The Longside Kirk Session Minutes proved to be fruitful: that particular kirk session was clearly very keen to track down and deal with couples who indulged in pre-marital sex. Given that such couples were fined, I’ve always thought that the zeal with which this was done but the kirk sessions was only partly an attempt to “improve” the behaviour of parishioners: the financial contribution it made, especially to the Poor Box, must have been a major incentive. The fines were not insubstantial – possibly a few week’s wages.
While trawling through the Longside minutes in the reading room in Edinburgh, I noted down any mentions of surnames that appear on my family tree: Hutcheon/Hutchison, Logan, Bruce, Matthew, Watt, Sangster, Fraser, Williamson/McWilliam, Booth and Morgan, all made an appearance from the mid 1700s to the 1830s. I didn’t get any further than that, although the number being compeared for fornication was reducing by then. As the number of illegitimate births wasn’t decreasing – in fact it was probably increasing – it seems that the kirks were becoming more lenient by then, or simply couldn’t keep up with the number of cases. I have yet to go through my family tree to see whether the ones I made a note of relate to people on my tree, but I suspect a number of them do.
But in the minutes for 1800 there was one case which very obviously was my ancestor. On 20 April 1800, Agnes Bruce was interrogated by the kirk session for being unmarried and with child, and gave the father’s name as Alexander Hutcheon. They are my gggg grandparents. I see it as they were simply being human.
They were then both called before the kirk session on 4 May 1800, and Alexander did the gentlemanly thing and admitted he was the father. Then on the 15 June they were absolved from guilt upon payment of a fine of 10 shillings each.
From this I now know that Alexander Hutcheon, born 1777, was a tailor at Kinmundy, which is where my ggg grandfather William Fraser was possibly brought up if he lived wit his mother when he was a child, and in 1800 Agnes Bruce, born illegitimate in Crimond, was at Parkhill, just up the road – she may well have been working as a farm or domestic servant.
Agnes and Alexander married on 26 July 1800 at Longside, and their first child James was baptised on 6 September 1800. They tended to get babies baptised within a few days of birth back then, so he was probably born late August or early September, so Agnes would have been about 5 months pregnant when she was first compeared in April. Agnes and Alexander went on to have a large family, with Alexander Hutcheon dying in 1820 at age 43 and Agnes dying in 1866 at the age of 84.
Their daughter Christian then made an appearance in the minutes in 1823 when she gave birth to an illegitimate son – more of that tomorrow.