Morgan – my step-great-grandmother’s family
I started out thinking Helen Ann Morgan wasn’t a blood relative of mine, but have always thought she deserved a place on the family tree as she was the second wife of my great-grandfather and the mother of my grandfather’s stepbrothers, who he was close to. But then, when doing more research into her origins, I discovered she was a relative after all. Her great-grandmother and the great-grandmother of her husband William Fraser were sisters.
Helen Ann Morgan (known as Nellie) 1867 – 1938 married to William Fraser
She was born 27 December 1867 in the parish of Peterhead to parents William Morgan and Jane Aitken, who were married in the parish of Longside. In the 1871 census the family are at Lochside, parish of Cruden, where William is a farm servant, and the parish of Cruden became Helen’s childhood home. In 1881 the family are at Collie Hill, Cruden and in 1891 at Little Tillymaud, Cruden with William continuing to work as a farm servant.
In her mid twenties Helen left home, and in 1901 she is a resident domestic servant at 12 Union Street, Peterhead, next to the docks, This was the home of Richard Calder Fraser, a vintner, his wife and four children. I don’t know whether this Fraser was in any way related to my Fraser family that Helen would marry into, but given that the census says he was born in Cruden there’s a good chance he was.
In November 1904, when she was 36, Helen gave birth to an illegitimate daughter Chrissie Gray Morgan, at Blackstrath, Keithhall. This was a farmstead, now derelict, near Inverrurie, where Helen was most probably a servant. The father is not named on the birth certificate, but his surname could well have been Gray. Helen must have moved back to Cruden very soon after the birth, as by mid 1905 she was pregnant again, this time by William Fraser.
William Fraser was living at Hatton Lodge, which is where Helen Ann Morgan gave birth to a son, William, on 1st April 1906. William Fraser had been widowed in 1903 and had several young children (including my grandfather), so it looks as if Helen Morgan moved in as his housekeeper, and nature then took its course. They married a year later, on 19 April 1907, and Helen’s occupation is given as housekeeper. The witnesses are James Fraser and Christina Morgan – this would have been William’s brother and Helen’s sister.
Helen and William had four more children together as well as William: Alexander Fraser born 1908, who died in 1929 of tuberculosis, Thomas Fraser born 1910, Arthur Morgan Fraser born 1912 who died in the United States in 1994, and John born 1915.
In around 1911, not long after his father Alexander’s death, William Fraser took over the lease of Mosside croft. Helen became a crofter’s wife and my mother, who spent several summers there in the 1920s and 30s, remembers her making cheese and butter in the dairy, and that she wore little round glasses. Helen died at Mosside in 1938 of a coronary thrombosis. Her son Thomas was the informant and he got her father’s name wrong but her mother’s name right.
William Souter Morgan 1845 – 1917 married to Jane (also Jean) Aitken
William Souter Morgan was born 18 April 1845 and baptised a month later at Cruden, son of Arthur Morgan and Margaret Robb. Souter is a Scottish surname and the Scottish word for a shoemaker: I’ve no idea why it was given to William as a middle name, but he was probably named after someone called William Souter. William’s mother died at or not long after his birth and his father, a farm servant, remarried. In the 1851 census William can be found with his famiily at Tillymaud, Cruden and in 1861 he is still at Tillymaud in 1861, but minus father Arthur, and has become a cattleman.
William married Jane Aitken at Longside in 1865. She had already given birth to two illegitimate children, in 1862 and 1865, who subsequently took the surname Morgan, so they could have been William’s children. Finding a farm servant job that came with a cottage for a family to live in wasn’t easy, and marriages were often delayed for just such a reason. In 1871 they are at Lochside, Cruden, William Morgan a farm servant and with a cottage where he is living with his wife, four children, and lodger David Morgan, his younger half-brother who was a stone quarrier.
The family obviously moved around from job to job at various farms, not uncommon for farm servants: in 1881 they are at Collie Hill, in 1891 at Little Tillymaud, and in 1901 at Kennedy’s Buildings, all in the parish of Cruden. In 1901 William Morgan is described as a ploughman.
But things were to change. In the 1911 census William Morgan is, sadly, an inmate at the Royal Aberdeen Asylum. This is now the Royal Cornhill Hospital but in 1911 was where treated the insane were treated. William’s wife Jane is living in Boddam with two children and two grandchildren. William Morgan died in 1917 at the Asylum, at age 72, of acute brochitis. The informant was his son William.
Arthur Morgan 1815 – 1860 married to 1) Margaret Robb and 2) Catherine Adam
Born 27 August 1815 at Longside, Arthur Morgan’s parents were Peter Morgan and Isobel Sangster. He married Margaret Robb on 21 November 1835 at Cruden, so appears to have lived in what I now think of as “Fraser territory” – the area that borders Longside and Cruden parishes. He had four children with wife Margaret, but she died in or just after 1845, and he then married Catherine Adam at Cruden. In 1851 they are at Tillymaud, where Arthur is a farm servant. He died in 1860. His widow Catherine is in the 1861 census at Blackhill, Cruden and is described as a pauper (meaning she was receiving parish support) formerly quarrier’s wife.
Peter Morgan born 1786 married to Isobel Sansgter
This is where the Morgan and Fraser lines link again. Peter Morgan was baptised 3 April 1786 at Longside, son of George Morgan and Margaret Logan and he married Isobel Sangster on 30 August 1807 at Longside, the marriage recorded in the OPRs for both Longside and Peterhead.
Isobel Sangster was the sister of Janet Sangster, who was the mother of William Fraser who became the grandfather of the William Fraser who married Helen Ann Morgan. Great-grandchildren of the two sisters therefore married each other, and that means I have a blood connection to Helen Ann Morgan, even if it’s a very diluted one.
Although OPR records are rarely detailed enough to provide concrete evidence of relationships, there’s a telling fact here. Janet Sangster, after giving birth to the illegitimate William Fraser, married William McWilliam and settled in the parish of Longside. One of their children was named Nathaniel McWilliam. One of Isobel Sangster and Peter Morgan’s children was named Nathaniel Laurence Morgan. So why did the two sisters name children, born 1817 and 1822, after Nathaniel Laurence? Nathaniel Laurence was baptised in Longside in 1801: in the later census he was a doctor, practising in Longside. He can’t have been a doctor when the two children were baptised, but his parents were James Laurance and Janet Hay, and Janet McWilliam nee Sangster named one of her daughters Janet Hay McWilliam. It seems the sisters had a reason to hold the Laurance family in high regard. Maybe James Lawrence was the local landowner, and therefore their landlord.
Neither Peter nor Isobel can be found in the 1841 census, sadly, so it looks as though they didn’t live beyond their mid fifties.
George Morgan born 1747 married Margaret Logan
I haven’t tracked down a marriage for George and Margaret, but they had children baptised in Longside from 1780, and there were children of George Morgan with no mother prior to that date. A George Morgan was baptised in Longside in 1736, which could be Peter Morgan’s father or possibly his grandfather. More research is needed!
In addition, some research is needed into Margaret Logan. William Fraser, who married Helen Ann Morgan, was the son of Alexander Fraser and Mary Logan. So was William’s mother somehow connected to the family too?