The story of John Strachan b.1774 and (1) Agnes Neilson b. 1777 (2) Jean Wallace and their children

(Click on the OPR images to see a larger version)

John Strachan’s younger years

1774 Baptism John Strachan
From Irvine OPR 1774

John Strachan was born 2 July 1774 and baptised two days later in the Parish of Irvine, the son of Thomas Strachan and Susannah Alexander. His father (see Thomas Strachan page) worked as a coal miner in the Irvine area and as the eldest son John would have begun working in the mines from as young as 7 years old, slowly learning the skills until he became a hewer when he was strong enough. He moved from Ayrshire to the Gorbals area south of the Clyde with his parents and siblings when he was about 16 and was probably able to work as a hewer by then.

Marriage to Agnes Neilson

1794 Marriage John Strachan
From Gorbals OPR 1794

John Strachan married Agnes Neilson in May 1794 in the parish of Gorbals shortly before his 20th birthday. She was from a coal mining family – nearly all wives of coal miners were. Her parents were Walter Neilson and Agnes Hadden, who had at least 10 children, all but one of whom were baptised in Govan or Gorbals. The one who wasn’t was baptised in Irvine in 1780, so it’s possible the Strachan family knew the Neilson family before the Strachans moved to Gorbals.

Moving around for work

From the baptism records of the children of John and Agnes it’s clear they moved around a lot, no doubt for work reasons. The early 1800s were a time of rapid expansion in the coal mining industry, with new mines being opened and older ones expanding, and there was a shortage of skilled labour. Highly skilled and experienced miners were in demand and were often lured into moving for the promise of better wages and living conditions. This is likely to be the reason John and Agnes made so many moves.

John worked in coal mines in the Govan/Gorbals area until he was about 30, with his first 3 children being baptised there. Then in 1802 his fourth child was baptised at Campsie, Stirlingshire. According to the Statistical Account of 1791-99, a superior quality of coal could be found in the parish of Campsie to the south of the river Glazert but there were coal seams throughout the parish and there were already several coal pits being worked prior to the 1790s. When coal prices rose the coal pits in Campsie began to be worked more systematically, using gins pulled by horses, and by 1793 there were 60 coal pits in the parish, not all of which could be worked all of the time, with 46 colliers earning 3 shillings a day. (

Campsie may not have been to John and Agnes’s liking, though, as their next child was baptised in 1804 back in Gorbals, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they were living there. It’s possible they returned there only briefly, as their next child was baptised back in Stirlingshire, but this time in the parish of Kilsyth, and the OPR entry states John Strachan was living in Banton. The Statistical Account of the 1790s mentions ironstone being mined at Banton by the Carron Company, employing 50 to 60 miners, but there was also coal mined at Banton that was used in iron smelting furnaces.

By about 1808 the family were on the move again. There is no recorded baptism for their 7th child, my ggg grandfather Robert, so it’s unknown where he was born: on the census Robert said he was born in Riccarton but that may be simply because that’s where he lived as a young boy. But the next child of John and Agnes was baptised at Coatbridge, Lanarkshire in 1810 and the OPR entry says John was a collier of Greenend, which is just east of Glasgow. They didn’t stay there long as in 1811 they had a child baptised in Muirkirk, Ayrshire with the OPR entry saying they were of Coltburn.

Coltburn remains of coal pits and miners rows
Aerial view of remains of coal pits and footings of Coltburn Row miners’ cottages found at

They didn’t stay in Coltburn long either, as in 1814 another child was baptised at Riccarton, Ayrshire. The parish of Riccarton is just south of Kilmarnock, and in those days included the villages of Crookedholm and Hurlford. (Interesting aside – the name Riccarton is derived from “Richard’s Town”, the Richard being Richard Wallace, uncle of the famous William Wallace.) John, Agnes and their ever growing family remained in Riccarton for some time, as their last three children were baptised there in 1816, 1818 and 1821.

Death of Agnes Patrick and remarriage of John Strachan

I’m not sure exactly when and where Agnes died, but it has to be after the birth of her last child in 1821 and before the remarriage of John Strachan in 1827. When she died John was left with with a lot of children, several of whom were below working age, and in those circumstances it was usual for a man to remarry quite quickly in order to have someone keep house, provide meals and look after the younger children. A widow with young children of her own made a very convenient second wife, and it’s probable that his family would have helped find a suitable candidate.

1827 marriage John Strachan
From Dundonald OPR 1827

So John married widow Jean Wallace, born Jean Douglas, on 16 November 1827 in Dundonald parish. By then John had moved to live and work at Shewalton colliery alongside some of his brothers and their families, and so was living very close to where he was born. Jean had been married to a William Wallace (not the famous one, obviously), had three children and had also lived in Riccarton parish. John and Jean had two children of their own born in 1829 and 1833 at Shewalton, bringing the total of John’s children to 15. That’s a lot of children – hence the “children of” section below is rather long!

Death of John Strachan

The Irvine Register of Burials has the death of a John Strachan on 4 March 1840. I’ve not seen the entry myself but was given the information by another researcher. Assuming this is ‘our’ John Strachan, he would have been 65 years of age

The children of John Strachan and Agnes Neilson

Thomas Strachan 1795 – 1821

1795 birth Thomas Strachan
From Gorbals OPR 1795

Thomas Strachan was baptised in July 1795 at Gorbals and became a coal miner. In 1816 he married Elizabeth Nisbet at Riccarton, and they had 3 children: John Francis Strachan b. 1818, Janet Strachan b. 1819 and Agnes Strachan b. 1821. Another researcher has provided me with the death of Thomas Strachan for 20 July 1821 age 25 at Riccarton. His son John Francis became a coal miner.

His son John Francis Strachan was born in 1818 at Riccarton, became a coal miner, and married Jean Johnston Loudon in 1837 at Kilmarnock. They had 11 children, and lived in Kilmarnock, Kilmaurs and Dalry before moving to Greenock in the early 1850s where John worked as a machinist. John Francis Strachan was, though his eldest child Elizabeth, the grandfather of Eric Liddell was the Scottish athlete who was the subject of the film Chariots of Fire.

His daughter Janet was born 19 September 1819 at Witchknowe, Riccarton. In 1837 she married John Hamilton, a coal miner, at Kilmarnock, they had 9 children and lived in Kilmaurs, Dreghorn and then Kilmaurs again, and the Kilmarnock. John Hamilton died in 1869 and in 1871 Janet is a spirit dealer at 66 Kilmaurs Road, Kilmarnock with her 4 youngest children. She died in Kilmarnock in 1889.

His daughter Agnes Strachan died in November 1822 at Riccarton age 1 year 9 months.

Agnes Strachan 1797 – unknown

1797 birth Agnes Strachan
From Gorbals OPR 1797

Agnes Strachan was baptised in July 1797 at Gorbals. I haven’t been able to find anything else for her as yet.

Susannah Strachan 1799 – unknown

1799 birth Susannah Strachan
From Gorbals OPR 1799

Susannah Strachan was baptised in October 1799 at Gorbals. She’s another I can’t find anything further for.

Mary Strachan 1802 – unknown

1802 birth Mary Strachan
From Campsie OPR 1802

Mary Strachan was baptised in March 1802 at Campsie in Stirlingshire. Yet another I can’t find anything further for.

Walter Strachan 1804 – unknown

1804 birth Walter Strachan
From Gorbals OPR 1804

Walter Strachan was baptised in March 1804 at Gorbals. And yes, he’s another I can’t find anything further for.

If Agnes, Susannah, Mary and Walter survived early childhood, they would moved with their parents and have been living in Riccarton, Ayrshire by 1814. So if they married it would most likely have been in Ayrshire. However, no marriage record can be found for any of them and there’s no Walter Strachan in the 1841 census.

John Strachan 1806 – 1830s

1806 Birth John Strachan
From Kilsyth, Stirlingshire OPR 1806

John Strachan was baptised in July 1806 in Kilsyth, Stirlingshire, the family living at Banton at the time. There is a marriage for John Strachan and Jean Neilson in Gorbals in 1826. Jean was most probably related to Agnes Neilson, John Strachan’s mother. However, in the 1841 census Jean Strachan is a widow living in Govan with three children named Agnes, Mary and John aged 12, 9 and 7. She is also in the 1851 census at Strathbungo, Renfrewshire with children Agnes and John who were both born in Dundonald, Ayrshire, and son John is a coal miner. That they were born in Dundonald and John became a coal miner gives credence to assuming these are the children of John who was the son of Thomas and Susannah Strachan. In 1861 widow Jean is in Irvine, Ayrshire living with her coal miner son John who had married but did not have children.

Robert Strachan about 1808 – 1877

No baptism can be found for my direct ancestor Robert Strachan, a coal miner who was my gg grandfather. More details of his life and children will be put onto a separate page, so here I’ll just say he married Margaret Haggerty, who died in 1846, and then married Susan Cran. He had 9 children with Margaret and 6 with Susan so is another Strachan who had 15 children. He lived and worked at Shewalton Colliery, Dundonald until the 1840s when he moved to Kilwinning, where he spent the rest of his life. He died in 1877 age about 70.

Peter Strachan 1810 – 1846

1810 Birth Peter Strachan
From Old Monkland and Coatbridge OPR 1810

Peter Strachan was baptised in January 1810, the surname being written as Strang, which gives a clue to how it was pronounced back then. He became a coal miner and married on 31 December 1832 at Dundonald, to Margaret Boyle. They had children Catherine (died in infancy), Agnes, Catherine Mure and John, all born at Dundonald, and in the 1841 census are at Shewalton Colliery. Two more children, Ann and Janet, were born in 1841 and 1844. Another researcher has provided me with death information for Peter, whose burial is in the Irvine OPR: he was buried 13 July 1846 and died of fever. This was probably due to an outbreak of cholera, which hit epidemic proportions at this time, and is caused by drinking contaminated water. His wife can’t be found in the 1851 census, but his children were living with relatives in Dreghorn, so it looks as if Margaret Strachan nee Boyle died too.

Daughter Agnes Strachan is in the 1861 census, living as a domestic servant with the Samson family in Kirkgate, Irvine. She married mason Matthew Jaffrey at Irvine in 1861 and had a daughter Margaret later the same year. She must have died soon after, though no death registration has been found, as Matthew Jaffrey was married to Sarah born in Argyllshire by 1871.

Daughter Catherine Mure Strachan is in the 1851 census as a servant with the Hamilton family living in Corsehill Square, Dreghorn, who she was related to. She married a baker Charles Wark at Irvine in 1859 and they had 7 children. In 1881 and 1891 they are in Glasgow, and Catherine died in Calton, Glasgow in 1909.

Son John Strachan was born in 1839 at Dundonald and after the death of his parents lived with his uncle Henry Strachan, who was married but without children. John married Christina Houston McGill in 1862 and in 1871 is in Kilmarnock, working as a coal miner, with his wife and 4 daughters. The family are in Kilmaurs in 1881 and 1891. In 1901 he is living in St Quivox on his own, and his occupation is given as confectioner: was he running a sweet shop? He died a widower in 1907 at St Quivox of carcinoma of the stomach, and the informant was his grandson, another John Strachan.

Daughter Ann Strachan was born in 1841 in Dundonald and she also lived with her uncle Henry Strachan after the death of her parents. In 1851 she is a visitor with a McDonald family in Dreghorn along with her cousin Ann Strachan who was the daughter of Robert Strachan and Margaret Haggerty. She was married in 1873 to Henry O’Neil, a lodging house keeper of Harbour Street, Saltcoats, where Ann may have been working as a domestic servant. But the marriage was short lived as Henry O’Neil died in 1876 and there don’t appear to have been any children. In 1881 Ann is living with her aunt Annie, who had been married to Henry Strachan, and Annie’s mother Maggie Stewart. In 1891 Ann could be the Ann Strachan living on her own at Bridgend, Kilwinning and doing outdoor work. In 1901 she is a domestic servant in Kilwinning for carpenter James Robertson and his sister. Annie O’Neil ms Strachan died in 1909 at Cunningham Combination Poorhouse, Irvine, of pneumonia.

Daughter Janet Strachan was born in 1844 in Dundonald. Nothing further can be found for her, so it looks as though she didn’t survive childhood.

Henry Strachan 1811 – 1874

1811 Birth Henry Strachan
From Muirkirk OPR 1811

Henry Strachan was born in December 1811 and baptised in January 1811 at Muirkirk, the family living at Coltburn at the time. Fortunately he’s been easy to trace. In 1834 he married Ann Stewart at Dundonald, and in 1841 they’re living at Shewalton Colliery and Henry was, of course, a coal miner. They didn’t have any children but brought up two children of Henry’s brother Peter, who are with them in the 1851 census at No.17 Colliery Houses, Dreghorn. In 1861 Henry and Ann are living at West Thornton Hamlet, Dreghorn with nephew John Strachan and niece Ann Bowie age 5. In 1871 they’re at No. 32 House, Dreghorn with Ann’s mother Margaret Stewart, and Henry is no longer a coal miner but is working as a watchman.

Henry had become ill and had applied for poor relief in Dreghorn: his application dated 1871 says his case was well known to the board as he’d first applied in 1870. He was granted relief, and was again granted relief in 1873 when it says he had miners’ asthma and was given 3 shillings a week. He died in 1874 age 63 of chronic bronchitis. His widow Annie applied for poor relief in 1879, and she was given 1/6d a week. In 1881 Annie is living in Dreghorn with her 89 year old mother and her niece Annie O’Neil (see above). In 1891 she’s living in Riccarton with her widowed sister Helen Bowie and Helen’s children, and in 1901 she’s back in Dreghorn living with a nephew Boyd Stewart, a coal miner. Annie Strachan ms Stewart died in 1903 at the age of 90.

Jean Strachan 1814 – 1896

1814 Birth Jean Strachan
From Riccarton OPR 1814

Jean Strachan was born in February 1814 and baptised in March 1814 at Riccarton. She married muslin weaver Hugh Jamieson in Kilmarnock on 10 March 1837, and in the 1841 census they are at Low Glen Cairn Street, West Side, Kilmarnock and in 1851 at Dean Street, Riccarton. They had no children. She then becomes a mystery as I cannot find her in the census, but she died in 1896, age 82, at Irvine Poorhouse from cardiac disease.

Samuel Strachan 1816 – 1877

1816 Birth Samuel Strachan
From Riccarton OPR 1816

Samuel Strachan was born and baptised in March 1816 at Riccarton and became a coal miner. He married Margaret Sampson Reid Jamieson (several Strachan siblings married a Jamieson) at Dundonald on 2 March 1838. They were living at Perceton Row, Dreghorn (see blog post with pic of Perceton cottages) in 1841 with a daughter, and Samuel’s brother, uncle and cousin were neighbours. Samuel and Margaret had moved to Coursehill Square, Dreghorn by 1851, but can’t have been there long as Corsehill Square was built in around 1850. By then they had 6 children, the eldest daughter working as a bonnet knitter and the eldest son already a coal miner. In 1861 they were still at Dreghorn and had had another 3 children, with the 3 eldest sons all working as coal miners. They were still in Dreghorn, at 38 The Village, in 1871 and had had 1 more child, with a total of 4 children still living at home. Samuel Strachan died in 1877 at the age of 63 from bronchitis. His wife Margaret continued to live in Dreghorn and died there in 1905 aged 88.

Daughter Janet Strachan born 1839 married Alexander Lindsay, coal miner, and lived in Dreghorn where they had a large family who all survived into adulthood. Details of their Golden Wedding anniversary celebrations can be found on this web site.

Son John Strachan born about 1842 was a coal miner, married Janet Dow and had a large family in Kilmarnock.

Son William Strachan born 1844 cannot be located in census.

Son Samuel Strachan born about 1846 cannot be located in census.

– Daughter Mary Strachan born about 1848 had an illegitimate son and then married Robert Armour, a widower with children who was a printer living and working in Kilmarnock.

– Daughter Jeanie Strachan born about 1849 married David Gillam, a groom and then coachman, who came from east of Edinburgh. They had children and moved fairly often, ending up in Edinburgh. In 1901 their eldest son is a coach painter in Bournemouth, and their two eldest daughters are in service.

– Daughter Agnes Strachan born about 1852 married Robert Wilson, a coal miner, and lived in Dreghorn where they had a large family and lived next door to Agnes’s sister Janet.

– Daughter Margaret Strachan born about 1856 married Thomas Gibson, a draper: they moved first to Lanarkshire then to West Calder, Midlothian, where they brought up their family of four daughters and one son and ran a drapers and clothing shop. In 1901 they were looking after their 2 year old niece, Maggie Strachan.

– Daughter Susan Strachan born 1857, twin of Catherine, died in infancy.

– Daughter Catherine Strachan also born 1857, twin of Susan, was a maid in Edinburgh in 1881 with a household of two sisters and their servants, with a possible connection to Catherine’s sister Jeanie Strachan and her husband David Gillam. Catherine may have married Andrew McCrindle and settled back in Dreghorn.

– Son Andrew Strachan born 1862 started as a draper’s assistant to Thomas Gibson, husband of his sister Margaret, then became a clothing salesman and then a draper, living in Leith and Cowdenbeath. His wife died in the late 1890s and in 1901 his sister Margaret is looking after his youngest daughter Maggie age 2.

Munro Strachan 1818 – 1854

1818 birth Munro Strachan
From Riccarton OPR 1818

Munro Strachan was born and baptised in August 1818 at Riccarton and, like all his brothers, became a coal miner. In 1839 in Dundonald he married Janet Jamieson, the sister of his brother Samuel’s wife. In the 1841 census Munro and Janet are at Shewalton Colliery with a baby daughter living one door down from brother Samuel. By 1851 they had moved to MacReadie’s Land, Dreghorn and Munro is described as a pauper formerly a coal miner; he must have become ill or disabled and was receiving poor relief. He is with his wife Janet and 3 children. Another researcher gave me details of his death in 1854: he was buried in Dreghorn Churchyard.

His widow Janet remarried to coal miner William Young, a widower, in about 1859, and they are in the 1861 census at Warwickhill Hamlet, Dreghorn with the 2 youngest children of Munro Strachan.

– Daughter Janet Strachan born about 1840 married coal miner James Wilson in 1858 in Irvine and is the 1861 census, but died in June 1861.

– Daughter Agnes Strachan born about 1842 married coal miner John Walker in Dreghorn in 1862. They are in the 1871 census at 14 Warwickhill Row, Dreghorn with a daughter, and are then on their own in 1881 at Mill Bank Row, Dreghorn: John Walker has become a colliery manager, and they are still there in 1891. Agnes died in 1911 at Irvine.

– Son John Strachan born about 1845 at Kilmarnock was a coal miner and married Agnes Scott in Irvine in 1864. They were in Dreghorn in the 1871, 1881 and 1891 census with a growing family of children: they had at least 10 children. In 1881 and 1891 they are living in Corsehill Square, Dreghorn, home to several Strachan families. John Strachan died in Dreghorn in 1896. His son Munro, a coal miner, moved to Tynemouth and ended up in Lancashire, and his son William Strachan became a gardener in Stirling.

– Daughter Ann McGavin Strachan was born in April 1848 at Dreghorn and died before 1851.

James and Elizabeth Strachan (twins) 1821 – unknown

1821 Birth twins James and Elizabeth Strachan
From Riccarton OPR 1821

Agnes Strachan ms Neilson gave birth to twins in March 1821. No further trace of either of them can be found, so it is assumed they died in infancy. This could also have been when their mother Agnes died.

The children of John Strachan and Jean Wallace

In 1827 widower John Strachan married widow Jean Wallace ms Douglas at Dundonald and had a further two children.

Elizabeth Strachan 1829 – unknown

1829 Birth Elizabeth Strachan
From Dundonald OPR 1829

Elizabeth Strachan was born in April 1929 at Shewalton Colliery. In the 1841 census she is living as a domestic servant in the household of the recently widowed Andrew Strachan, who was the son of her uncle Robert Strachan and 16 years older than Elizabeth. In 1852 she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter named Jean Wallace Strachan with the father named as Andrew Strachan. Both she and her daughter then frustratingly disappear from the records. Andrew Strachan went on to marry Jean Walker.

Janet Spiers Strachan 1833 – unknown

1833 Birth Janet Spiers Strachan
From Dundonald OPR 1833

Janet Spiers Strachan was born in March 1833 at Shewalton Colliery. In 1851 she is house servant to Stewart Clark, a grocer in Troon and his wife and children. In 1855 she was married in Irvine to John Goble, a sailor from Glasgow. They can’t be located in 1861 but there is a birth of Janet Strachan Goble to John Skeoch Goble and Janet Spiers Strachan in Cathcart, Renfrewshire in 1868. There are also Master’s and Mate’s Certificates for John Goble born 1834 at Glasgow, dated 1860 (second mate) and 1865 (first mate). Nothing else can be found for them apart from a puzzle: In the 1881 census at 161 Houston Street, Cathcart there is Janet Goble age 13 born Cathcart living with Janet Robertson mother age 43, baker’s wife, born Dundonald. On John Goble’s 1865 certificate his address is 14 East Houston Street, Kinning Park, Glasgow. This is surely the Janet Goble born in 1868, but why is her mother Janet Robertson? So far it’s a mystery to try and unravel when I get the time.

6 responses to “The story of John Strachan b.1774 and (1) Agnes Neilson b. 1777 (2) Jean Wallace and their children

  1. Hello Judy.
    I put in a google search for a Munro Strachan as he is part of my family tree. It came up with your web page. WOW your web site is fantastic. I have a different birth date for Munro but he married Janet Jamieson so I believe we have the same family.

    • Hi Wendy – thank you for posting. We are related, though heavens known how! I have the birth of Munro Strachan from the Riccarton OPR – it says “23 August 1818 Strachan Munro son to John Strachan and Agnes Neilson was born the 20th.” I have four children born to Munro and Janet, two of whom survived to marry and have children. So are you descended from Agnes Strachan who married John Walker, or from John Strachan who married Agnes Scott?

  2. Hi Judy,
    Thank you for getting back to me. Yes we are related.
    I am from the John Strachan who married Agnes Scott. They had 10 children, Their son John Strachan born 8 Dec 1876 (Great Grandfather) married Eliza Isabella Ackinclose. (But he had been married two times before my Great Grandmother). They had 5 Children, their daughter Lilian Strachan (my Grandma) married Francis Barclay (my Granddad, my dad’s dad).

  3. Hi Judy,
    My connection with the Strachan’s is through Andrew Strachan 1862 who married Ann Terris. I didn’t know about Margaret (Maggie) Strachan but have three other children for Andrew and Ann. They are Susan Terris Strachan born 1887, Samuel Miller Strachan born 1890 and Alexander Terris Strachan born 1894. Ann was born in 1861 in Bo’ness and died in Hartwood Assylum Shotts, Lanarkshire. I don’t know when Ann Terris went into the Assylum but maybe this is why Andrew’s sister Margaret was looking after Maggie. I don’t know what happened to the first two children but Alexander ended up in Canada.
    Ann and my great aunt Margaret Terris were sisters.

    Regards, Jane in Australia.

  4. Hi Judy
    My connection to the Strachan’s is through my paternal grandmother Maggie Duff Strachan (b 1893). Her parents were John Duff Strachan (1861?) and Agnes Gardner (1867?). I cannot seem to find any more information on these people – have you come across them in your research at all?
    New Zealand

  5. Robert Haviland

    Hi Carol:
    With Son John Strachan who was born in 1839 at Dundonald and after the death of his parents you stated he lived with his uncle Henry Strachan, who was married but without children. John married Christina Houston McGill in 1862 whom was my connection and he had 4 daughters could you please elaborate the names of his daughters and dates of birth please?
    Thanks and best wishes lived in NZ in 1979 New Plymouth.
    Robert Haviland

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