This isn’t a “blood” connection, but Susan Cran was the second wife of my gg grandfather and the mother of several of my half gg aunts and uncles.
Susan Cran 1819 – 1881
Susan Cran was born in Kilwinning, Ayrshire in about 1819 but there is no baptism record. Her 1881 death certificate, where the informant was her son Robert Strachan, names her parents as Jane Johnston ms Kirkwood deceased and doesn’t name a father. Susan married widower Robert Strachan in Kilwinning in 1850 when she was about 30 years old: he was around 42 and already had had nine children, though by the time of his second marriage only four of them were still at home. Susan had six children with Robert Strachan (so he had 15 offspring in total) and lived all her life in Kilwinning. Robert Strachan died in June 1877 at Kenneth’s Row, Kilwinning of chronic bronchitis which was very common amongst coal miners.
After Robert’s death, Susan continued to live at Kenneth’s Row and is in the 1881 census heading up the household there, along with her sons Samuel and Thomas, both in their 20s and coal miners, Samuel’s 2 year old daughter Elizabeth, and visitor Mary McEwan nee Strachan along with Mary’s four children. Mary was the daughter of John Strachan and Jean Neilson and therefore Susan’s step niece.
Susan died in 1881 at the age of 57 at Kenneth’s Row, from what looks like sclerosis (hand writing is very hard to read), and the death certificate says she was illegitimate. Her mother is named but not her father.
Jean Kirkwood 1785 – 1871
Susan’s mother was Jean Kirkwood, who was born in Kilwinning on 30 March 1787, the daughter of sexton Alexander Kirkwood and Shusan Brown. There is no record of who was the father of her daughter Susan, so it’s possible that Susan was illegitimate by a father with the surname Cran. It is not a common name and there are only a few baptisms with the surname Cran or Crann in Ayrshire in the early 1800s, with only one in Kilwinning. The Kilwinning baptisms is for John Cran, born in April 1813 and baptised in July that year, the natural (i.e. illegitimate) son of Alexander Cran and Jean Kirkwood. There is no baptism for Susan Cran, but it could well be she had the same father as John. Nothing further has been found for John Cran, who may have been Susan’s brother.
Nothing is known of Jean’s life during and immediately after the birth of her illegitimate children, but in 1833 – when she was in her mid 40s – she married William Johnston, a cotton hand loom weaver in Kilwinning. They are in the 1841 census at Cotton House, Kilwinning with Susan age 20: she has the surname Johnston but is surely Susan Cran, Jean’s daughter. There are two very young Johnstons, age 4 and 2, who are probably relatives of William’s as, in a later census, one of them has a birthplace of Edinburgh.
In 1851 Jean Johnson is in Kilwinning with husband William and one of the children who was with them in 1841, plus two grandchildren with the surname Bone. In 1861 Jean and William are still in Kilwinning with one of the Bone grandchildren. William Johnston died in 1864 and the informant at his death was Susan Cran’s husband, Robert Strachan.
Jean Johnston, pauper widow, died in 1871 at Kenneth’s Row, Kilwinning, which is where her married daughter Susan was living. Jean’s death certificate, the informant being Susan’s son Robert Strachan, gives Jean’s parents as Alexander Kirkwood sexton and Susan Kirkwood ms Brown.
Jean’s father was the sexton at Kilwinning, a sexton being the person who looked after the graveyard and dug the graves. He may also have been involved with maintenance of the church buildings. The Kilwinnning OPR has a marriage, in June 1783, for Alexander Kirkwood and Shusanna Brown. There are three baptisms for children of Alexander and Susan in Kilwinning: Ann in 1783, Janet in 1785 and Jean in 1787. Given no more baptisms, it may be that either Alexander or his wife Susan died in around 1787. Nothing has been found for Ann Kirkwood, but Janet Kirkwood married John Ferguson in Kilwinning in 1810 and lived in Dalry.
There is a baptism for Alexander Kirkwood at Kilwinning in 1744, although this would make him 39 years old at his marriage. Perhaps he was married twice, or it’s possible the 1744 baptism is for his father.