Tag Archives: McCrae

On 22 April

Today includes the story of poor Agnes McCrae.

22 April 1820
Burial of Alexander Hutcheon at Longside, Aberdeenshire: the OPR entry says he was the husband of Agnes Bruce of Innervedie and was aged 45. He was my gggg grandfather.

22 April 1854
Birth of Mary Ann Matthew at Cruden, Aberdeenshire, illegitimate daughter of Thomas Matthew of Burnhead and my ggg aunt Janet (aka Jessie) Fraser. In 1861 both mother and daughter are at Mosside Croft with my ggg grandparents William and Christian Fraser. Mary Matthew married Robert Smith, a farm servant, in Hatton in 1873 and they lived in Old Deer, Ellon and Peterhead while bringing up their family of 9 children. Mary died in 1931 age 77, in Aberdeen.

22 April 1862
Agnes McCrae, my great aunt, was born at Low Church Lane, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, the eldest child of my great grandparents John McCrae and Mary Ann McInerney. In the 1881 census I think Agnes is a domestic servant in the household of a Kilmarnock baker, but has been enumerated as Agnes McCrab. In 1885 she married Robert Douglas, a brass finisher, by which time Agnes was working as a spinner in a mill. It is definitely the right marriage but for whatever reason her mother is down as Janet McCrae ms Wallace, which is odd. Agnes gave birth to a daughter, Mary Ann (her mother’s correct name) two months after the wedding. Something must have gone wrong, though: in 1891 Agnes is with her parents as Agnes McCrae with her daughter Mary Douglas. Husband Robert is in Derby, saying he’s single and lodging with the Blake family. Agnes died in June 1891 of consumption (tuberculosis). In 1894, Robert Douglas married a daughter of the Blake family he’d been lodging with in 1891 and stayed in Derby. Daughter Mary Ann continued to live with her grandparents in Kilmarnock.

On 15 April

This is a sad day for me, as it’s the third anniversary of the death of my mother. I miss her.

15 April 1860
Burial of James Wild age 25, husband of Ellen Oxley from Barnsley who was mentioned yesterday as she was born on 14 April 1839. So poor Ellen buried her husband the day after her 21st birthday, leaving her a widow with a one year old daughter.

15 April 1860
Baptism of Sarah Ann Wilson at Worsbrough, daughter of my ggg aunt Mary Green and her husband Joseph Wilson. Her parents lived at Stanley, near Wakefield, where they worked as gardener and keeper of Stanley Hall. Sarah Ann married James Burton and lived in Alverthorpe.

15 April 1872
John Strachan, third cousin twice removed, was born in Dreghorn, son of James Strachan and Mary Lindsay and great-grandson of my gggg uncle Robert Strachan. John was born in Dreghorn, became a miner, married Jemima Barrie and lived in Bannockburn, Stirlingshire and then back in Ayrshire. He and his wife and children migrated to New Jersey in 1923, and he worked as a porter at a bank. I know all this thanks to so many records now being online.

15 April 1906
Birth of my aunt, Helen McCrae Strachan, known to me as Aunt Nell. She was born in Crookedholm, Ayrshire but moved to Cambuslang, Lanarkshire with her family when she was very young. She married John Bain Aitken in 1923 in Cambuslang, and had two children. With her husband she ran the Cafe de Luxe on Main Street, Cambuslang which I remember visiting as a child. She was the best out of the whole of my father’s family for keeping in touch with everyone and loved visiting relatives. She sent me a McCrae tartan kilt when I was in my 20s and had moved to London, and it’s still in my wardrobe. Aunt Nell retired to Majorca with her daughter and died in Kent in 1999 at the grand old age of 93.

15 April 1927
Marriage of Ellen Devine, daughter of Susan Bell McCrae and her first husband John Boyle, and therefore niece of my grandmother Helen Strachan ms McCrae. Ellen married Hugh Davidson McKinnon in Glasgow and was the informant when her mother died, but beyond that I don’t know what happened to her.

Things the fan charts are telling me

The furthest I’ve got back –
is in Yorkshire, to Richard Savile born in 1601 (exactly 350 years earlier than me). He is my ggggggggg grandfather, so if you count me as generation 1, Richard is generation 12! Or at least it looks as if he’s my direct ancestor – firm connections are hard to prove going back that far. In 1601, Queen Elizabeth I was still on the throne, and Shakespeare’s play Hamlet probably had its first performance. The only reason anyone can get back to that time is because good records were kept and have survived. Richard Savile came from Flockton, a village now half way between Huddersfield and the M1. Robert Savile, born there in 1865, ended his life in the parish of Royston, which is where my great grandmother Charlotte Senior came from. Interestingly, Robert Savile married Ann Senior but I haven’t yet found out if or how Ann was related to Charlotte born 218 years later.

I can get the furthest back –
in Yorkshire and Aberdeenshire. This is due to two things. One is that the records seem to have been better kept there than in Ayrshire, and have survived, and the other is that my Yorkshire and Aberdeenshire ancestors stayed within the same small area, whereas my Ayrshire ancestors moved around a lot more and quite possibly weren’t from Ayrshire prior to the 1700s.

There are some neat surname duplications –
which are probably just coincidence but are nice to have nonetheless. One I really like is that on my Strachan (Ayrshire) tree I have Thomas Strachan marrying Susannah Alexander in 1771 and on my Fraser (Aberdeenshire) tree I have William Alexander marrying Ann Strachan in about 1750.

There’s something odd about the McCrae line –
which I need to really think about and try and sort out. I have a dead end with John McCrae as I can only find his mother in the records – there’s no trace of his father. His mother was, according to what her son said when she died, born Mary Henderson, daughter of John Henderson and Jean McCrae and I can’t find out anything about either of them. So her mother’s maiden suname was the same as her husband’s, which is perfectly possible but is making me think there just might be some illegitimacy going on. Or they might have come from Ireland. If they were Irish, this makes my McCrae tartan kilt – which an aunt sent to me when I was in my 20s and moved to London – a bit irrelevant.

We Strachans have more Irish blood than our more recent ancestors realised –
which may not be what some of our more recent ancestors would have liked to know! But with names such as Haggerty, Murphy, McCrae, Henderson and McInerney on the tree, Irish links are inevitable. I haven’t done any research into Irish records as of yet as it is a daunting task when you’ve no idea whereabouts in Ireland they might have come from.

Strachan relatives in 1920s: photographic mystery

I have two old photos have puzzled me for a long time. The first one is of my father who was born in 1916 in Cambuslang, south of Glasgow. No date on the back but he looks to be around 5 or 6, so it must have been taken in about 1922. Unfortunately there is a tear over where the name of an electrician is, but looks like T. E. HEYS or T. E. KEYS.

Robert in 1920s

There’s only one T Heys in the 1911 census, and that’s Thomas Heys in Dundee, which somehow doesn’t seem to fit, but there was a Thomas Keys in Bellshill in 1911 (Bellshills is next door to Cambuslang). He was age 47 and a coal miner with a son Thomas Keys age 15, also a coal miner. Could son Thomas have become an electrician by the early 1920s? But despite a good search, I can’t find anything else that identifies the electrician who was related to my family, or at least knew them. And know them he did because:

Group picture

There’s this, taken outside the same building, and from the women’s dress and hairstyles I’d say it’s 1920s too. No names on it, but the woman centre front is my grandmother Helen Strachan ms McCrae.

I think the young woman to my grandmother’s right is Sophia Strachan nee Sweeney who married my Uncle John in 1921, and the young woman to my grandmother’s left could be my Aunt Mary, who was Mary McBride by then. The woman on the far right is on some other photos taken in the 1930s and I think she’s my grandmother sister. I’ve no idea who anyone else is, but I don’t think the young boys include my father.

So it’s another mysterious group family photo! Don’t you just wish someone had thought to write everyone’s names on the backs of them?

On 27 March

It was a busy day on my Strachan family tree. Thankfully, my other trees had a very quiet day.

27 March 1734
John Alexander was baptised at Auchinleck, Ayrshire, son of John Alexander. He may well be related to my gggg grandmother Susannah Alexander who was baptised in Auchinleck in 1752 and married Thomas Strachan in 1771, and who also had a father called John Alexander. However, so far I haven’t been able to find out what the connection might have been between John baptised 1734 and Susannah baptised 1752. I think he was a bit too young to be her father.

27 March 1839
Janet Strachan was born at Shewalton, Ayrshire, daughter of my ggg uncle Samuel Strachan and his wife Margaret Sampson Reid Jamieson. I know quite a bit about Janet thanks to a newspaper article that has been posted online – which I’ve put up here under the Strachan tab because it’s so interesting. She married Alexander Lindsay, coal miner, and the newspaper article is about their Golden Wedding celebrations.

27 March 1858
Elizabeth Wallace was born at Stevenston, daughter of William Wallace (no, not THAT one!) and Elizabeth Auld. She married Samuel Strachan, my half gg uncle and son of my gg grandfather Robert Strachan and his second wife Susan Cran. Elizabeth and Samuel went on to have lots of children, which the Strachans were really good at doing. 


27 March 1873
Mary Findlay born Riccarton, Ayrshire, daughter of James Findlay and Mary Findlay (yes, Mary married a relation). Mary born in 1873 was the great granddaughter of my gggg uncle Peter Strachan, and my family tree software says she is my third cousin twice removed. This explains why I haven’t got round to finding out anything about her apart from when she was born.

27 March 1896
Two days after his 23rd birthday, my grandfather Henry Strachan (see blog On 25 March) married my grandmother Helen McCrae. They were married at the Commercial Inn, Hurlford, Ayrshire and their marriage certificate says Henry was a coal miner of Crookedholm and Helen was a woollen spinner of Readeney Street, Hurlford. The witnesses were Edison McCabe and Jane Anderson, but I’ve no idea who they were, although I suspect Edison is the Edward McCabe who was age 21 and living in Crookedholm in the 1891 census.

On 25 March

25 March 1873

A big day on my family tree – my grandfather Henry Strachan was born. Sadly, I know nothing about him apart from what I’ve been able to research, nor do I have any photos, as not only did he die before I was born but he died 3 days before my father’s second birthday so my father had no memories of him to pass on. Henry was a coal miner, born at Crookedholm, the eighth child of coal miner Joseph Strachan and Jeannie Haddow. He’s Henry in all the records but my father always said his name was actually Hendry. He was named after his uncle, the brother of his father, who did manage to get himself listed as Hendry in one census.

Fortunately, as Henry he’s fairly well documented in the records. In 1881 he’s an 8 year old living with his parents and siblings in Crookedholm, and he’s still there, with his parents at Lamont’s Land, Crookedholm, in 1891, a 19 year old coal miner. His older brother Robert had died the year before and, sadly, his older sister Flora was to die two years later.

Henry met local girl Helen McCrae, who lived in Hurlford and was the daughter of a coal miner, and she gave birth to their first child in September 1895. No marriage took place at the time, but that might have had something to do with the health of Henry’s father, who died in December 1895 of cardiac disease. But Henry Strachan and Helen McCrae did get married in March 1896, at the Commercial Inn at Hurlford, and they went on to have a total of 11 children, my father being the youngest. In the 1901 census they were living at Old Factory House, Crookedholm, with three children.

In 1905 the Valuation Roll has, at Cowan’s Row, Crookedholm, Henry Strachan collier living next door to Henry Strachan pitheadman. This is my grandfather and his uncle but I don’t know which is which, though it’s more likely that the older Henry is the pitheadman as it was a job that usually went to older miners. They were both living in housing rented by Portland Colliery.

Some time between 1906 and 1908 the family moved to Lanarkshire, to an area that is now classed as Glasgow. They first settled at Tollcross, where their next child was born. Henry’s younger brother also moved to Tollcross and there were a number of other relations already in the area. No doubt the main reason for the move was better or more secure work in the coal mines. Then they moved to Cambuslang, but times must have been tough as in the 1911 census the family is in a two roomed tenement at 14 Mansion Street in a household comprising Henry and Helen, 9 children aged from 15 to 2 months, and two lodgers, both coal miners. A very crowded household indeed!

In 1912 Helen and Henry’s youngest child, William, died at the age 1 of measles and broncho-pneumonia. This must have been what prompted Henry to take out a title on a plot at Westburn Cemetery: I have the original title deed in my possession because my father ended up with it. Henry and family had moved by then and were living at 54 Gilbertfield Buildings. The address suggests Henry was working at the Gilbertfield Mine near Cambuslang, owned by United Collieries and which in 1910 employed 315 underground and 82 above ground. The mine owners’ houses for employees are described in a 1910 report as two storey, erected in 1884, with large rooms, wc in a close, and an inside sink with water. In the 1915 Valuation Roll Henry Strachan miner is the tenant of 54 Gilbertfield Buildings, Overton Street, owned by United Collieries, and paying a yearly rent of £9 12s.

Henry Strachan died on 27 November 1918 at the age of 45, of pneumonia arteriosclerosis – a common cause of premature death in coal miners. He left behind a widow and 10 children, 5 of whom had not yet reached working age.

Helen McCrae 1875-1944

This is a photo of the grandmother I never met, as she died before I was born. Helen McCrae was born in Kilmarnock in 1875, the daughter of John McCrae coal miner and Mary Ann McInerney.

She married Henry Strachan in 1896 at the Commercial Inn, Hurlford and they lived in Crookedholm where their eldest seven children were born. They then moved to Lanarkshire, first to Tollcross and then settling in Cambuslang, where their youngest four children were born.

One of Helen’s children died in childhood, of measles, but the remaining ten lived long and fruitful lives (or at least most of them did). Three of the children migrated to Toronto, Canada, and Helen and her youngest child, my father Robert, did several journeys to Canada and back during the 20s and 30s.

Helen died in hospital in 1944. She was visiting someone, but sadly had a cerebral haemourage whilst there. My father was in the army at the time, down near Bath.

From what I’ve been told, Helen had a hard life, could be very tough at times, but was a bit of a softie at heart. I think it shows in her face in this photo.

Helen Strachan nee McCrae 1933