Sunday 31 July 2011

Was Your Scottish Ancestor a Tradesman or Apprentice?

For those of you with tradesman ancestors, you can find record abstracts kept by Inland Revenue for your apprentice tradesman. These records provide a wealth of information including: name of the guardian of the apprentice, where the apprentice came from, who he was indentured to, and the amount paid to the master tradesman for agreeing to take on the apprentice. The index of the records held by the National Archives can be viewed at: trade

As always, Happy Searching!

Poor Law Records from the Borders Family History Society

The Borders Family History Society has been digitizing Poor Law records. A typical Poor Law record lists name, place of birth, age or date of birth, address, list of close family members and description of disablement (required to collect the social assistance). Additional information on such records can sometimes include a woman’s maiden name, religion, disabilities and date of death (if buried as a pauper). The Borders Family History Society has published the digitized records on CD, which can be purchased from the society. Poor Law records are available for both Jedburgh and Melrose parishes.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Gretna Green Marriages

Traditionally, in Scotland, a man and woman over the age of sixteen could be married by declaring themselves husband and wife in front of witnesses. Laws in England were much more strict following an Act of Parliament in 1745. This then resulted in many young couples fleeing north of the border to Scotland in order to get married. Gretna Green was the first stagecoach changing post north of the Scottish Border on the main route between London and Edinburgh. This then became a very popular spot to marry. The marriage ceremonies were carried out over the Smithy’s anvil with the "Blacksmith Priest" officiating. In fact, this was a marriage of declaration and not a civil marriage, but legal nonetheless.

Another Act of Parliament in 1857 (100 years later) imposed residential qualifications for those who married. They needed, by the new law, to live 21 days in the area before they could marry. This, too, became popular and couples would happily take up residence in Gretna or another Scottish Border town for the necessary 3 weeks and then would be married, as planned, at Gretna Green by the "Blacksmith Priest". 
In 1940, Parliament outlawed the "Blacksmiths Priests" and their anvil marriages. Marriages could only be conducted by a member of the clergy or a civil registrar. Today, there are no residency requirements and no parental consent is required in Scotland for people over the age of 16 who wish to marry. All that is required is for the couple to serve notice to the Registrar. Many continue to marry at Gretna Green even today. They are not running away so much as enjoying the rich history of Gretna Green as a place to marry. Gretna Green marriages “over the anvil” are as popular today as castle weddings. Scotland attracts visitors from all over the world as a place to be married


In very simple terms, a GEDCOM is a database designed to allow you to share family history database files with other researchers who may or may not have the same genealogy software program as you. A GEDCOM can be opened in any genealogy software program. And best of all, you can even merge the GEDCOM from a fellow researcher into your own database (genealogy software) if you have ancestors in common. 

GEDCOM files can easily be shared with others via e-mail attachment or on a disk.
GEDCOM files can easily be uploaded to lineage-linked databases like Rootsweb,  GenesReunited, Ancestry and others.
GEDCOM files can be converted for use in genealogy software programs that will create things like specialty charts (family group records, pedigree charts, genealogy reports), books, scrapbooks and web sites.

How to Create a GEDCOM File:

Creating a GEDCOM file can be a daunting task for those of us who are nervous Nellies when it comes to computers. Here are some step-by-step tasks to help you create and share your GEDCOM file:

Open your FTM
At top of page, left hand side, click: “File”
From drop down box, click “export file”
From the smaller drop down box, click “entire file”
A pop open window will appear. Choose a name for your tree such as “Smithfamilytree”
In the lower box that says “save as type” click the arrow for a drop down box.
Click GEDCOM (*GED). Click Save 

From the toolbar, select “File Export”.
Select “GEDCOM 4.0”
Select “ALL” to select all of the individuals in your database.
From the GEDCOM Export window, select from “Include options”.
Select “Export”.
Select the drive and file where your file is to be saved. (ie: My Documents)
Type in a file name and select Export.

Happy Connecting!

A Great Way to Connect

One of the best things I ever did in terms of my research was to subscribe to GenesReunited. This is a site where you can load your tree and the computer works its magic to connect you with others researching the same ancestors. I found living second cousins through Genes and was able to open up entire new branches of my tree. You will get some matches that are obscure but the wealth of connection and information you get far outweighs the obscure matches.

Here's the link:

A 12 month subscription (for the standard service, which is all you really need to get connected) is about £25 a year. Well worth the investment.

Happy Connecting!

Sunday 24 July 2011

Illegitimate Births

In Scottish Law, it was the mother's responsibility to declare the child illegitimate. She could not name the father of the baby unless he accompanied her to the Registrar in person and stated that the child was his. If he was not present and no father was listed, the birth record will clearly state "Illegitimate"

Under Scottish Law, unlike English Law, a birth became legitimate if the parents subsequently married one another. In this instance, you should find a Record of Corrected Entry (RCE) for the birth. The exception here is that if the baby was born as a result of an adulterous relationship. The birth would not then be legitimized even if the parents subsequently married.

Up until the late 1800s illegitimacy was often a matter of course. It was not until the late 1800s, early 1900s that illegitimacy was seen as a social stigma.

Gazeteer for Scotland

A great wee website for all sorts of information including historic timelines, descriptions of  villages, towns and cities as well as old maps. Have a look and see what you can learn about your Scottish ancestors.

Happy Hunting!

Saturday 23 July 2011

Record of Corrected Entries (RCE)

Sometimes when you download a document from Scotland's People, you will see a notation in the left margin:

William died July 16th 1935. This death record gives his cause of death as "burns 3 days; shock". My first question is what caused his burns (the three days tells me the burn occured three days prior to death.) In the margin - red circled area - it tells me that there was a corrected entry made to this document on October 14, 1935. Now I need to go looking for the corrected entry. So, I go back to the page that allows me to download and view the original image:

 At the top,  you will see a red button that says: "View RCE" This will cost you another 2 credits (mine shows I have already paid these credits). Click on that button, pay the two credits and you will get a new document:

This record tells me that his cause of death is "by verdict of Jury" I now need to go to the local parish and see if  I can get a copy of the coroner's report. I also want to check local newspapers to see if I can find any articles related to whatever accident Wm may have suffered. Lots more work to do, but this is where the sleuthing and the thrill of the hunt comes in!

Happy Hunting!

ps: William died of a steam burn. He went to check on a valve and someone had tampered with it, making it open full throttle, causing him a severe steam burn and causing his body to go into shock and with the pain, shock and dehydration, William died after suffering a slow, agonizing death.

Friday 22 July 2011

Take Time to Really Read the Documents

From ScotlandsPeople:

Interesting find in the 1841 Census

Staff at the ScotlandsPeople centre were excited to find an entry in the 1841 Census for South Uist that confirmed that many people had emigrated from that Island to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. It is unusual to find such comments in a Census. Notably the number of people enumerated in North Uist dropped from 4,419 to 3,907 between 1841 to 1851.
The entry reads:
There has been no emigration from this Parish for the last 6 months, but for some years past about 300 souls have annually emigrated from this Island to Cape Breton Nova Scotia, there will be about the same number going there from the different districts of the Parish in the month of July next.

Another Parish Map

Thanks to the Borders Family History Society, here is a map of the parishes of Roxburghshire

And here is the link to Borders Family History Society:

A Great Wee Video of Your Ancestral Homeland


Thursday 21 July 2011

Transported Back In Time

Recently I was at a Scottish Genealogy Conference. One of the workshops was a repeat for me, so I quietly slipped out the back door and wandered around the vendors. As always, I was drawn to the booksellers. I saw a book that I had been thinking of buying online for a while. I turned the book over. $25. Very thin book. As I was wondering just how badly I wanted this book after all, I began flipping through the pages. I was drawn to the photos in the centre of the book. Nothing too special about the photos  and the information I may be able to get online....then I saw it. The very last photo was a picture of my Papa's house. The house my father grew up in! I was SOLD.

When I got to the cashier, I showed her my amazing find. She asked if the house was small. Suddenly I was transported back in time and memories came flooding back. Small? To me it was always HUGE. Big rooms and high ceilings. Of course by the time I arrived on the scene, there were only my grandpa and 2 of my aunts in the house. My aunts shared one of the huge bedrooms at the front of the house and Papa had the other one. The rooms seemed enormous to me, but it is hard to imagine what it was like when my dad was living there with his seven siblings. Four boys in one bedroom and four girls in the other. Dad said often when his mom went to wake the kids in the morning, there would be other kids from the neighbourhood in the bed as well. The living room was large and spacious. Of course it doubled as a dining room but the table was up against the window most of the time, so it seemed like an end piece rather than a focal point. Papa had his own chair at the side of the fireplace. The room smelled sweet - pipe tobacco. Quite a contrast to the reek outside from the coal chimneys. The room was always warm (not heated warm, cozy warm - inviting). Papa's house was always so much quieter than my Gran's house. Of course with 20 children - all adults now but dropping in at all hours - Gran's house didn't stand a chance in the "quiet" department.
Papa's house was the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night. There was always music and singing and laughter and above all, family and kin. Dad carried these memories of the "Cochrina Ceilidhs" in his heart and his memory for life.
Papa's house had a emulsion heater. If a bath was wanted, the secret door at the side of the fireplace was discreetly opened and the heater "flipped" on. Time was then ticking until it was "ready" and the bath could be drawn. This wait time always seemed to co-incide with the length of time it took to enjoy a cuppa and a blether.
The kitchen and the bathroom, of course, were add-ons to the original house. The part of the bathroom that always fascinated me as a child was the "pull-chain" toilet. Out the back of the house was a loan down to the main street and this loan ran alongside the pit bing. I recall sitting in the bath late one morning and hearing bagpipes. The pipe band was headed down the loan on its way to get ready for a Gala Day practice!

Needless to day, the serendipity of finding that photo was indescribable as was the torrent of memories that accompanied being asked one simple question about the photo. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.....or in this case, a thousand memories!

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Was Your Ancestor a Selkirk Settler?

Library and Archives Canada recently announced the release of a new version of the online database

From their website:
"Immigrants to Canada. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Red River Colony (or Selkirk Settlement) in Manitoba, more than 4,000 references to names of settlers found in the Thomas Douglas, Earl of Selkirk fonds have been added to the existing database. Many staff members contributed to the success of this project, and their efforts are much appreciated."

Search the collection at:

Scottish Naming Pattern

I have 37 Henry Fowlers in my tree. And I know there are others I haven't connected to my branches yet. That's part of the Scottish Naming Pattern. This can be a joy or a peeve. It can help you link ancestors to your surname. But it is also a struggle when you find a record and need to figure out who is who.
My grandfather and his brothers "went to America". One brother was already living in Windsor Ontario when my granddad arrived. They had a cousin, Henry Fowler, who was working in Detroit for Mr Ford. I found Henry on the 1930 census but needed to find out where he fit in relation to my grandfather. Remember I have no less than 37 Henry Fowlers in my tree. However, narrowing it down to Henry Fowlers of the same age as my grandfather and his brothers left me with about 15 to choose from. I eventually narrowed it down to the son of my great grandmother's brother, Henry Fowler (of course!). It took a great deal of digging to make sure I had the right Henry. The Fowlers were strong adherents to the Scottish Naming Pattern. Had there been a John Fowler, I would have known he likely wasn't mine as we have no John Fowlers in the  family (so far). Because of his first name, I knew that Henry was likely my ancestor, I just needed to work to prove that he belonged to me.
Here's how the Scottish  Naming Pattern works:

First Born Son - named for the paternal grandfather
Second Born Son - named for the maternal grandfather
Third Son named for the father - unless he shares a name with one of the grandfathers
Fourth and subsequent sons were often named after father or mother's brothers

First Born Daughter - named for the maternal grandmother
Second Born Daughter - named for the paternal grandmother
Third Daughter - named for the mother - unless she shares a name with one of the grandmothers
Subsequent daughters were generally named for mother or father's sisters

In addition, if one of the first three children died, the next baby born of the same sex was given that name so that the name would live on for future generations. This became a bit of a conundrum for me when I was assisting a family looking for their roots in North Uist. This family had Donald MacDonald, then son Donald MacDonald who died at age 3, so the next born son was Donald MacDonald (so far, so good). This Donald did not die, but a subsequent son was also named Donald. This time, Donald John MacDonald. Both grandfathers were Donald and each had a living grandson named for him!

It gets even better when every eldest son marries an eldest daughter: Henry marries a Margaret - they have a Henry and a Margaret - that Henry marries a Margaret or Margaret marries a Henry. That's when the "Auld Henry", "Wee Henry", "Big Henry" and "Margaret's Henry" all come into play. Easy Peasy keeping them all straight!

Happy Searching!

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Where Do I Start My Scottish Research?

Here's my blog post on how to get started and where to look:

As always, Happy Searching!

Know Your Parishes

When researching for your Scottish Ancestors, it is important to know the parish they lived  in as well as the neighbouring parishes. Remember, prior to the industrial revolution and the mass production of planes trains and automobiles, transport was primarily by horse.What this means for you as a researcher is that your ancestors didn't wander very far if and when they moved. Movement would primarily have revolved around employment opportunities, so you need to know where the jobs were. For instance, my coalminer ancestors worked for whatever colliers were hiring. They would have been within maybe a 10 -20 mile radius of where they grew up. Fishermen are going to follow the sea - so they will stay along coastal regions. Shipbuilders stayed near the Clyde (Glasgow) and weavers stayed near the looms and mills - often around the Borders.
It was very uncommon for people to move a great distance, apart from the Clearances, when islanders moved to the mainland. Even when women married, they generally didn't go very far.

My miners came from Shotts - the lower half of Shotts Parish. They mined in Shotts and Bothwell with one branch of the family making it as far as Hamilton. The farmers were in New Monkland and ended up in Shotts. Not terribly far from where they started out. Have a look at YOUR parish and really get to know the area your ancestors came from. This will also let you rule out some families in the records who may have the same name, but who were many counties apart.
Happy Searching

Sunday 17 July 2011

The Descendants of Henry Fowler Crawford

Henry Fowler, a coal miner, married Jane Carrick, in Hamilton, Scotland in 1871. On May 4th, 1873, Jane gave birth to a daughter, Agnes. Agnes, a domestic servant from Limelands Farm, Glengowan, married Hugh Crawford, a coal miner, on November 28th, 1890.  They were married at Nimmos Row, Longriggend, Scotland. Hugh was 20 and Agnes 17. Hugh was the son of Thomas and Mary Ann Crawford.
On January 16, 1893, Agnes gave birth to a son, Henry Fowler Crawford. Henry, fondly known as Harry, is one of four sons born to the couple. Harry later went on to sire 21 children. This is the story of his descendancy.

On New Year's Eve, 1913, just two and a half weeks shy of his 21st birthday, Harry married Sarah Costello at the Manse in Shotts.
Sarah and Harry had six children. It appears, and was commonly believed, that Sarah died of complications following the birth of the youngest child in July 1924. The baby later died at the tender age of three months.

Following the baby's death, Harry and his brother emigrated to America in 1927, eventually making their way to Detroit. But, according to the stories that have been told, the two were disillusioned by the crime and violence of the "Al Capone" era and after some time returned to the more sedate life of farming in Lanarkshire.

While farming at Forrestburn, Harry met Dorothy Lindsley (Dora), during a trip to Langholm Market. Dora is the oldest of four children born out of wedlock to Maggie Lindlsey. Dora was born in Stanwix on the outskirts of Carlisle, England, close to the border of Scotland, on July 19th 1908.  Dora never spoke of her younger years other than to mention that it wasn’t until she was put into service that she was treated decently. In the summer of 1920, at the age of 12, she was taken to the market place in Carlisle where she was placed along with others in a line, and displayed for the local farmers and landowners of the day.  A shilling of honour was paid and Dora was taken and placed into service.  Along with being a servant to the family she also became a companion to the family's daughter, Ann.

Dora took great joy in relating the many stories of the times she shared with Ann. Dora used to tell the story of how she and Ann would ride into Langholm to the market. Ann was a fairly large girl and therefore she had the larger horse to ride. Dora got the pony, but one day they decided to swap horses and Dora ended up on a horse that she could not handle.  The result was that the horse bucked and Dora landed in the river, much to the delight of her companion, Ann.  Dora said it wasn’t until after all the laughter had stopped that she realized that her knee was broken.  Surgery in the early 20th century wasn’t quite what it is today and the result was that all her life Dora suffered severe knee pain.

Dora remained in service until early in 1928 when, on a visit to Langholm Market, she first saw Henry Fowler Crawford.  He was there selling his produce.  The story goes that Ann and Dora were in a cafe when Harry came in.  Dora forgot her gloves and soon afterwards Harry showed up at the big house with them. Dora fell for Harry's good looks, and he was obviously attracted too. Dora and Harry married on July 3, 1928, in Caldercruix. Dora was just two weeks shy of her 20th birthday and in marrying Harry, a father of five young children, Dora entered full force into family life. At twenty years of age she became the step-mother to five children.
Dora also became the daughter-in-law to Granny Mack.  Dora would often say  "Granny Mack said that if she had sent her sons out blindfolded to find wives, they could not have come back with worse."  Granny Mack was a very overpowering woman, she ruled the roost and all within it. Dora had no choice. She simply had to settle in to her new life at Forrestfield.  It was here that she met her sister-in- law Lizzie, with whom she shared a life-long friendship. Henry and Dora went on to have 15 more children together. The first seven were born at Forrestfield.

After leaving Forrestburn, Harry took a job as the dairy manager with a farm in Roddenlaw. Here, a son was added to the family. From Roddenlaw, Harry & Dora moved once again. This time they landed in Eccles Tofts where Harry had the job as Head Dairyman. While at Eccles Tofts, Harry & Dora added a daughter to their ever growing family.

For the most part, Harry was an easy pleased man. Of course, that often depended on Dora’s interpretation of "easy pleased.” Sometimes it was more like “easily fooled”. Like the time she was caught boiling eggs in tea. When asked why, she replied, “your Da’ says that no self-respecting hen would ever lay a white egg, but his hens won’t lay a brown egg!” So, by boiling the eggs in tea, Dora had Harry convinced that his hens were, in fact, self-respecting enough to lay brown eggs!

Harry loved the farming life, but after a farming accident at Eccles Tofts, he was forced to give up this career. The family then moved to Sherwood in Midlothian.
It was while living here that the family expanded once again to include five more children. While living at Sherwood, Harry worked as a coal miner. He later worked for a brief time with the Gas Works and then as a firewood salesman.
From Sherwood, the family moved to Bonnyrigg, where the birth of another daughter (finally) completed the family.

Harry also had a special connection to his granddaughter, Christine, perhaps because she, too, had been a bairn who lived under his roof. Apparently Harry had missed not having a baby in the house over the seven years since his youngest was born, and he just doted on Christine. When her parents made the decision in 1960 to emigrate to Canada to live, Harry tried to convince them to leave the bairn with him until they got settled. Christine’s mum and dad knew that if they did that, Harry would never send her over to Canada, so they told him they were all going to travel together. Since that hadn't worked, Harry accompanied them to the airport. Harry told them that he was going to take Christine for a wee walk while they checked themselves in. Some time later, they realized Harry and Christine weren't back and went looking for them. They found Harry and the baby on the way to the train station. Harry told him he was heading home with the bairn. Dora said that Christine moving to Canada was a big heartbreak in Harry's life, and there were times that she would find him wiping away a tear. When she'd ask what was wrong, he'd say he was just thinking about the bairn and hoping that she was alright.

Harry suffered from Silicosis. He died during a trip to see his son in Fort William in 1966. He was 73 and is sadly missed by his children and grandchildren. Harry is buried at Cockpen Cemetery.

After Harry's death, Dora raised the children who were still at home on her own. Dora had hated the move from Eccles Tofts to Sherwood. She said it took her nearly seven years to get used to living in a town. However, she developed close and lasting friendships not only with the other women in Sherwood but also her neighbours from Bonnyrigg. With Harry's death, Dora had to give up her home and moved to a smaller Council house, where she remained for some 35 years.  Dora never had an easy life, but overall she found fun in her life through her kids. There was never a difference made between Sarah’s children and the children she had given birth to. To Dora, they were all brothers and sisters. She never had a lot of materials in her life. Her wealth was in her children.  She was a bright and active woman, a good mother, a good neighbour and a loyal friend.  Dora had a wonderful sense of humour, a quick wit and a brilliant smile.  She was always there, the kids never had to worry about where their Ma was.  At night she would be surrounded in bed with her kids, listening to their stories and relating her own. 

If the kids needed someone to turn the skipping rope Dora was there.  She was never one to be tied down by a large family. She and the other women would take the kids on the train to the seaside or on picnics down the Glen or off to a Highland dance competition, with the girls all in outfits that Dora had made herself.

Dora always had a penny for a toffee apple, or a cake from the baker. A woolen scarf or jersey that Harry had knitted would be sneaked to the bairns to go get a balloon from the Rag Man.  She would laugh along with the other women on the street at the antics of the kids, pretending to be drunk from their home made sugarally, a concoction made from liquorice sticks, sugar and water.  She would save what little money there was to buy the younger kids a new Easter outfit and an egg to go roll down the Knowe Hill in Bonnyrigg.

Dora took the children on all the outings sponsored by the Coal Miners. She always enjoyed New Years Eve, known as Hogmanay. The kids all got to stay up and bring in the New Year. Never a smoker or a drinker, Dora did love a wee nip of Brandy before bed in her later years.  She loved Bingo, and over the years had a few little wins. She enjoyed a good waltz as well as a good sing song. One of her favourite things to do in Canada was have a sing song with her son in law playing the mouth organ as her accompanist! And she loved a good game of cards. All of her grandchildren grew up being the only ones in their world who knew how to play "stop the bus."

Dora was a kind woman, but she also had quite a temper when need be.  She suffered many a heartache at the loss of her children who passed on before her. There were also days when Dora missed Harry terribly, but she was always thankful that she had her children to keep her company. Dora hated the thought of being alone. She enjoyed her children and took great pride in them. Dora celebrated her 80th birthday, surrounded by family and friends, at the Danderhall Miner's Club in 1988.

Dora first took sick in 1989 but this only slowed her down. It wasn't until her 90th year that she became frail. She enjoyed her 90th birthday, again surrounded by family and friends, at her home in Poltonhall. Dora had a full and happy life. She was a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great grandmother. Dora died peacefully in her home on June 6, 2000. Her ashes are buried in Cockpen Cemetery, in the base of the headstone marking the grave she shares with her husband of 38 years, Henry Fowler Crawford.

Harry sired 21 children. This is an amazing legacy for any man. Dora mothered 20 children. She loved them, took pride in them and missed them when they weren't around. She was adored, loved and admired in return. Perhaps Harry's greatest legacy to his descendants was the woman he chose to mother them.

Middle Child Syndrome

My mother, Dorothy, used to like to tell everyone that she was "the middle child." Of course she neglected to add that she shared that title with 17 other siblings! My mum was the 10th child in a sib-group of 20. She was born prematurely and weighed only 2 ½ pounds at birth. Her bed was a 4 quart basket and it was feared that she wouldn't survive. But survive she did, not only then, but throughout her life at home.

Older brother, Tommy, and big sister, Flora, would often work hard at trying to rid themselves of their little sister so that they didn't have to have her tag along and include her in their play. Tommy and Flora worked creatively to end Dorothy’s existence - like the time they swung her over the bull pen, and the bull nearly thanked them for an early lunch. Or the time they told her she could steal a drink from the rain barrel by knocking the "bung" just slightly, only to wait until her face was underneath and then one of them opened the bung full stop, nearly drowning her in the process.

Dorothy was 7 when the war broke out. Two years later, she was living in a small village near Edinburgh. There were 10 children at home. The village did an emergency preparedness in the event of a bombing. The soldier handing out gasmasks asked my grandmother, Dora, how many gasmasks she needed and she said “10.” He showed her how to put the mask on the baby on her lap, then went on to help other families. After a short while and once the children were nicely masked, Dora went back and asked the soldier for two more masks. He said, “I gave you 10.” “Yes,” replied Dora, “but my husband and I need one too.” The soldier looked at her in astonishment and said, “Missus, by the time you get all of those masks on all of those wee ones, you won’t have time to be in need of any more!”

Then there was Dorothy’s big brother, Dod, who for his entire life has played the role of everyone's big brother (even if he's younger, or not really your brother). He felt particularly close to his sister and felt a need (in his mind anyway) to protect her. This didn't always translate out that way. Dorothy used to love to tell the story of the night she and Dod had convinced their parents that they should be allowed a night in town. They agreed to a curfew and assured their parents that Dorothy would be safe because Dod would be there to look out for her. Since Dod was a champion boxer, mum and dad couldn't very well argue about his ability to keep her safe. So off to the town they went, Dorothy on her bike and Dod walking alongside. Once they got to town, however, they went their separate ways. So much for Dod's promise of protecting his sister! They agreed to meet to go home together. Dorothy was at the pre-arranged meeting place on time, but no Dod. She waited. Still no Dod, so she headed home. Some time later, Dod arrived where the two had agreed to meet. He knew he was late, and likely in trouble, so he jumped on Dorothy's bike and headed home. Imagine his surprise half an hour later when he saw Dorothy come down the stairs to see who was knocking on the door. It turned out to be the local Bobby looking for the young lad who had made off with his bike!

In his later years, Dorothy’s dad was known for his little book where he kept a record of any monies loaned from and returned to him even monies given to his wife and children - and what the purpose of the loan was (bingo, dances etc.) Dorothy used to love to tell the story of the time she and her friend, Chrissie, were in need of money for a night out on the town during their weekend home from nurses training.

They asked her dad for money and he denied having any. They asked for proof. He reached into his pocket and took his hand out again, showing them that it was empty. Chrissie then asked if they could keep any money they found on him and he reluctantly agreed. She and Dorothy then turned Grandpa upside down and out fell his loot - which they then used for their night out.

Even after she was married, Dorothy continued to live at home. She and my dad took over one of the rooms in the house as theirs. Younger brother Craig used to love to go and visit his favourite sister. Often on a Friday night he would be asked to accompany his mates on a night out on the town. Inevitably, Craig would tell them he couldn’t go with them because he was going to his sisters for the weekend. Then he would gleefully walk in the house, enter the room Dorothy and Tommy had taken over and help himself to a dinner of beans on toast!

For the most part, Dorothy loved being from a large, open family. She always had companionship; someone to laugh with; someone to cry with; someone to share life’s burdens and sorrows. It would have been easy to lose contact since most of her siblings remained overseas, but at her funeral, all of them talked about the loss. Not only had they lost a sister, but each of them had lost their best friend.
Being from a large family had it’s ups and downs and could have rendered any one of the family insane. But it had quite the opposite effect. Every one is unique. My mother’s gift was her loyalty and devotion to her family. Her devotion to her mom and dad, to her siblings, to her husband and to her children. My mother was the middle child. Smack dab in the middle of 21 children.
But rather than getting lost in the crowd, or fading into the woodwork, she shone above the rest in so many ways, particularly in her loyalty, her humour and her compassion. She was indeed the shining jewel in her daddy’s crown.

Friday 15 July 2011

Did You Know?

· three of the nine founders of the Bank of Montreal were from Scotland. The Bank's coat of arms has it roots dating back to 1833. As a result the Scottish thistle and Saint-Andrew cross play a prominent role in the coat of arms of the bank. The three Scottish founders names were John Richardson, George  Garden and Robert Armour.

· After Queen Victoria and Christopher Columbus, Robert Burns has more statues
    dedicated to him around the world than any other non-religious figure.

The Thing About Scottish Marriages

In finding the 1911 census for Scotland, I learned some new information about my great grandmother. Her first husband went off to South Africa to battle in the Boer War and apparently never returned. She remarried in 1913. I found her in a miners row known as Bothwellshields. This was the first time I have ever seen reference to Bothwellshields. It is in the district of Shotts. Interestingly all 4 sons were reported as being at home, however, when my grandfather was 8, he was listed as being home as well, although in reality he was with his uncle, where he also shows on the 1901 census. What I didn't expect to find on the 1911 census was that my great Granny & her second husband, Geordie, were residing together, listed as man and wife, and the two claim to have been married for 6 years!

This wasn't terribly uncommon in Scotland in those days. It is known as a “marriage of declaration” whereby two people simply have to declare themselves as man and wife (generally in front of two witnesses) to be considered married. The interesting piece for me is that Agnes kept her first husband’s name (Crawford) and did not assume Geordie’s name even though the two had declared themselves to be married. It also clears up, for me, the comment on their marriage certificate that their marriage was “under warrant of the sheriff-substitute” I had always thought that the reason for this was because Agnes had to wait the requisite 7 years without contact from her first husband, Hugh, in order to be legally married to Geordie. In fact it was simply to say that their marriage by declaration was now considered legal in that they had paid their fine and married in a “regular” fashion in front of a magistrate (civil marriage).

Ancestors from East Ayrshire?

The East Ayrshire Family History Society has launched a new website. It is still under construction, so you will need to keep checking back for updates, but it is certainly worth a look:

Thursday 14 July 2011

Making Sense of the Census

You are reading the census for your ancestor's residence and it says "in Bridgehill Farm". You notice that others on the page are "at Bridgehill Farm"  You may not think anything of it. You may think in and at are one and the same. But they aren't. The ancestor in Bridgehill Farm is a tenant farmer, meaning he doesn't own the farm but works the farm and is essentially in charge of the farm for the landowner. He is a permanent resident on the farm. Those on the page listed as being at Bridgehill Farm are workers on the farm. Here's the breakdown for land ownership on a census:

of means the person is the land owner
in means the person is a tenant farmer who resides there full time
at means the person is a farm worker

You will often find that there is a "big house" on the farm where the landowner lives and a smaller house where the tenant farmer resides. Often, larger farms had a small set of row houses where the workers would reside. They may or may not have resided there full time, depending on their position. For instance, the head dairyman would be listed as being at the farm, but his job was important enough that he needed to be onsite. Milkers would not have lived on the farm.They would have a separate residence and would attend the farm each day for work. On the census, their "occupation" would be listed as farm worker.

Sunday 10 July 2011

From Stowe to Stewe in the Curve of a Pen

Old handwriting can be difficult to read (although studies show that those of us who spend hours pouring over old documents trying to decipher what has been written are better at memory retention than those who don't). Penmanship was only available to the educated - clergy or teachers, usually. And in those days, uniformity was more important than legibility. Don't despair. Here are a couple of websites to assist with "cracking the code" on Scottish Handwriting.

You can also find a wealth of information on the Scotland's People website under the tab "Help & Resources" In the drop down box on the right, you will find a link to getting help with deciphering Scottish Handwriting.

Happy Searching!

Was Your Ancestor a Postie?

Did your ancestor work in a post office? Mine was a "postal runner" which means she was what we now call a letter carrier. The British Postal Museum & Archives has launched a new website where you can search information on your Postie ancestors.

The area you want to search is at the top called "Collections and Catalogue"

Here on the right hand side of the screen you will find a list to search. Particular areas of interest for ancestor records are: Notable Individuals, Appointment Records, Pensions & Gratuities, and Financial Records.

Happy Searching!
Found an intersting website. It summarizes census and other reports. Interesting information regarding the social history of our ancestors. Here's the link:

Was Your Ancestor a Farmer?

A little known resource for information, and one to assist in finding your ancestors between census years, is the Farm Horse Tax. This was a tax that was paid for working horses owned by each  farmer.

A second resource to look at for farmers is the Land Ownership Commision records (1872-1873). This records parcels of land greater than one acre.

Both resources can be found at: This is a sister site to Scotland'sPeople. But it is free!

TIP: Search by place, not by name!

Friday 8 July 2011

What Did Your Ancestor Die Of?

A common cause of death for women in the 1800s was Milk Fever - an infection following childbirth but one that people thought was associated with nursing women. Milk Leg was another complication of childbirth - today we know this to be caused by clotting in the legs following childbirth, but in the 1800s this again was associated with nursing mothers.
There were a myriad of illnesses commonly listed on death records but that are unfamiliar to us in the 21st century. Here's a list to some of the more common causes of death in the 1800s:

Trying to Figure Out What Your Ancestor Did for a Living?

Was your ancestor a Carter? A Legger? A Teamster? Old occupations can be a great source of information about your ancestors and how they lived. But cracking the definitions of the trades or occupations can sometimes be a challenge. Here's a link to a website with an alphabetical listing of old occupations. Have a look and see if you can figure out what your ancestor did for a living.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

New Hebridean Genealogy Website Coming Soon!

Northton Heritage Trust has been awarded a grant of £54,000 ($90,000) towards safeguarding the lifelong genealogical work of Bill Lawson, internationally known for his work on collecting and documenting the history of the Outer Hebrides. His collections include official records, oral histories and other local documents through which Bill has been able to re-tell the (his)story of the Western Isles of Harris, Lewis, North & South Uist, St. Kilda, Benbecula and Taransay.

The grant will see Lawson’s work being rewritten and updated and placed on a bilingual (English & Gaelic) website called Lawson’s books will also be available for sale through the website.

More information is available in the Stornoway Gazette article:

Sunday 3 July 2011

Don't Under Estimate the Importance of Local Resources

Many of us are familiar with the standard search engines, websites (Scotland's People, Ancestry, GenesReunited) and online resources (Rootsweb, Genuki) but many of us forget to contact the local societies for information relevant to the location where our ancestors resided. Often, the local family history societies will have parish census records, church records, monumental inscriptions, old maps and information related to local businesses, schools and families.
A list of Family History Societies can be found through the Scottish Association of Family History Societies:

Don't be shy about contacting the local society and asking where to turn next. They may just be the contact you need to help break through a brick wall or two.

Happy Researching!

Don't Under Estimate the Importance of Local Resources

Many of us are familiar with the standard search engines, websites (Scotland's People, Ancestry, GenesReunited) and online resources (Rootsweb, Genuki) but many of us forget to contact the local societies for information relevant to the location where our ancestors resided. Often, the local family history societies will have parish census records, church records, monumental inscriptions, old maps and information related to local businesses, schools and families.
A list of Family History Societies can be found through the Scottish Association of Family History Societies:

Don't be shy about contacting the local society and asking where to turn next. They may just be the contact you need to help break through a brick wall or two.

Happy Researching!

Are Your Ancestors From Tiree?

An absolute must for anyone with Tiree Ancestry is Keith Dash's website, Isle of Tiree Genealogy:

Here you will find birth, baptism, marriage records from the OPRs, Tiree Cemetery Records, Inhabitants of the Argyll Estate 1779, as well as a link to the Statistical Account of Tiree and Coll. If you have Tiree ancestry, you will find a wealth of information on Keith's website.

Happy Ancestor Hunting!

Looking for Family from Scotland's Outer Hebrides?

For over 40 years, Bill Lawson has been researching the families of the Outer Hebrides, including:
  • Harris
  • Lewis
  • North Uist
  • Benbecula
  • South Uist
  • St Kilda
  • Taransay
Many of Bill's books list the names of the household members in far off villages in the Western Isles. Bill's books are a must for anyone researching ancestors in this part of Scotland. You can order his books at:

Happy Hunting!