Monthly Archives: March 2013

My mother and aunt, taken about 1923

This is a studio photograph of my mother Dorothy Fraser (seated on the left) who became Dorothy Strachan and died in 2010, and her older sister Marjorie, daughters of James Fraser and Clara Green. My aunt died earlier this year at the grand age of 93, so this is a tribute to an aunt who will always be fondly remembered. And to those of you who know me, yes I do look rather like my mother!

Dorothy & Marjorie Fraser

On 25 March

25 March 1873

A big day on my family tree – my grandfather Henry Strachan was born. Sadly, I know nothing about him apart from what I’ve been able to research, nor do I have any photos, as not only did he die before I was born but he died 3 days before my father’s second birthday so my father had no memories of him to pass on. Henry was a coal miner, born at Crookedholm, the eighth child of coal miner Joseph Strachan and Jeannie Haddow. He’s Henry in all the records but my father always said his name was actually Hendry. He was named after his uncle, the brother of his father, who did manage to get himself listed as Hendry in one census.

Fortunately, as Henry he’s fairly well documented in the records. In 1881 he’s an 8 year old living with his parents and siblings in Crookedholm, and he’s still there, with his parents at Lamont’s Land, Crookedholm, in 1891, a 19 year old coal miner. His older brother Robert had died the year before and, sadly, his older sister Flora was to die two years later.

Henry met local girl Helen McCrae, who lived in Hurlford and was the daughter of a coal miner, and she gave birth to their first child in September 1895. No marriage took place at the time, but that might have had something to do with the health of Henry’s father, who died in December 1895 of cardiac disease. But Henry Strachan and Helen McCrae did get married in March 1896, at the Commercial Inn at Hurlford, and they went on to have a total of 11 children, my father being the youngest. In the 1901 census they were living at Old Factory House, Crookedholm, with three children.

In 1905 the Valuation Roll has, at Cowan’s Row, Crookedholm, Henry Strachan collier living next door to Henry Strachan pitheadman. This is my grandfather and his uncle but I don’t know which is which, though it’s more likely that the older Henry is the pitheadman as it was a job that usually went to older miners. They were both living in housing rented by Portland Colliery.

Some time between 1906 and 1908 the family moved to Lanarkshire, to an area that is now classed as Glasgow. They first settled at Tollcross, where their next child was born. Henry’s younger brother also moved to Tollcross and there were a number of other relations already in the area. No doubt the main reason for the move was better or more secure work in the coal mines. Then they moved to Cambuslang, but times must have been tough as in the 1911 census the family is in a two roomed tenement at 14 Mansion Street in a household comprising Henry and Helen, 9 children aged from 15 to 2 months, and two lodgers, both coal miners. A very crowded household indeed!

In 1912 Helen and Henry’s youngest child, William, died at the age 1 of measles and broncho-pneumonia. This must have been what prompted Henry to take out a title on a plot at Westburn Cemetery: I have the original title deed in my possession because my father ended up with it. Henry and family had moved by then and were living at 54 Gilbertfield Buildings. The address suggests Henry was working at the Gilbertfield Mine near Cambuslang, owned by United Collieries and which in 1910 employed 315 underground and 82 above ground. The mine owners’ houses for employees are described in a 1910 report as two storey, erected in 1884, with large rooms, wc in a close, and an inside sink with water. In the 1915 Valuation Roll Henry Strachan miner is the tenant of 54 Gilbertfield Buildings, Overton Street, owned by United Collieries, and paying a yearly rent of £9 12s.

Henry Strachan died on 27 November 1918 at the age of 45, of pneumonia arteriosclerosis – a common cause of premature death in coal miners. He left behind a widow and 10 children, 5 of whom had not yet reached working age.

Software for your family tree

By request – a blog post about software.

Which to use?

You can, of course, build your tree on a genealogy web site, but they’re not very flexible and are severely limited as to what notes you can add. Plus you’re building it online and it can be slow and frustrating. So if you’re not already doing so, I recommend creating a family tree on your own computer using specialist family tree software. If you are already doing so, please post a comment saying which software you use and why you like it, or dislike it, as I can only comment on the one I use.

There’s plenty of choice for family tree software but I use Reunion and think it’s brilliant. If you’re running Windows on a PC you’re out of luck, though, as Reunion is only produced for Apple Macs. I’m a long time Apple Mac fan as I got my first one in 1985 and have had one at home ever since. When I worked in advertising it was all Apple Macs, but for the last ten years at work I had to use a PC running Windows. I hated it. If you’ve never used a Mac you really don’t know what you’re missing!

I suspect all good family tree software is similar to Reunion, though, in that it will be based on person record cards to which you can add as many details and as many notes as you want, and to which you can embed images such as photos and scans of certificates, OPR pages, and other documents. The person cards link via relationships so you can see at a glance who a person’s parents, spouse and children were. You can print off, or save, all sorts of reports and charts. The find facility in Reunion is great – simply type in a word or phrase and it gives you a list of all the person cards that contain that phrase in any field (which is how I find out what happened on a particular date). It also works out how everyone on your tree is related to you, which is very useful indeed.

I also suspect you get what you pay for so it will be worth it in the long run to buy the best you can afford: none of them are all that expensive anyway. This is, after all, a very important hobby! The Windows software that seem to get the best reviews are Family Historian, Legacy and RootsMagic (though the latter sounds like a hair dye) so if you’re thinking of buying I’d recommend you read some reviews and see if you can get a free trial. FamilyTreeMaker used to be popular but it now comes tied to the Ancestry website, which you may or may not think is an advantage.

It might be a good idea to have several trees

I have separate trees for each of my grandparents’ surnames, plus four more separate trees for all the maternal lines linked to each of my grandparents’ surnames. That way I don’t end up with one tree that is so huge I get lost when using it.

Print off hard copies of your person cards

Even with a programme on your computer, I really recommend printing off record cards for everyone on your tree and filing them, together with copies of related certificates, census extracts, etc., in some kind of orderly manner. Make sure all the notes you’ve added to each person card are printed out along with the basic born, married, died details. Your hard copies could prove a godsend if you ever have a fatal computer crash, but it also means you can sit and browse through your research in comfort, let someone else have a browse through it, and even take a file with you when out and about. And just doing it is very helpful in getting everything in order, including your brain and your memory!

The software will also create charts. Trouble is, once you get beyond a fairly small number of people on your family tree the resulting chart, at a size that is readable, is far too big to print out on an A4 printer so I’ve never bothered.

On 24 March

Doing a post a day on “it happened on this day” will nicely take care of 365 blog posts! I’ll add others though, as and when something interesting strikes. But I like the randomness of the date search, as it picks out people I haven’t thought about for some time. So on this date in years gone by:

24 March 1802
John Green, infant son of John Green bleacher, was buried at St Mary’s, Worsbrough (south of Barnsley, Yorkshire). Baby John was about 1 month old. The father John Green was my 5 times removed uncle, the brother of my gggg grandfather Joseph Green.

24 March 1857
My gggg uncle Robert Strachan died at the age of 75. He was born in 1781, son of Thomas Strachan and Susannah Alexander, in the parish of Irvine, and would have been about 4 years old when the family moved to Gorbals, now part of Glasgow. But by 1803 he was back in Ayrshire as that’s when he married Jean Kelly in the parish of Riccarton, which is the area just south of Kilmarnock. They proceeded to have 9 children, all baptised in Riccarton, but by the 1841 census had moved to the parish of Dreghorn and were living in Perceton Row (see earlier blog entry with picture). They had a granddaughter living with them, a 15 year old coal miner as a lodger, and a 17 year old domestic servant who was the stepdaughter of Robert’s brother John Strachan. Their neighbours in Perceton Row included Robert’s sons Samuel and John and his nephew John. Robert’s wife Jean died in around 1843 and he married again in 1846, at Gargieston, near Kilmarnock, when he was 65 years old, to Jean Muir who was 20 years his junior. In 1851 they’re at Gatehead, near Kilmarnock, and Robert’s still a coal miner. He died in 1857 at Sandbed Street, Kilmarnock from “age and infirmity”: he was 75 which was a good age to reach for the time. I think it’s safe to say he had a full life!

24 March 1870
Thomas Ballantyne, a miner age 28, Scottish, sailed from Glasgow and arrived in New York on 24 March 1870. This might be the son of Susanna Strachan, and therefore grandson of the above Robert Strachan, as Susanna married Thomas Ballantine in 1829. Her son Thomas Ballantine was born in 1840 as he was 9 months old at the 1841 census: no baptism found. I’ve not found anything else that could be him but his brother John migrated to Canada.

On 23 March

The software I use for my family trees has a useful find facility, so I thought seeing what had happened on today’s date might be interesting. It’s a good day for doing things that pass the time as there’s about a foot of snow outside – and it’s officially the third day of spring! I hope the weather was better on:

23 March 1806
Sarah Grist was baptised at Sprotborough, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire. In 1826 she married Thomas Oxley at Rotherham, although he came from Barnsley. In the 1841 census they can be found at Wortley Street, Barnsley, with 7 young children including Margaret, who went on to marry Joseph Green and became my great great grandmother. I don’t know much about Sarah Grist except that her parents were Henry and Ann Grist, and the 1841 census shows Henry age 65, an agricultural labourer living at Goldthorp and not born in Yorkshire. So that’s something to find out at some stage: where did Henry come from?

23 March 1860
Peter Orr, grandson of my gggg grandfather and the son of Mary Strachan, my first cousin 4 times removed, married Agnes Clark at Hurlford. Peter and Agnes went on to have 11 children, and Peter spent his whole life working as a coal miner in Hurlford. He was already a coal miner at the age of 13, when the 1851 census was taken, and he died a coal miner in 1899 at the age of 64. Having just finished sorting out my Haggerty ancestors, I’m wondering if Peter’s father James Orr was related to Jean Orr who married Joseph Haggerty. In close communities such as coal miners, and with people having large families, it must have been difficult to find someone you weren’t somehow related to.

23 March 1876
Catherine (Kate) Fraser, my half great great aunt, was born at Govan Brose, Causeway End, Aberdeen, to my great great grandfather Alexander Fraser and his second wife Margaret Booth. Catherine’s parents took over Mosside, the Fraser family croft near Hatton, when Catherine was about one year old. She worked as a domestic servant on farms until she married in 1895 at the age of 18 to Andrew Gibb Johnston, a farm servant. They moved to Aberdeen between 1901 and 1911 where Andrew worked as a carter for the railway. They had 6 children, and Catherine died in 1946 at the age of 70, in Aberdeen.

Adding a Haggerty page

I’ve finally got round to writing up my research into my Haggerty ancestors, and have added a Haggerty page.

They haven’t been the easiest to research, and hopefully when more “stuff” gets to be online I may discover more, and as many of them migrated to America there’s little research I can do here in the UK. Going backwards, my suspicion is the earliest Haggerty I know I’m descended from – Joseph Haggerty the husband of Jean Orr – was born in Ireland some time in the mid to late 1700s. When I get to put “born in Ireland” against someone on my tree my going back research stops at that point, as Irish births are impossible to find when you have no idea where, when and to whom someone was born.

But what research I was able to do took me into the coal mining history of Glenbuck, in the parish of Muirkirk, and into trying to find out where cottages at Boat Stabs in the parish of Dundonald could have been located: by the sea is my guess, though they could have been on the south side of the River Irvine. I also found about the coal mining history of Indiana and California, and tried to imagine what it would have been like crossing the Atlantic in the late 1800s. Not exactly a cruise, I suppose, but at least by then it was done by steamship in about nine days.

I do love how family history takes you into so many different but equally fascinating areas.

Inspiring blog award

Bligger Award
Thank you followers who’ve nominated this blog for a Leibster Award. Lovely to know what I’m doing is appreciated. Here are my answers to the questions:

11 fascinating facts about myself

Hard to know what is fascinating and what is just so-so but here goes.

I was born in Leeds, moved to the North Yorkshire coast when I was seven, moved back to Leeds where I was a student, in my mid twenties spent two years living in Nottinghamshire, moved to London, moved to Melbourne, Australia, then moved back to Leeds. As a result I’ve become expert at moving house, selling houses, doing up houses, etc.

Most of my working life was spent in advertising, as a copywriter and creative director. In 2004 I started working as a university lecturer, teaching marketing, branding and advertising, and then retired in 2012.

I’ve been a lifelong pony-mad person and still go riding. I also do one day a week volunteering for Hope Pastures – – a horse and pony rescue centre here in Leeds.

I chose not to have children and sometimes wonder if my love of looking backwards into family history is partly fuelled by not having any need to look forwards.

I have a BA and MA in English Literature which, together with my almost ten years as an academic, means I like to think I’ve been well trained in research. It also means I tend to theorise everything!

My grandfather was with the Gordon Highlanders in World War 1 and was wounded in November 1916 at Beaumont Hamel in the Battle of the Somme. This is the battle the novel Birdsong is about. My grandfather was sent to an army hospital in Leeds to recuperate, and promptly met my grandmother and never went back to Scotland to live.

My father was in the army in Word War 2, a sergeant specialising in ammunitions inspection who also played in a dance band. Stationed at Corsham in the south of England, he met an women’s army corporal from Leeds, and after the war they married. So he never went back to Scotland to live either.

Due to the two facts above I try to stay clear of Scottish members of the armed forces!

I used to write fiction and have had short stories published in magazines as well as winning a few short story competitions. I’ve also had non-fiction articles published.

I just scraped into being born during the reign of George VI. Apparently I watched Queen Elizabeth’s coronation on television but was too young at the time to be able to remember it.

I got married just a few weeks before Prince Charles and Princess Diana, then got divorced not long after they did. 1981 clearly wasn’t a good year for getting married.

Answer the questions from a nominator:

Why did I start blogging?
I had amassed loads of notes about my family history. I’d promised to produce a sort of book to share with family members and started working on it once I’d retired, but then thought that putting in online would be better as it would be more accessible to more people. Judy’s Family History is the result.

Who is your favourite ancestor and why?

It keeps changing, depending on which branch I’m working on! But I’ve always had a soft spot for my paternal grandmother Helen Strachan nee McCrae, who I sadly never met as she died before I was before. She had eleven children, was widowed while still in her forties, helped bring up some of her grandchildren, and was a staunch believer in family. I her photo she has a very kindly face. She had a hard life but was much loved by her many children.

What is your favourite time and place to blog?

A wall of my dining room is devoted to floor to ceilling book cases and a desk, which is where my beloved Apple iMac sits. So it’s there that I write my blog. Now that I’m retired I can work on it whenever I like, though family history tends to be a winter hobby as when the weather’s fine I get outside as much as I can.

If I could invite 4 people to dinner from the past or present who would be?

My grandmother Helen Strachan nee McCrae just so I could say I’d met her.

My grandfather James Fraser so I could ask him about his farm life and WW1 experiences, which I sadly failed to do when he was alive.

Jane Austen, who I think is possibly the best novelist to have ever lived and who invented modern novel writing techniques.

Thomas Strachan coal miner, who married Susannah Alexander in 1771, so I could ask where the hell he came from and who his parents were.

My ideal vacation spot:
Is Greece, during early or late summer, close to a beach and near some interesting archealogical remains. Though I’d love to take a trip to Canada.

If I was an animal, which one would I be?

Well, I think being a human animal is just fine. I love both horses and cats and am a big softie about all animals, but I’m all too aware what risky lives they all lead. Being human means you’re in a lot less danger of nasty things happening to you than if belong to any other species.

What is my dream job?

I now have it – being retired! However, I’d have loved to be either a journalist or a novelist. Instead, I made do with being an advertising copywriter. Though I wouldn’t mind being a professional genealogist.

Where are my family’s roots?
In Scotland mainly, both Ayrshire and Aberdeenshire, but also in south Yorkshire from villages in the Barnsley area. The Ayrshire side has a fair bit of Irish blood injected into it by the look of things.

What do you hope to achieve in 2013?

Enjoy my first year of retirement, and use the much longed for time availability to do useful things with my family history research, including adding lots more to my blog.

Nominate your favourite blog:

Instead of nominating blogs (as most of the ones I follow have already been nominated by my nominators) I’ve decided just to list some of the blogs I most enjoy visiting:
 My friend Kate’s blog about her water vole observing adventures near her home in Shropshire 
Chris Paton’s blog with lots of good stuff for anyone reserch English, Scottish and Irish ancestors
 Fabulous photography, good recipes, and a very cute spaniel
 Interesting snippets about north-east Scotland taken from old newspapers

Err … um … I’m struggling to think of more. I wish there were a lot more
good genealogy blogs out there! Despite using geneabloggers and Google to have a good look round, I’ve struggled to find blogs that overlap with my own genealogy areas of interest. Please let me know if you know of anything worth checking out.

Ancestors migrating yet again

Gosh, my ancestors get everywhere – or at least the Scottish ones do. I’m now used to losing track of someone in the census in Scotland, only for them to turn up in Canada, USA, New Zealand or Australia.

In the mid to late 1800s Ayrshire coal miners were clearly being lured to work in newly opening USA mines, and many on my family tree were happy to answer the call. Some came back to Scotland, so it can’t always have been what they’d hoped for, but most stayed so I must have heaps of long lost cousins scattered all over the United States.

Today I’ve been padding out what I know about my Haggarty or Haggerty ancestors. My great great grandmother was Margaret Haggarty, who died at the age of 38 from what was probably typhoid. Not getting far with her parents, Joseph Haggerty and Jean Orr, I started researching her siblings. She had a brother Hugh who married Janet Muir and lived in Dundonald and then Kilwinning, but who died in about 1848. He’s in the 1841 census but only his widow and children are in the 1851 census and again in 1861. Then Ancestry gave a suggestion for his widow in the 1880 USA census so I had a look – and there she was, with two of her sons, in California.

They were living in Judsonville, Contra Costa County. According to Wikipedia, Judsonville is now a ghost town but used to be a town serving nearby coal mines. There’s information about it on the web, as it’s now become a coal mining preserve –

According to the web site, “From the 1860s through the turn of the last century, five coal mining towns thrived in the Black Diamond area: Nortonville, Somersville, Stewartville, West Hartley and Judsonville. As the location of California’s largest coal mining operation, nearly four million tons of coal (“black diamonds”) were removed from the earth. The residents of the mining towns were from all over the world, and their life was characterized by hard work and long hours. Occasional celebrations and a variety of organizations and social activities served to alleviate the drudgery of daily existence. The coal mines had a significant impact on California’s economy. By the time operations ceased due to rising production costs and the exploitation of new energy sources, much of California’s economy had been transformed from a rural to an industrial base.”

So far I’ve no idea when they migrated or where they were after the 1880 census but I’m about to try and find out. It’s amazing where family history takes you, and what it teaches you about the world and its history.

The “beautiful jail” at Hurlford

Going through snippets of information I’ve gathered over the years by rummaging around on the internet, I came across a description of Hurlford, Ayrshire published in 1875. My coal mining Strachan ancestors were living in Hurlford by 1870 so the extract gave me a feel for what the place was like.

Re-reading it, however, I was struck by the writer saying Hurlford was “possessed of two handsome churches, a commodious academy, and a beautiful jail, which I trust the inhabitants patronize as little as possible”. No doubt the jail was less beautiful on the inside than on the outside. However, I do know that at least one person on my family tree experienced at least one night in the cells at Hurlford Jail.

A Strachan-related young woman married in the late 1800s. On looking for her in the census I found her in Hurlford, with a baby but no husband. Searching for the husband I quickly found him – he was spending the night in Hurlford jail. They went on to have more children and seem to have lived a normal life, so I don’t think the husband did anything horrendous – possibly a bit of drunk and disorderly behaviour. But it’s enjoyable imaging the reception when he got back to his young wife: “Of all the nights to get yourself locked up, you have to go and pick census night. There it will be forever, in black and white, for the whole world to see. Whatever will our genealogist descendants think!”

That is not, of course, what she’d have said, but it’s fun letting your imagination run riot at times, and genealogy provides lots of opportunities for doing so.

(The rest of the description of Hurlford in 1875 is reproduced under the articles tab)

New: article about Scottish Parish Registers

I’ve added an article about Scottish Old Parish Registers (OPRs). It’s really helpful to fully understand the documents you use for research, and from reading genealogy forums I’m awqre that OPRs cause most of the frustrations. Our brickwalls most often happen because we just can’t find the baptism or marriage we need in the surviving OPRs, or we find an entry we think might be right but there just isn’t enough evidence to be certain.

In the article I’ve discussed the problems encountered by lack of detail in OPR entries, lack of an entry in the OPR even though a baptism or marriage probably did take place, lack of a baptism or marriage having happened in the first place, and difficulties reading and transcribing OPRs.

Hope you find it interesting and useful.