On 16 May

All sorts today: a crofter/ag lab who lived to 93, a coal miner who married three times plus had an illegitimate child with his cousin, a musical Strachan who was a pipe major on Tyneside, and a salmon fisher Aberdeenshire ancestor.

16 May 1779
Baptism of my gggg grandfather Peter Watt at Bourtie, Aberdeenshire, son of John Watt and Helen Davidson. In 1805 he married Helen Alexander at Bourtie. He seems to have spent his younger years working as a farm servant, as the elder children of Peter and Helen were born in different parishes: Bourtie, Udny, Fintray, Chapel of Garioch and then in Rayne from 1818. He’d probably taken the lease of a small croft in Rayne by 1818, as he lived the rest of his long life there. In 1841 Peter and Helen are living at Meikle Wartle in Rayne and he’s an ag lab; they’re still there and he’s still an ag lab in 1851 at age 72, with a daughter and a grandson with them. In 1861 he’s at the same croft, an 81 year old labourer, with his wife, a daughter, and two children described as nephew and niece but who are his grandchildren. Nor surprisingly he’s a retired ag lab in 1871 as he’s 91 and his wife is 85, and they have a daughter and granddaughter with them. Peter Watt died in 1872 at the age of 93, from senile debility. The farm servant and crofting life seems to have been good for his health.

16 May 1813
Birth of Andrew Strachan at Riccarton, Ayrshire son of my gggg uncle Robert Strachan and Jean Kelly. A coal miner, Andrew married Elizabeth Howat in Kilmarnock in 1834 and the had 7 children. In 1841 the family are at Perceton Row, Dreghorn with plenty of relatives as neighbours. Elizabeth died in around 1845 and I don’t know the cause, but at the time there were epidemics of typhus and cholera. Andrew married Margaret Todd in 1847 and had 2 more children, then Margaret died in about 1850. In 1851 he and his children are at Macreadie’s Land, Dreghorn (the Macreadie family were local land and coal mine owners). With the family is Elizabeth Strachan age 22, general servant: she was the daughter of Andrew’s uncle John Strachan and his second wife Jean Wallace. Elizabeth gave birth to an illegitimate daughter the following year with the father named as Andrew Strachan. I can’t find any records for Elizabeth after the birth of her daughter, but Andrew married Jean Walker in about 1854, though there is no marriage record to be found. In 1861 they are in Riccarton with the younger of Andrew’s children, a child of Jean’s and two of their own, plus domestic servant Christina Braden. They were to have more children before Andrew Strachan died in 1864 at the age of 52 of pulmonary tuberculosis, which he’d had for 2 years.

16 May 1866
Birth of Munro Strachan at Dreghorn, Ayrshire son of John Strachan and Agnes Scott and grandson of my ggg uncle Munro Strachan. He was a coal miner, married Elizabeth Crawford, and had 6 children. They first moved to Lanarkshire and lived in Dalziel, the in 1901 they are Tynemouth, Northumberland, Munro working as coal hewer. In 1911 they are in Wallsend-on-Tyne and Munro is still working in the coal mines, but he clearly had other interests, for in 1914 Munro enlisted. He’d previously been in the Volunteer Scots Rifles and on his army papers it says he was a pipe major. Online is the sheet music to “Jeannie Strachan” composed by Pipe Major Munro Strachan, so he must have been a prominent piper in his day. His wife Elizabeth died in 1923 at Tynemouth, and there is a marriage for Munro Strachan and Annie Chapman in Tynemouth in 1925. Munro Strachan died in 1946 at Fylde, Lancashire, where his daughter Jeanie lived. There is also a marriage of Munro Strachan, furniture salesman, in Fylde in 1942 and a son born to that couple in 1943. If it’s the same Munro, he would have been 75 when he married, 76 when he fathered a son, and died years later. There’s a chance it could have been his son, though, but I haven’t researched it fully yet.

16 May 1867
Birth of Alexander Morrison at Cruden, illegitimate son of my ggg aunt Isabella Fraser and James Morrison of Hatton: his baptism is in the Cruden OPR and the father is named. The following year his mother married George Wallace of South Hay Farm, Cruden, and in 1861 Alexander is living with his mother and stepfather. In 1871 he’s a farm servant to George Sangster at Midtown Farm, Cruden, and in 1880 he married Agnes Gall at Peterhead. By 1891 he’s had a change of career and is salmon fisher living at Boddom with his wife, stepson and 4 month old son. In 1891 he’s still a salmon fisher but has moved to Gamrie, Banffshire and had 3 more children, but he was back in Boddom by 1894 as he was informant for the death of his mother. Then by 1901 they family have moved to Rosehearty, and had another 2 children. I’ve not researched him beyond 1901.

16 May 1908
Birth of Mary Porter Strachan at Crookedholm, Ayrshire daughter of my great uncle Colin Haddow Strachan and Agnes Porter. Poor little Mary died in March 1909 at less than one year old.

4 responses to “On 16 May

  1. Hello Judy – Congratulations you have done so much research and I read your blogs with much interest. Very impressive!
    Wish it were my Straghans/Strachans.
    Our James Straghan was supposed to have come from Newton-upon-Ayr, Ayrshire after his first wife (thought to be McGice) died in childbirth giving birth to twins who also do not seem to have survived. He went to Armagh in Northern Ireland and married Jane Craig about 1800 and settled in Carnagh, Armagh, Northern Ireland. Some of his children went to Canada and the USA and the name changed to Strachan. My line came to Western Australia in 1862 and the name changed to Strahan. We have found ancestors in the USA and the name is recorded as Strahin and Strain, so the spellings were probably changed with the pronunciation in the various places.
    Can’t believe how much work you have done – thought we had done a lot but
    your research is amazing.
    Lyn – Western Australia

  2. Thank you for your comments. I’m aware of the Newton-on-Ayr Strachans but have no idea if or how they link into my line. They possibly do, but too far back to be recorded. It’s interesting how the name changes spelling depending on who was doing the saying of it and who was doing the writing down.

    There are a couple of other people who’ve commented on my blog who are also researching the Newton Strachans. Do you know them?

  3. Interesting to see my family being blogged. I think you must be a third cousin once removed. Peter Watt and Hellen Alexander are my 3G grandparents.
    From Peter to John Watt and Mary Mearns then to William Watt and Margaret Spark and then to my grandmother Mary Watt after which it becomes Macdonalds.
    As to the Alexanders, I became strangely fascinated by them and ended up writing a book, the endlessly fascinating, and a must for every bookshelf, ‘The Alexanders of Bourtie, 1696-1886: A Family History Journey’. The Aberdeen & North-East Scotland FHS sell it. There are so many pictures and so much supplementary material (descendant reports, transcribed wills, the 1851 census for Bourtie and so on) that it comes on a CD.
    It was an Alexander descendant who pointed out the blog – and a nicely made job it is too.
    The Watts have a tendency to long life. My grandmother made it to 109 so I’m not so sure about it being crofting that is good for the health (living into adulthood was the real challenge). A sound marriage may have played a part. Peter died just four months after Hellen.
    Peter also lived through the peak years of the first agricultural revolution. Before that, Aberdeenshire was a stony, boggy, acid-soiled, heather covered wasteland. Nothing like today’s gentle pastoral scene. Most of Peter’s life would have been spent moving stones (hence the miles of stone walls everywhere today), digging drains and spreading lime. It was probably the hardest period of all time for the ordinary agricultural worker.
    Ian Macdonald

    • Hello Ian, and welcome to my blog. How fascinating about the Alexanders. I must order your book from ANSFH as I’d be very interested to read your research and learn more about them.

      My Fraser ancestors, who had Mosside croft near Hatton, must have had a hard life too. The few acres they farmed is still there, overgrown and boggy, and it must have been such a trial growing crops there. And yes, removing lots of stones and digging drains would have been pretty continuous. My great grandfather was still crofting at Mosside in the 1940s and my mother remembered holidaying there when she was a child. She thought it was idyllic, but she was only ever there in summer!

      I’m descended from the Alexander line through my grandfather James Fraser, whose mother was Helen Hay, the illegitimate daughter of Helen Watt. Helen Watt was a daughter of James Watt born 1820, son of Peter Watt and Helen Alexander. I’ve only recently been researching the Alexanders, so your book will be a wonderful addition to my research.

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. It’s much appreciated.


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