Author Topic: Family link or just big coincidence?  (Read 5427 times)

Offline t1m

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Family link or just big coincidence?
« on: Friday 25 March 11 19:36 GMT (UK) »
Hello,

I've been trying to find more information on my gg-grandfather, Alexander Davidson, for some time now.

I know he was born in Cruden or Peterhead (probably Cruden) about 1839-40, and moved to Castleton in Roxburghshire in/before 1861 for work building the railway, before moving to Angus in/before 1869 where he was married.

According to his marriage certificate, his father's name was John, and his mother's name was Margaret Wilkie (please see attached handwriting in case I'm wrong).  His mother had died by 1869, though his father was still living.

Before 1861 I can't find any sign of him -- no census and no birth certificate.  I can't find a sign of his parents' marriage, nor of his mother's death.  I've looked through tens of death certificates for John Davidsons who may have been Alexander's father, and can't find any known to have been a widower of a Margaret Wilkie.

What I have found though may be completely unrelated.

Alexander and his wife had seven named children between 1869 and 1882 (and one child who didn't live long enough to be named):
    Alexander Sturrock Davidson
    John Davidson
    James Davidson
    William Lumgair Davidson
    Thomas Davidson
    Margaret Davidson
    George Davidson

In Cruden, I found a family with almost exactly the same names, except no Alexander.  The father's name is John Davidson, and the mother's name is Margaret RAINY, all children are born 1828 to 1838 (my ggg-grandfather was born about 1839-40):
    William Davidson
    James Davidson
    John Davidson
    George Davidson
    Thomas Davidson
    Margaret Davidson

One thing that I noticed about this family was that John Davidson (father) was born about 1789, and Margaret Rainy was born about 1807, which is an unusually large gap.

Given the small population of Cruden Bay at that time, is this just a very big coincidence?  Or is it likely that Alexander could have been their seventh child and something happened?  Is it possible that Alexander's family and this family may be related in some other way, from which I might find Alexander's origins?

I'm hoping someone can help me.  I promised my mum that I would find where Alexander came from, but I've been pulling my hair out for two years now and not getting very far!

Tim


PS I just realised: is it likely that Alexander Davidson is the illegitimate child of this John Davidson and a Margaret Wilkie?  I can't help but think (perhaps from desperation) that there must be a link somewhere.

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Offline portybelle

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Re: Family link or just big coincidence?
« Reply #1 on: Friday 25 March 11 21:13 GMT (UK) »
Does his death certificate confirm the names of the parents? I have come across several occasion where the detail on a certificate is quite simply wrong so it may well be that your second family is the right one with Alexander yet to be born. When he appears on a census, where does it say he was born?

On the other hand, although the names as you say, are almost identical they are not that unusual for the time. It would be surprising for there to be two John Davidsons in such a small community and for them not to be related. Can you find any marriage or death records for those children confirming or otherwise their mother's maiden name?

Sorry - you've probably tried all this already! Hopefully someone else will be researching the same family and be able to offer more info.
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Offline purplekat

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Re: Family link or just big coincidence?
« Reply #2 on: Saturday 26 March 11 14:30 GMT (UK) »
Hi t1m

Have you tried looking for an Alexander Wilkie, as you say he could have been illegitimate, born before his parents married, maybe he was born in a different area. 

I had the same problem with my grandfather's birth, it turned out he was born earlier than we thought, (his age on his death cert gives his year of birth as two years later than the actual DOB). 

My grandfather was named Alexander Gardiner, at birth, (we were looking for John Blyth), he became John Alexander after his parents married, in the first census he appeared in his name was given as Alex Gardiner Blyth in later census records he was John Blyth, eventually he used John Alexander Gardiner Blythe.  I think they do it just to confuse us  :)  but basically what I'm saying is look at all possibilities if he has a middle name it could be his birth name.  Hope all this is of some help.

Offline t1m

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Re: Family link or just big coincidence?
« Reply #3 on: Saturday 26 March 11 15:13 GMT (UK) »
Hi portybelle,

The death certificate also details his parents as John Davidson and Margaret Wilkie, but as I understand it these details depend on the informant knowing.  So while it's almost definitely correct, there's that very slight chance of it being wrong.

When Alexander first appears on the census (in 1861), his place of birth is given as "Scotland Aberdeen".  But as he's living in navvy huts, and locations for other people on the same page are very non-specific, I'm not surprised at the generality.  But I'm sure it's him as he does a lot of work on the railways through his life, and moves for the work.  As far as I know, I'm the first one to find Alexander before his marriage in 1869 (in Monikie, Angus).

On the 1871 census, his place of birth is detailed as "Aberdeenshire Peterhead".  From the other trees I've seen, this is where everyone assumes he was born.  However in 1881, his place of birth is detailed "Aberdeenshire Cruden", as it is for 1891 and 1901.  So I'm confident that's where he was born, even though every other tree states Peterhead.

I've spent the last few hours collecting all the Davidsons born in Cruden Bay (from Family Search).  You're right, these are all very common names in the area and along with the name Gilbert, they make up about 97% (without counting!) of the male name born in Cruden Bay between 1709 (first appearance of Davidson born in Cruden Bay) and 1870 (as far as I've gone so far).  I've collected all the names, and I'm trying to make some attempt at piecing together what I can of the families.

I also need to find out what I can about Wilkies, and especially Margaret Wilkies.

What I did discover, and something I think strengthens the case for Alexander belonging to this family, that William (son of John Davidson and Margaret RAINY) marries a Mary Mathew and uses the same male names:
    William
    John
    (Mary)
    Alexander
    Thomas
    George
    (Margaret Jane)
    Thomas (presumably the other Thomas has died)
    (Janet)
    James

Note the addition of Alexander, the one name missing from his father's children.  Of course, it really could be just a coincidence!  But given the other names all come from somewhere, Alexander must too.  Furthermore, it's the third name used (i.e. not at the end).  (Mary Mathew was daughter of Andrew Mathew and Jane Smith, no Alexander there.)

Offline t1m

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Re: Family link or just big coincidence?
« Reply #4 on: Saturday 26 March 11 15:27 GMT (UK) »
Hi purplekat

I looked for Alexander Wilkie a long time ago.  I can't remember all the details, but I couldn't find anyone who could be him.  And I've been very thorough (I think!).

It's very interesting what you write about your grandfather's name -- I'm sure you'd hit your head off the wall a few times before finding him!  Of all the documents I have with Alexander's name on it, he only ever uses Alex or Alexander (no middle name).  I've seen something similar to what you wrote in the censuses: a 1 year old Alexander Davidson living with a family of Milnes in 1841, and in 1851 he is named as Alexander Milne.  However this Alexander then goes onto university to study theology (a long way from navvy work), and retains the name Milne, so he's not my ancestor.

I know that other people who have tried to find Alexander's origin have decided (wrongly, I think) that John Davidson (his father) was illegitimate which they say explains why Alexander's birth record cannot be found.  I disagree with this, but I noticed on another's family tree a note pointing to John Davidson (with their quotes): think it was him "born of fornication"

I thought that might indicate a family rumour (given the quotes and choice of words) that nobody knew who it was about, but when I asked my mum some time ago about this she said there is no such rumour.  But I wonder now if it's a rumour she just hadn't heard of, and if it applies to Alexander.  I think along with trying to piece together the Cruden Davidson families, and tracing Wilkie families, I need to find out if there is such an old rumour.

Offline MonicaL

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Re: Family link or just big coincidence?
« Reply #5 on: Saturday 26 March 11 15:36 GMT (UK) »
It is hard, t1m, when the records are hard to find  :-\

A few issues that you have with the possible Cruden family that I can see:

- mother's surname Rainey (and variants) v. Wilkie.
- father John's occupation that you have shows as a farm servant. This family that you have found, John Davidson shows as a wright.
- no trace of an Alexander showing on the censuses with this family.

Not sure what to suggest for you. One possibility, as you are considering, may be that Alexander was born illegitimately and that by the time of the early censuses (1841/51) may show under a different surname if his mother went on to marry after his birth.

Monica

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Offline MonicaL

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Re: Family link or just big coincidence?
« Reply #6 on: Saturday 26 March 11 15:44 GMT (UK) »
From the marriage in Angus, who were the witnesses names?

Monica
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Offline purplekat

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Re: Family link or just big coincidence?
« Reply #7 on: Saturday 26 March 11 15:56 GMT (UK) »
Hi tm1

Just thought on and realised that there wouldn't be a birth cert for Alexander as he was born before official registration so it would be the OPR's your looking at it depends on the area the person was born in as to how well records were kept, also such records are often not very detailed.  

If there's nothing online, it may be a case of contacting the local family history society for the area to find out.  other than that I've found that MI's, (or memorial inscriptions), are a good way of discovering more about a family but obviously you would need to know where the family was buried.  

I think it is possible that 'born of fornication' could have been written on John's birth or baptism record by a church elder, I've seen church records naming people as 'guilty of fornication'.   No wonder people went to great lengths to hide the fact that their parents weren't married when they were born.   :)  We were only able to trace my grandfather's birth because he used his full name in later life.


PS do you live in Scotland?

Offline t1m

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Re: Family link or just big coincidence?
« Reply #8 on: Saturday 26 March 11 16:14 GMT (UK) »
Hi Monica,

Yes, definitely still problems which just don't fit, but lots of evidence to show there must be some connection (i.e. possibly cousins).  But the addition of Alexander to William's family, and the lack of Alexander among his siblings, looks equally suspicious.

In the 1851 census, John's occupation is described as "farmer by carpenter", which I thought might explain why he is described as a "farm servant".  I know he was a cart wright (not a ship wright) as that's how he is described in 1861.  Also, isn't it possible a son could describe his father who made/fixed carts as someone who works on farms?  I know Alexander was named as a general labourer by his sons, even though he worked mainly on the railways.

No, it's very frustrating that Alexander hasn't been found on any of the censuses.  Perhaps he just isn't there.

Something I just noticed (when I was confirming what I wrote above about John's occupation) was that in 1861 Margaret's name is given as Margaret Rennie.  Could very easily be nothing.

The witnesses at Alexander's (and Ann Sturrock's) wedding are John Miller and George someone.  It looks like Bane, is it maybe Raine (probably not)?