Monthly Archives: June 2013

My trip to Scotland

Day one took me through Northumberland, with a couple of stops to see Roman sites, and then up into Scotland. On the road heading towards Jedburgh, this is the sight you’re waiting for.

Scotland sign
It’s in a lay-by and viewpoint, so you can park there and admire the undulations of border country.

Then it was off to Jedburgh, where there’s an abbey next to the river.

In the car park I met Donald, a dale pony cross having a bit of break during a journey in a horsebox.

The next day I spent in Edinburgh at the records centre, trawling through the Longside kirk session minutes. This took all day, by the end of which my eyes felt as if they were on stalks. But the Longside minutes proved very useful as it was obviously a parish that took chasing up couples who’d “sinned” before marriage very seriously indeed. Made notes of lots of names that might belong on my tree, then struck gold: my gggg grandparents, who married in 1800, were fined 10 shillings each for indulging in pre-marital fornication. More about this is another post.

After Edinburgh it was up into the Cairngorms, through Braemar. Absolutely stunning scenery and the weather was glorious – warm and sunny. It is magnificent up there, though odd to drive past ski lifts when there’s no snow around. Difficult to take photos of distant views as they never come out as it looks in real life. But it is jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Highland view
Typical Highland view

Next day went to Balmoral, which was better than I was expecting. They’ve made it into a very good visitor attraction, and I’m not surprised the Royals love it there.

The castle itself is not huge, for a castle, and the grounds are mainly natural, but with a very interesting kitchen garden.

Queen's kitchen garden
This is the Queen’s veggie plot!

A walk along the River Dee was blissful.

River Dee
Beautiful scenery, lots of bird life and incredibly peaceful.

Then it was a drive towards the coast the next day, stopping to see castles, scenery and visit the Museum of Farming Life at Aden Country Park. There’s an excellent exhibition there, with a very good booklet that I bought telling the story of the transition from the early farmtouns to modern day farming. My ancestors were very much part of this transition so I found it fascinating.

Horseman's cottage
A reconstruction of a farm worker’s living room in the 1930s.

I made friends while there with two very nosy young cattle.
Friendly cattle
There’s also a rebuilt farmer’s cottage on the site, moved stone by stone and decorated as it was in the 1950s.

It was then time to visit ancestral haunts: first on the list was Collieston, where my gg grandfather Alexander Fraser lived and worked at least twice before he took over the family croft.

Although not fisherfolk, my Fraser ancestors were familiar with the sea and the little fishing villages dotted along the Aberdeenshire coast.

Next stop was Cruden old Kirk. Last time I was there I took photos of the Fraser gravestone, giving details of my great grandfather, his second wife and two of their children. It was lying on its side then, as it had broken. So huge disappointment this time as it was no longer there – gone due to Health and Safety regulations I expect.

Cruden Old Kirk
There was no-one at the Kirk to ask, but I wonder what happens to stones that are removed for safety reasons.

Off to Mosside Croft next, north-east of Hatton. It was a ruin last time I saw it and it clearly hadn’t been touched since. Sad to think that over 100 years of blood, sweat and toil is now going to waste, but at least it’s still there.

Mosside Croft
I’d love to know when this cottage was built, as it isn’t the one that would have been there in 1841.

A wider view of the croft shows the steadings alongside, where the farm animals lived and machinery was stored. There are two here and the one nearest the cottage is clearly a lot older than the second one.
Mossude and steadings
My mother remembers holidaying here in the 1920s, and the field in front of the cottage was sown to crops, with grazing for the cows behind. My half great grandmother made cheese, they had hens for eggs and meat, and kept a pig for fattening up.

It seems very isolated now, but it wasn’t really: nearby crofts were only a very short walk away and a lot of farming tasks would be co-operative, crofters helping each other with ploughing and harvesting.
Nearby crofts to Mosside
That’s Hardslacks to the right and behind of Mosside croft.

Up towards Peterhead next, as many of my ancestors were quarry workers at Stirlinghill – a quarry that’s still in operation. Next to it is Lendrum Terrace, an address that turns up on the census as my gg aunt Mary Ann Fraser married David Ewan Michael, and they lived at Lendrum Terrace.

Lendrum Terrace and Quarry
In those days the view out to sea, taking in Boddam and Peterhead must have been spectacular. Today it’s somewhat marred by a rather large blot on the landscape.

View from Lendrum Terrace
Yes, it’s a power station!

Power is something Aberdeenshire produces plenty of: there are wind turbines everywhere. I know not everyone is a fan, but personally I think they look much nicer than a power station.

I had thought of perhaps spending a day in Aberdeen in the Local Studies Library but didn’t in the end: the weather was far too good to spend a day inside. So much of the time was spent soaking up the sun and fresh air.

Then it was a long drive back home, and farewell to Scotland – until next time.

Back from Scotland

What a great week I had, thanks to glorious weather. Warm and sunny all week. However, I developed a niggling toothache, which got worse once I was home. So the weekend has been spent on the sofa feeling sorry for myself whilst dosed up on painkillers. But I’ve been to the dentist this afternoon: am now pain free and minus a back molar. So tomorrow normal service will resume and I’ll get this blog up to date.

There’s a big distraction over the next two weeks, though: Wimbledon. As so many following this blog have Scottish ancestors I’m sure you won’t mind me saying “Come on Andy Murray”.

On 22 June

A young woman who died at only 17 years of age.

22 June 1862
Birth of Margaret Boyle Strachan at Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, daughter and eldest child of John Strachan and Christina Houston McGill and granddaughter of my ggg uncle Peter Strachan and Margaret Boyle. Her father was a coal miner, naturally, and in 1871 the family are in Kilmarnock and Margaret is at school. She died in 1879, at her parents house at Low Row, Crosshouse, Kilmaurs, of pulmanory consumption (tb) and bowel inflammation. Her death certificate says she’s been working as a dressmaker.

On 21 June

Someone who managed to die just before civil registration commenced in Scotland, a female ancestor who lived her entire life on the same street in Stevenston, and an Ayrshire coal miner whose work made him disabled and in receipt of poor relief.

21 June 1783
My ggggg uncle William Watt was born at Bourtie, Aberdeenshire, son of John Watt and Helen Davidson. There is a William Watt of the right age and born at Bourtie in the 1851 census, so assuming that’s him he married a Helen and was a crofter of 6 acres at Cromlet, parish is Fyvie, which is close to where his brother Peter settled. In 1851 William and Helen has two grandchildren living with them, and in 1841 they’re at the same place, William a stone dyker, with a daughter Jennet (Janet or Jessie) and 4 children, all with different surnnames, two of whom are the grandchildren still with them in 1851. So I’m assuming they followed the very common crofter/farm servant way of life, and had daughters who had illegitimate children, and some of those children lived with their grandparents. Unfortunately Williams must have died before 1855 so there is no death certificate to confirm his parentage.

21 June 1807
Birth of Margaret Adam at Stevenston, Ayrshire daughter of Francis Adam and my ggg aunt Margaret Haddow. She is listed with her parents in the 1819 Stevenston Minister’s List at Towhead, her father as a collier and is probably one of the children with them in 1822 and 1836. In the 1841 census, she is age 30 and a muslin sewer living with her parents at Townhead Street, Stevenston and she was to live there for the rest of her life. In 1851 she’s still with her parents, two younger sisters and what could be either an illegitimate daughter or a niece called Joanna Penman. In 1861 she’s with her widowed mother and Joanna, now with the surname Adam and who I’ve been unable to trace further. 1871 sees Margaret Adam change occupation from muslin sewer to agricultural labourer and pauper – she was 64 by then her eyesight may have failed – and she has living with her is Catherine Burns, niece, the illegitimate daughter of Margaret’s younger sister Jane. Margaret is still an ag lab in 1881 at the age of 79, and Catherine Burns is still with her, now described as adopted daughter. Margaret died in Stevenston in 1882.

21 June 1819
Birth of John Strachan at Riccarton, Ayrshire son of my gggg uncle Robert Strachan and Jean Kelly. In 1838 he married Margaret Lambie in Kilmarnock, and they’re in the 1841 census at Perceton Row, Dreghorn (along with John’s father and other relatives) with 2 young children – John, of course, is a coal miner. By 1851 they’ve moved to Broomlands Row, Irvine, so John must have been working at the Broomlands Pit, and they have 5 children. 1861 finds them in Dreghorn again, where all of their children were born, and in 1871 they’re at Corsehill Square, Dreghorn with their younger children and a grandson. John Strachan became disabled and applied for Poor Relief: his application in 1879 at Dreghorn details his children, all but 2 of whom were married, and he was awarded 1 shilling and sixpence a week. He died on 10 September 1880 at Black Square, Dreghorn age 51 years of chronic bronchitis. He is on quite a lot of trees on Ancestry, but for some bizarre reason a lot of them have the date of birth right but the location wrong, and have him dying in Australia. He didn’t as he spent his whole life in and around Dreghorn.

On 20 June

In Canada and Aberdeenshire, relations are celebrating their birthdays. Plus an early, disappearing ancestor, a illegitimate birth with paternity confirmed by the Sheriff’s Court, yet another Ayrshire coal mining Strachan.

20 June 1790
Jane Neilson, my gggg aunt, was baptised at Gorbals. daughter of Walter Neilson and Agnes Hadden. Unfortunately that’s all I know about her as nothing else can be found in the records.

20 June 1872
Birth of Jane (Jeanie) Fraser at Mosside Croft, Cruden, Aberdeenshire, illegitimate daughter of my ggg aunt Janet (Jessie) Fraser and William Simpson. There is a corrected entry for Jane’s birth as her mother Jessie went to the Sheriff’s Court to get William Simpson, a shoemaker of Peterhead, acknowledged as the father. In 1881 Jeanie, age 9, is with her mother as a boarder at Braeside, Longside where her mother was a domestic maid for farmer William Low and his family. In 1889 Jeanie married farm servant James Milne – her marriage certificate has her parents as James Simpson shoemaker and Jessie Simpson ms Fraser, which isn’t quite the truth. In 1891 James, a labourer, Jeanie and her mother Jessie Fraser are at Damhead, Peterhead. Jeanie gave birth to her only child James not long afterwards, and in 1901 the family are at West Gask, Cruden, where her husband is a ploughman. 1911 saw the family at Bruce Street, Peterhead with James working as a mason’s labourer. Jeanie’s mother Jessie has rejoined them and is a storekeeper, and Jeanie’s son James age 19 is a grocery shop assistant. They also have two boarders living with them.

20 June 1896 (born about 1845)
John Strachan, son of my ggg uncle Munro Strachan and Janet Jamieson, was born about 1845 in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, but there’s no baptism record. He’s with his parents and siblings at McReadie’s Land, Dreghorn in 1851, and his father is a pauper formerly a coal miner, so was disabled and receiving parish relief. His father died in 1854 and his mother remarried to William Young. In 1861 John age 15, now a coal miner, is at Warwickhill Hamlet, Dreghorn, with his mother, stepfather and siblings and half siblings. John married Agnes Scott in Irvine in 1864, and by 1871 they were at West Thornton Back Row, Dreghorn with 3 children and 2 of Agnes’s brother, John and his brothers-in-law all coal miners. In 1881 they have moved to Corsehill Square, Dreghorn and have 6 children, and they are still there in 1891 with 3 more children. John Strachan died in 1896 of erysipelas (skin infection).

20 June 1963
There’s a birthday today up in Aberdeenshire for my cousin once removed (i.e. my cousin’s daughter), great granddaughter of Henry Strachan and Helen McCrae.

20 June 1991
There’s also a birthday today in Canada – happy birthday Travis, who is my cousin twice removed (i.e. my cousin’s grandson). Travis is the great great grandson of Henry Strachan and Helen McCrae.

On 19 June

A another sad case of suicide today, brought on by depression, plus a Yorkshire gggg grandfather.

19 June 1770
Baptism of Joseph Firth, my gggg grandfather, at Royston, Yorkshire, son of James Firth of Chevet Moorgate, which is north of Notton. Joseph married Hannah Fisher, although I can’t find a marriage record, and they had 7 children baptised at Royston St John from 1795 to 1811, the youngest of whom was my gggg grandmother Sarah Firth who married Wiliam Green of Worsbrough. Joseph must have died before the 1841 census, though his wife Hannah is in Royston and is a baker, and there is no burial record for him, although there is one for his wife Hannah in 1850 at Royston.

19 June 1842
Birth of Thomas Hamilton at Moorefield Fireworks, Kilmaurs, son of John Hamilton and Janet Strachan and grandson of my ggg uncle Thomas Strachan and Elizebath Nisbet. By 1851 the family are at Corsehill Square, Dreghorn, father John a coal miner and 8 year old Thomas at school. In 1861 they are are Knockitiber Farm, Kilmaurs, and 18 year old Thomas is a coal miner, as is his father and older brother. His father died in 1869 and in 1871 he is living with his brother John at Kilmaurs Road, Kilmarnock, a few doors up from his widowed mother and younger siblings. In 1881 he is living with his mother and a niece and nephew. His mother died in July 1889 at Gilmour Street, Kilmarnock and Thomas, of the same address, was the informant on her death certificate and was present when she died. This may have contributed to why, on 24 October 1890, Thomas Hamilton committed suicide. His usual address was 16 Gilmour Street, but he killed himself in the grounds of a priory behind his brother’s house on North Hamilton Street, Kilmarnock. The death certificate says he’d been suffering from melancholy (what today we’d call depression) and the precognition report says he cut his own throat. Very tragic.

On 18 June

Two children of my grandparents today – my uncles John Strachan and William Strachan – plus a half gg aunt who was possibly connected to the Strachan family in two ways.

18 June 1858
My half gg aunt Ellen Marshall, sometimes Helen, was born at David’s Lane, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire illegitimate daughter of my gg grandmother Sarah Marshall. a hand sewer. Sarah Marshall was a widow, having been married to John McInerney who died about 1850. Ellen’s father is not named on the birth certificate but Ellen has the surname in McDonald in the 1861 census, when she’s at 19 Fore Street, Kilmarnock with her grandmother Agnes Marshall, her mother Sarah and 5 siblings. In 1871 Ellen is at 26 Back Street, Kilmarnock with her mother and a cousin. She married Hamilton Kirkwood, an iron dresser, in Kilmarnock. Her occupation is given as bonnet knitter, and she said her father was Matthew Marshall, a deceased shoemaker – not such person existed, but she had an older half brother Matthew McInerney who was a shoemaker. In 1881 Helen Kirkwood is at Blair Terrace, Hurlford with a young daughter and a visitor: husband Hamilton was spending census night as a prisoner at Hurlford Constabulary Station – no idea what he did but there’s no trace of criminal proceedings so perhaps he got into a fight that night. In 1891 the family are at West Shaw Street, Kilmarnock with 6 children, and then they moved to near Glasgow as in 1901 they are at George Street, Partick. Hamilton Kirkwood is still an iron dresser and they have had 3 more children. In 1911 they are Whiteinch, Govan, where Hamilton is working as a shipbuilding labourer and they have 5 children still at home. She died in 1933 at Kilmun, which is in Argyll but is a small seaside resort which was on the route of the Clyde steamer and was popular with Glaswegians, so she may have been on holiday or staying at a convalescent home. Her usual residence was given as Medwyn Street, Whiteinch, Glasgow and the informant was her unmarried daughter Sarah who lived with her in Glasgow. Ellen/Helen may be connected to the Strachan family twice: her older half sister Mary Ann McInerney married John McCrae and their duaghter married Henry Strachan, plus the second wife of Robert Strachan, Henry Strachan’s grandfather, was Susan Cran, the illegitimate daughter of Jean Kirkwood, who may well have been related to Hamilton Kirkwood.

18 June 1898
My uncle Jock – actual name John McCrae Strachan – was born at Crookedholm, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, third child of the grandparents I never met, coal miner Henry Strachan and Helen McCrae. John is in the 1901 census with his parents at Old Factory House, Crookedholm, and his father is a coal miner, the in about 1907 the family to moved to Lanarkshire, first to Tollcross and then to Halfway, Cambuslang. In 1911 the family are at 14 Mansion Street, and Henry and Helen now have 9 children: 12 year old John is still at school. John worked as a coal miner and married Sophia Jarvey Sweenie in 1921 at the Trinity United Free Church in Cambuslang: she was a local girl and was working at the pithead at the time of the marriage. They stayed in the Cambuslang area all their lives, and I can remember visiting them when I was a child. As far as I’m aware they didn’t have children but a family contact thinks they might have had a daughter called May. Can any Strachans out there confirm this?

18 June 1912 (born February 1911)
My uncle William McCrae Strachan, son of Henry Strachan and Helen McCrae was born in Cambuslang, Lanarkshire just before the 1911 census but I don’t know the exact date as I haven’t seen his birth certificate. He is with the family at Mansion Street, Cambuslang in the 1911 census but they moved shortly afterwards to 54 Gilbertfield Buildings, Cambuslang, which means Henry Strachan must have been working at the Gilbertfield Colliery owned by United Collieries Ltd. A report into miner’s housing in 1910 describes the Gilbertfield miners’ housing as two storey with each apartment of two large rooms plus use of communal toilets, washhouses, coal cellars and dustbins. Sadly, William died on 18 June 1912 at home, of measles and bronchio-pneumonia.

On 17 June

Quite a few 1700s ones today, a migration to Iowa plus an ancestor buried in an Aberdeenshire graveyard I’ll be visiting this week.

17 June 1705
Birth of what I strongly suspect is my gggg grandfather James Wilson at Stevenston, son of Patrick Wilson and Jean Clark: his daughter Jane Wilson married Duncan Murphie, their daughter Amelia married John Haddow, and his daughter Jean married Joseph Strachan. James Wilson married Agnes Smith

17 June 1722
Birth of John Reid at Kilwinning, who is possibly my gggggg uncle, son of Thomas Reid and Janet Eadie. His sister Christian is probably the one of married John Alexander and was the mother of Susannah Alexander, wife of Thomas Strachan. It’s very difficult to find out much about people who lived so long ago when you’ve no idea if they married or had children, especially when it’s a common name. Hence I’ve no idea what happened to him.

17 June 1733
Birth of Susan Reid at Kilwinning – sister of above. Again, nothing found as there are no marriage for a Susan Reid in Ayrshire at that time.

17 June 1781
Alexander Sansgter born at Cruden, my ggggg uncle and son of John Sansgter and Elizabeth Matthew. Not sure what happened to him as he doesn’t seem to have lived long enough to be in the 1841 census.

17 June 1822
Baptism of Jane Watt at Rayne, Aberdeenshire, my gggg aunt and daughter of Peter Watt and Helen Alexander. In 1841 she’s a female servant to the local miller, at Mill; of Wartle, Rayne. Then in 1847 she gave birth to an ilegitimate son, George Smart, and is with her parents and her son at Meikle Wartle, Rayne. In 1856 she had another illegitimate son, Alexander Harper, and in 1861 and is with her parents at Meikle Wartle, occupation stocking knitter. At the 1871 census she’s living with Janet Durno at Cushieston, just a couple of fields away from Meikle Wartle: Janet Durno has 5 children and is married to a farm servant who is not at home. By 1881, Jane is a bit further up the main road at the delightfully named Baldyquash living with her daughter-in-law Jane Harper, her son Alexander’s wife, and a young granddaughter while Alexander is away from home working as a farm servant. By 1891 she’s living on her on in Oldgateside Cottage, Culsamond, and is at Highmuir, Rayne on her own in 1901. In nearly all census, including 1901, her occupation is sticking knitter, knitter or wool knitter. Jane Watt – Jean on the headstone – died in February 1908 at the age of 82 at Warthill, near Meikle Wartle, and is on the Watt family memorial headstone in the kirkyard at Rayne (which I intend to visit next week).

17 June 1865
Birth of James McWilliam at New Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire son of my half gggg uncle Nathaniel McWilliam and Mary Yule. He migrated to USA with his family when young, and they are in Post Township, Iowa in 1870, 1880 and 1883, by which time James was 17 and was still at school. I can’t find him in the records after that.

On 16 June

Only one today: an Aberdeenshire connection who migrated to USA and worked as a granite cutter in Massachusetts before becoming a servant to a New York banking family.

16 June 1891
Birth of Alexander Michael at Boddom, Aberdeenshire, son of my gg aunt Mary Ann Fraser and David Ewan Michael. He was in Shap, Westmorland with his parents and siblings in 1901, and in 1911 is at Little Tillymaud, Cruden with his parents and siblings, a granite quarryman like his father. In 1912 he migrated to USA, going to Quincy, Massachusetts to join his cousin Ian Michael. His 1917 US Draft Card gives his address as Caledonia Avenue, Quincy and his occupation as a granite cutter. He was naturalised in 1918. The 1920 US census has him still at Caledonia Avenue with his aunt, widow Margaret Michael and two of her daughters. Alexander applied for a passport in 1921, so I have a picture of him! It confirms who his parents were, and that he was in England and France from 1915 to 1918. He next appears on passenger lists in 1921 going for a trip to Scotland. He married Barbara Jean Hill in Quincy in 1924: she was born in New Deer, Aberdeenshire, and they went to Scotland for a 4 month honeymoon, as they appear in passenger lists that year. In 1928 Barbara was naturalised, and by then thy were living at 107 East 73rd Street, New York, and Alexander was a caretaker. They went for another trip to Scotland in 1929. In the 1930 census they are still at 107 East 73rd Street, which is the house of a banker, Harold Clark and his family, who employ 5 servants including Alexander, Barbara and Jessie L Michael age 24, who is Alexander’s younger sister. There is no evidence of Alexander and Barbara having children, and I can’t find anything for them after the 1930 census.

Off to Scotland

I’m just about to set off for Scotland and will be back next weekend. Really looking forward to it, and fortunately the weather forecast is for clear and even sunny days, with no rain. So hopefully lots of photo opportunities to post here when I get back. I’m also taking a notebook so I can keep a journal of what I see and discover.

Today will be a leisurely drive from Yorkshire to Edinburgh via Northumberland National Park and Scottish Border country.