though.

Interesting what they used to tax – windows, hearths, servants as well as dogs and carts. And didn’t they have a clock and watch tax once, or am I imagining it? Obviously, governments have been keen to raise money every which way they can throughout the ages.

Having a Sangster day

It’s snowing again, so I have a good excuse to stay in and do some research. I decided it was time to have a really good look at who my GGG Grandfather William Fraser was, and in particular who his parents were. I already knew he was the illegitimate son of Janet Sangster, from Brunthill croft near Hatton, Aberdeenshire, who, from the baptism entry for her son William, was most likely to have been a daughter of John Sangster.

So thanks to FamilySearch, Ancestry and ScotlandsPeople, I’ve narrowed down the possibilities and think I’ve worked it out. But as the records are thin on the ground it can only be the most likely possibility. I can’t say it’s certain. It does all fit, though.

So the bit about GGG Grandfather William Fraser has now been edited on the Fraser page here, and hopefully there will be more to write about the Fraser/Sangster line going back into the 1700s.