Tag Archives: social history

Top Scottish first names and surnames 1900 and 2000

Interesting piece at ScotlandsPeople about popular names in Scotland. Link is http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/theme/vital-events/births/popular-names/archive/forenames-1900-2000.html but here are some salient snippets.

The top 10 in 2000 (from 1 to 10) were:
Boys: Jack, Lewis, Ryan, Cameron, James, Andrew, Matthew, Liam, Callum, Jamie
Girls: Chloe, Amy, Lauren, Emma, Rebecca, Megan, Caitlin, Rachel, Erin, Hannah

The top 10 names in 1900 (from 1 to 10) were:
Boys: John, James, William, Robert, Alexander, George, Thomas, David, Andrew, Charles
Girls: Mary, Margaret, Elizabeth, Annie, Jane, Agnes, Isabella, Catherine, Janet, Helen

In 1900, the top five names were given to 50% of boys and 38% of girls. 13.2% of boys were called John and 11.7% of girls were called Mary.

If you have Scottish ancestors I bet you have all the top 10 names from 1900 on your tree. I do, although not many George, David, Andrew and Charles for boys.

Interestingly, James and Andrew are the only names to stay the course, although Jack is a form of John and of course Jamie is a form of James.

Another interesting article at ScotlandsPeople is about Scottish surnames and is at http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/theme/vital-events/births/popular-names/archive/surnames-in-scotland-over-the-last-140-years.html

The top three surnames in Scotland are Smith, Brown and Wilson, and 1 in 8 surnames begin with Mc or Mac.

Surnames developed slowly and had regional differences. Therefore “similar, or in some cases identical, surnames have been derived from entirely different sources and different areas of Scotland. Thus the modern ‘consistency’ in naming conventions has been based on a possibly ‘inconsistent’ starting point. In other words, to rely on surnames as a guide to family history becomes less reliable the further back in time the researcher goes.” I have long suspected that my Strachan ancestors have nothing to do with the Strachans of Kincardineshire and although the names now share the same spelling, the original derivation is quite probably very different.

Nobles and landowners were the first to acquire surnames and were frequently named after the land they owned. The name was then taken up by others who came from that place. As there were many places sharing the same name, this resulted in the same surname developing in different locations but with no relationship to each other. If people moved, they may well have changed their surname.

The article gives details of frequency of Scottish surnames, plus links to tables which show frequency of surnames in particular regions in 1901. In 1901, Fraser was the 10th most frequent surname in Aberdeenshire: the only other areas it appears in are 1st in Nairn, 2nd in Elgin and Inverness and 10th in Ross & Cromarty. This sort of proves my feeling that my Frasers originated from further north than Cruden. Strachan doesn’t appear on any of the lists, so it’s not that widely a used surname.

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Book recommendation: Illegitimacy, Sex and Society by Andrew Blaikie

Andrew Blaikie book

This is an academic book based on the author’s PhD thesis, and is also now out of print but I managed to find a secondhand copy. Worth looking for in a library if you have ancestors who were farm servants, ag labs and crofters in Banffshire or Aberdeenshire. The illegitimacy rate in that part of Scotland was much higher than in other parts of Scotland, and this book is an exploration of the reasons why that might have been, based on a very through analysis of parish registers and census data. In 1855 the overall illegitimacy rate for Scotland was 7.8% but in the northeast it was 13.0%. My Fraser family, from Cruden parish, did their best to contribute to that figure, which is why I was drawn to this book.

Book Recommendation: Farm Life in North-East Scotland 1840-1914 by Ian Carter

Farm Life Book

A good book to read if you want to know about the working lives of farm servants, agricultural labourers and crofters, and especially those who lived in Aberdeenshire and neighbouring counties. Takes a sociological stance and is an academic book, but gives a very thorough account of a lost way of life. Very good on the social relationships and “class” structure of farming communities, and the working lives of farm servants. Excellent bibliography for further reading.

Online sources if you have Scottish ancestors

Thought I’d mention a few web sites I’ve found excellent for padding out the detail of my Scottish ancestors’ lives.

http://digital.nls.uk/gallery.cfm
National Library of Scotland’s digital gallery – access point to historical maps of Scotland, Post Office directories, gazetteers of towns and parishes, plus lots of other fascinating stuff.

http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/sas/sas.asp?action=public&passback=
Statistical Accounts of Scotland – a very good read to get a feel for where your Scottish ancestors lived. The Old Statistical Reports were published in 1791-1799 and the New Statistical Reports in 1834-1845.

http://www.scottishmining.co.uk
Brilliant site if you have Scottish coal mining ancestors. Lists of mines, copies of housing and other reports, and an index of coal mining deaths and accidents

http://www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk
Access to Scottish historical tax rolls from 1645 to 1831.

Ancestors migrating yet again

Gosh, my ancestors get everywhere – or at least the Scottish ones do. I’m now used to losing track of someone in the census in Scotland, only for them to turn up in Canada, USA, New Zealand or Australia.

In the mid to late 1800s Ayrshire coal miners were clearly being lured to work in newly opening USA mines, and many on my family tree were happy to answer the call. Some came back to Scotland, so it can’t always have been what they’d hoped for, but most stayed so I must have heaps of long lost cousins scattered all over the United States.

Today I’ve been padding out what I know about my Haggarty or Haggerty ancestors. My great great grandmother was Margaret Haggarty, who died at the age of 38 from what was probably typhoid. Not getting far with her parents, Joseph Haggerty and Jean Orr, I started researching her siblings. She had a brother Hugh who married Janet Muir and lived in Dundonald and then Kilwinning, but who died in about 1848. He’s in the 1841 census but only his widow and children are in the 1851 census and again in 1861. Then Ancestry gave a suggestion for his widow in the 1880 USA census so I had a look – and there she was, with two of her sons, in California.

They were living in Judsonville, Contra Costa County. According to Wikipedia, Judsonville is now a ghost town but used to be a town serving nearby coal mines. There’s information about it on the web, as it’s now become a coal mining preserve – http://www.ebparks.org/parks/black_diamond

According to the web site, “From the 1860s through the turn of the last century, five coal mining towns thrived in the Black Diamond area: Nortonville, Somersville, Stewartville, West Hartley and Judsonville. As the location of California’s largest coal mining operation, nearly four million tons of coal (“black diamonds”) were removed from the earth. The residents of the mining towns were from all over the world, and their life was characterized by hard work and long hours. Occasional celebrations and a variety of organizations and social activities served to alleviate the drudgery of daily existence. The coal mines had a significant impact on California’s economy. By the time operations ceased due to rising production costs and the exploitation of new energy sources, much of California’s economy had been transformed from a rural to an industrial base.”

So far I’ve no idea when they migrated or where they were after the 1880 census but I’m about to try and find out. It’s amazing where family history takes you, and what it teaches you about the world and its history.

New: article about Scottish Parish Registers

I’ve added an article about Scottish Old Parish Registers (OPRs). It’s really helpful to fully understand the documents you use for research, and from reading genealogy forums I’m awqre that OPRs cause most of the frustrations. Our brickwalls most often happen because we just can’t find the baptism or marriage we need in the surviving OPRs, or we find an entry we think might be right but there just isn’t enough evidence to be certain.

In the article I’ve discussed the problems encountered by lack of detail in OPR entries, lack of an entry in the OPR even though a baptism or marriage probably did take place, lack of a baptism or marriage having happened in the first place, and difficulties reading and transcribing OPRs.

Hope you find it interesting and useful.

They were married at the station buffet

There have always been differences in the marriage laws for Scotland and England. One difference was that, in Scotland, it only mattered that you were married by an authorised person, which for most people meant a man of the cloth. It didn’t matter where you got married. Hence the vast majority of Scottish marriages did not take place in the church (kirk), although the banns were read out at services. People in Scotland could therefore get married anywhere providing the minister agreed to attend. Up until around 1900 this usually meant the home of one of the couple’s parents, but from the end of the 19th century all sorts of places were chosen as wedding venues.

I have Scottish ancestors getting married at hotels, the minister’s house (the manse) and various local meeting rooms or community halls. But from 1899 to 1920, three of the children of my gg grandfather Alexander Fraser were married at the Station Buffet, Ellon, Aberdeenshire.

To me, a station buffet means a cafe next to the ticket office and the platforms, so I can’t help imagining a wedding going on while travellers queue for cups of tea and wait outside for their train. I don’t suppose that’s what happened, though. The station at Ellon is no longer there but the Station Hotel remains. Perhaps the Station Buffet was a room at the hotel next to the station.

Alexander Fraser had 15 children, two from his first wife and 13 with his second, so there were lots of weddings in that family and his children married in a variety of places. The eldest were traditional and married at Mosside, the family croft. One married in the church at Old Deer, and three were married in Aberdeenshire but as I’ve not yet looked at their marriage certificates I only know the parish, not the actual location. But a few of the younger children migrated to Canada and were married in Winnipeg.

Going back a generation, to William Fraser’s children, one was married at the Cruden Toll Bar, one at Cruden Parish School, one at the Manse at Ellon, and one splashed out and married at the Waverley Hotel in Aberdeen despite the fact neither he nor his bride lived in Aberdeen.

Over at the other side of Scotland, there were Strachan marriages at the Commercial Inn at Hurlford, Back Road Hall at Dailly and the Co-operative Hall in Cambuslang.

I’m aware that many people think their ancestors would have got married in a church. But if your ancestors were Scottish that would have been highly unlikely.