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Topics - Forfarian

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Scotland / Why Can't I find my Ancestor's Birth/Marriage/Death?
« on: Tuesday 12 October 21 13:51 BST (UK)  »
This is a frequent question in these forums. I often find myself replying to such queries, so I am going to try to pull some of the information together into one item for future reference.

It's important to understand what records are and are not available.

The Great Divide is 1855, when statutory civil registration was introduced. From the outset, registration was compulsory. Births had to be registered within 21 days, and deaths within 8 days. It was a bit more complicated in the case of marriages, but generally speaking it is rare for an event to be missing from the registers after 1855. All registered births, deaths and marriages are indexed on SP, and the original certificates of births over 100 years ago, marriages over 75 years ago and deaths over 50 years ago can be viewed online at Scotland's People (SP)

If an event after 1855 appears to be missing, the reasons may include
- the people involved failed to comply with the law, or
- the registrar made an error, or
- the event is registered under a name other than the name expected
- the event took place somewhere other than expected
- the name(s) have been incorrectly indexed

Before 1855, things are much more uncertain.

The principal source of information about births and marriages is the Old Parish Registers (OPRs) kept by the Church of Scotland (C of S) of baptism and proclamations of banns. Theoretically the C of S was supposed to record all births and marriages in its parish, but in practice this did not often happen. In 1855, all the surviving OPRs were compulsorily collected for safe keeping by the Registrar General for Scotland, and these are the backbone of the OPRs on SP. Baptism records do not always include the baby's date of birth, and records of proclamations of banns do not always contain the date of the wedding.

Then there are the records kept by the Roman Catholic Church. These too are available on SP, as are the surviving records of some other churches, including Dissenting, Secession, and Free Churches, held in the National Records of Scotland (NRS).

There is a very small number of surviving registers that are not available on SP
- a few of the other churches' registers held in the NRS where either it has not been possible to determine who actually owns them, or the congregation that owns them has refused permission for them to be made available on SP
- surviving records of the Scottish Episcopal Church (Episcopal Church in Scotland)/Church of England. These are either in the individual churches or in diocesan, university or local archives
- surviving records, if any, of various other Christian denominations, for example Society of Friends (Quakers), Congregational, Baptist  and Methodist churches etc etc
- records, if any, of non-Christian religions
- a very occasional OPR lurking in a dark corner that escaped being sent to the Registrar General in 1855 and has not seen the light of day since

So why might a particular baptism, say, be missing? There are many reasons, including
- the parents did not have the child baptised
- the parents neglected to have the baptism recorded in the OPR
- the minister omitted to tell the parish clerk
- the clerk forgot to write down the record
- the OPR containing the record was damaged or lost
- the baptism was performed by a clergyman of one of the minor churches whose records, if they ever existed, have not yet made it on to SP

So how many records are missing? Estimates vary wildly, and the further back you go, the more are missing.

In my tree, I have 6637 people born in Scotland before 1855. Of these, there are 834 for whom I have no record of birth or baptism. That is about one in eight. I have seen estimates as high as 30%. Not surprisingly, anecdotal evidence suggests that records of country parishes, if they exist at all, are more complete than records of city parishes of the same period.

You'll have noticed that I have not included missing deaths before 1855. I'll deal with these in a separate message because the full works exceeds the maximum allowed length.

The Common Room / A chair with long legs
« on: Sunday 26 September 21 10:45 BST (UK)  »
I was in Coventry yesterday, and my attention was drawn to a chair, in Holy Trinity Church, which has unusually long legs. The story is that it was made for the Reverend Walter Hook, who wished to invite his friend to church. However there was a problem. His friend was a bishop of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, and there was a Church of England law that forbade Scottish clergymen setting foot in a Church of England. So the Reverend Hook's friend was carried into the church on his tall chair, and thus avoided setting foot in the church.

See attached photos.

The Bishop of Moray, Ross and Argyll at the time was Bishop David Low (1768/1769 - 1855).

I would be very interested, just out of sheer curiosity, to know more about this curious law. How might I find out when it was enacted, and why, and in particular why it should have affected clergy of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which is the Anglican sister church in Scotland to the Church of England? And did it also apply to clergymen of other denominations in England/Wales/Ireland?

Ireland / Seeking death of John MacGeach Dickson
« on: Thursday 16 September 21 20:29 BST (UK)  »
John MacGeach Dickson was born about 1860 in County Tyrone, parents Thomas Alexander Dickson and Elizabeth Greer MacGeach. In 1889 he married Catherine Crum Denny in Dumbarton, Scotland, and the marriage certificate describes him as a barrister. There were 3 children: Christian Leslie (1891-1940), Kathleen Elizabeth (1894-1975) and Thomas Nasmyth (b 1901).

Bwteen 1891 and 1894 he moved to Kilmallock, Co Limerick, as Resident Magistrate. In 1908 he was reportedly appointed a RM in Belfast, but in 1911 he was RM in Fermoy, County Cork. He was appointed RM in Waterford in 1921. His widow died in Co Cork in 1940 at the home of her daughter Christian, who married the Reverend Francis George Mulholland Kennedy, but I have failed so far to find John's death.

I have most of the relevant BMD certificates, the 1901 and 1911 census, and what I can glean from the Irish newspapers on FindMyPast, which is not a lot. I have tried the Irish Times but found nothing that looked worth subscribing for. I tried the Irish national archives but found nothing.

Does anyone have any other suggestions please?

The Lighter Side / The Commandments of Genealogy
« on: Tuesday 31 August 21 12:00 BST (UK)  »
Ready for another airing?
1. Thou shalt name thy male children Alexander, James, John, and William.
2. Thou shalt name thy female children Ann(e), Elizabeth, Iso/abel(la), Jane/Jean, Margaret and Mary.
3. Thou shalt leave no trace of your female children.
4. Thou shalt ensure that thy wife's name is omitted from thy children's baptism records.
5. Thou shalt, after naming your children from the above lists, call them by strange nicknames such as Dod, Bunty, Mek and Cissie.
6. Thou shalt not use any middle names on any legal documents or census reports.
7. Thou shalt learn to sign all documents illegibly so that thy surname can be spelled, or misspelled, in as many different ways as possible.
8. Thou shalt, after no more than three generations, make sure that all family records are lost, misplaced, burned in a court house fire, or buried so that NO future trace of them can be found.
9. Thou shalt propagate misleading legends, rumours, vague innuendo regarding your place of origination: England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland.
10. Thou shalt leave no cemetery records or headstones with legible names.
11. Thou shalt leave no family Bible with records of births, marriages or deaths.
12. Thou shalt ALWAYS flip thy name around. If born "James Albert" thou shalt make all the rest of thy records in the names of Albert, AJ, JA, AL, Bert, Bart, or Alfred.
13. Thou shalt also flip thy parents' names when making reference to them, although 'UNKNOWN" or a blank is an acceptable alternative.
14. Thou shalt name at least five Generations of males, and dozens of their cousins, with identical names.
15. Thou shalt not leave a will but if thou canst not avoid doing so ....
16. Thou shalt not name thy children in thy will, or say how many have survived.

Australia / Narrowing a search on Trove
« on: Sunday 29 August 21 21:09 BST (UK)  »
I've been looking in Trove for information about Owen Parker, who married Ada Craig Guthrie in Sydney in 1951.

Unfortunately I can't seem to narrow the search to exclude mentions of addresses with Park in them, or mentions of the Parks Department, or references to people named Park, Parks or Parkes, which means that I am getting thousands of 'hits' (far too many to wade through) that are not what I want.

Listing these words/names in the 'without these words' field results in just one result containing 'Owen' but not, as far as I can see, Parker, Park, Parkes or Parks. So it looks as if the search cannot distinguish between these four words.

However I know there are at least half a dozen mentions of an Owen Parker, in the 1960s. What I can't make out is whether or not they are the Owen Parker I am interested in.

His wife was born in Wales in 1902, emigrated to Australia in 1948, married in 1951 and died in 1964.

The Owen Parker in trouble with the law in 1966 is said to be 41, so he is about a quarter of a century younger than Ada, so looks an unlikely candidate to be her husband.

Any suggestions for targeting the search more precisely?

Europe / Helen Ruth Hamilton
« on: Friday 11 June 21 17:26 BST (UK)  »
I've been looking to see what became of Helen Ruth Hamilton, born in Glasgow in 1880, and I came across which suggests that she may have been Matron of the 'Principessa Jolanda' convent school in Milan.

I've looked online for digitised Italian newspapers that might mention her, so far without success. Does anyone have any ideas how else I might investigate this lady?

I can read Italian well enough so I don't need English-language newspapers or translations.

Canada / George Aitken(head), son of John
« on: Friday 28 May 21 16:56 BST (UK)  »
In the 1881 census of Scotland, there is a George Aitken, nephew, 23, born Canada, in the household of Alexander Aitkenhead at New Farm, East Kilbride, Lanarkshire.

Alexander died in 1890 and left bequests including one to John Aitkenhead, otherwise Aitken, farmer, Orangeville, Toronto, Canada, whom I assume to be his brother and father of George. I gather that Orangeville is in Dufferin County. John was aged 15 in the 1841 census, so he was born between 1821 and 1826.

However all my efforts to find John and his family, including George, in any census in Canada, have come to naught so far.

Can anyone point me at any information about John and his descendants please?

Canada / John Charles Anderson
« on: Monday 26 April 21 17:04 BST (UK)  »
I'm scratching my head over John Charles Anderson. Not even sure how to set out clearly the information I already have.

I was sent a tree many years ago, and have now learned that it is a branch of my tree, so I am trying to verify the information it it before adding it to mine. The person who researched it died 12 years ago.

According to this tree, the Reverend John Charles Anderson was born in Fort Erie, Ontario, on 6 January 1844, the son of William Anderson and Ellen Maria Smith. However the notes include a transcription of the baptism on 12 March 1837 of John, born 19 November 1836, son of the Reverend John Anderson, rector of Waterloo, Fort Erie, and his wife Helen.

John Charles Anderson married my relative Mary Aikenhead on 10 October 1877 in Stanley Township, Huron County, Ontario. I have seen this certificate. It says that John Charles Anderson, carpenter, was a widower, aged 33, born Fort Erie, parents William and Ann Anderson.

According to the tree Mary died on 26 September 1892 in Calvert County, Maryland, and in 1895 John remarried. His second wife was Julia Ann Cass. I have found John and Julia and their two sons together in Kansas in 1900 and 1910. (The 1910 says that it was John's second marriage, but if he was a widower in 1877 it muct have been his third marriage.) However I have failed so far to find John and Mary in the 1880 census in the USA or the 1881 census in Canada.

The tree also says that John was ordained a deacon in 1883 in the Episcopalian Church and as a Priest in 1885 by the Right Rev Samuel Smith Harris, Bishop of the Diocese of Michigan. He served in numerous episcopalian churches in Michigan, Maryland, Kansas and Illinois, and died in 1916 in Detroit. The tree refers to an obituary that says that he and Mary had three children, William A, Charles Bowen and another whose name is not known, but I have yet to find and read the full obituary.

I am not really interested in Julia or her sons Donald or Douglas because they are not related to me. However I would like to be able to sort out the facts about John Charles Anderson and the three children he is supposed to have had with Mary Aikenhead.

It looks to me as if there is a possibility of confusion between the Reverend John Anderson of Waterloo, Lincoln County, Ontario and 'my' Reverend John Charles Anderson.

Does anyone have any ideas please?

United States of America / Wondering where Helen Simpson died
« on: Wednesday 03 March 21 22:18 GMT (UK)  »
Helen Huntingdon Day, daughter of Thomas Charles Day and his wife Katherine Huntingdon, was born in Indianapolis in March 1883. I don't know the exact date.

On 22 April 1908, in Indianapolis, she married James Young Simpson, who was born on 3 August 1872 in Edinburgh and died in Edinburgh on 20 May 1834.

He is buried in the family lair in Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh. The stone (listed in FindaGrave) also mentions his wife as Helen Day Simpson, giving her death date as 1967, but I cannot find any record of her death in Scotland. Nor is there a likely-looking death in England and Wales.

She travelled to and from the USA several times in the 1930s after the death of her husband. Could it be that she finally returned to the USA and died there?

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