With not only a new year but a new decade on the doorstep many folks will be turning their thoughts to outlining goals and aims for their research in the coming months. Some will be considering taking a course to learn a new skill. For the researcher who is serious about digging into the past the one vital weapon to have in the armoury is the ability to read, transcribe and interpret old documents.
The ‘art’ of palaeography can open many doors to the past in all fields of historical enquiry not least that of family and local history research. Too often the interpretations and findings of reputable authors and scholars who have gone before are relied upon, but dig a little deeper and it often becomes apparent that evidence is based on the same old documents regurgitated time and again. Even worse are the opinions based on evidence extracted from a summary or abstract of a document’s contents rather than the document itself. This became glaringly apparent to me during the research phase of my Master’s dissertation – so much vital evidence had been overlooked as the document that formed the basis of my thesis had clearly not been read or analysed before.
It may seem daunting when first presented with a page of seemingly illegible scrawl, but do not be put off by it. You do not need any specialist skills, equipment or an intellect the size of a planet to be able to decipher old handwriting, just practice, a pencil, a magnifying glass and more often than not, a good deal of patience. There are or course a few simple rules:
Firstly, get to know your document – Familiarising yourself with the type of document you are transcribing will enable you to:
Different Hands and Letter Forms
Although English and Scots were the spoken word, the language of written documents before the advent of the early modern period at the beginning of 16th century was Latin. From this point forward English and Scots gradually crept into common usage in written records. Different hands (styles of writing) were used for specific purposes and those most likely to be encountered and prove the most problematic, date from the 16th, 17th & 18th centuries. They are:
A few basic transcription Hints & Tips
1. The document, whatever and whenever it may be, is ALWAYS your key!!!
It is important to remember that, then as now, people’s hands had their own personal style – but these were still based on standard letter forms and conventions which evolved over time. Start by writing out the words you DO recognise and build a ‘lexicon’ of different letter forms that appear in the document as you go. (You may also find it useful to number the lines on a COPY of the document so as not lose your place or inadvertently miss a line entirely – its easily done!)
The scribe here has an unusual flourish above the letter 'c' (highlighted). His lowercase 'g's are also unusual and a particular characteristic of his hand. You will inevitably encounter words that are no longer in common usage, such as 'prized' for appraised, 'kie' for cows and 'stagard' meaning either stackyard or a temporary roof capable of elevation, and designed to protect a stack or rick of hay or grain (here I think meaning the former). Compiling a glossary of unfamiliar words and phrases as you go can prove invaluable.
2. Secretary Hand – Common letter forms, variants and conventions
3. Common Contractions, Abbreviations and Suspensions
4. Numbers, Dates and Spellings
Although these do not usually cause too much difficulty there are a few points that are worth remembering.
Numbers are almost always written in roman numerals in earlier documents and almost always in financial accounts. As these are easy to look up if not already familiar they are not covered in detail here.
One point that does sometimes catch folks out are the numbers 1 - 4. Whilst it is perfectly normal to expect them to appear as ‘ii’ iii’ ‘iv’ etc - in written documents the terminal digit ‘j’ is used - so ‘j’ = 1, ‘ij’ =2, iij =3 and instead of ‘iv’ for 4, it appears as ‘iiij’. In the same way 14 is ‘xiiij’, 23 ‘xxiij’ & 29 ‘xxviiij’ etc. Another point of note is the use of superscript xx to mean ‘score’ or twenty, so that iij xx is common for sixty i.e 3 x 20 = 60
In England until 1752 the new year began on Lady Day or 25th March, thus the 24th March 1750 was followed by 25th March 1751. In 1752 England and America finally caught up with the rest of the world and the new year was set where it is now as 1st January. (Eleven days were also wiped from the calendar in the same year - Wednesday 2nd September 1752 was followed by Thursday 14th September 1752).
In Scotland, however, the new calendar year was adopted by an act of Privy Council in 1599, so that in Scotland 31 December 1599 was followed by 1 January 1600 which conforms to modern convention.
In the course of your forays into old documents it is likely that at some point you will encounter ‘Regnal Years’. These are measured in years from the date the Monarch ascended the throne. For Henry VIII his reign began on 22 April 1509, therefore the 5th year of his reign began on April 22 April 1513 and ended 21 April 1514.
'from the xij day Julye Ao Vto Re nunc' Henr viij (not shown) - Note the superscript ‘o’ from Latin ‘Anno’ and the ‘to’ above the V from the Latin ‘Quinto’ meaning fifth. This is also expressed as ‘th’. Reges nunc is Latin for ‘now King’. Extended it reads xij Julij A[nn]o Vto R[eg][es] nunc Henr[ey] Viii/ and translates as ‘12 July in the 5th year of the reign of Henry VIII now king’. This document was written in English but it is not uncommon to find many such documents ‘topped and tailed’ in Latin.
C R Cheney (ed.), Handbook of Dates for Students of British History is extremely handy for the regnal years of Kings of England but no use for the Scottish Kings whatsoever. They can be found in Archibald H Dunbar, Scottish Kings: A Revised Chronology of Scottish History 1005-1625. The book is rare but a copy can be accessed online through archive.org at
Dates in Latin
It was also quite common for the dates in documents written in both English and Scots to appear in Latin e.g. 24 May 1567 would be ‘vicesimo quarto die Maij mvclxvij’
Also be aware of abbreviations for months ending ‘ber’ - so September to December. ‘9ber’ is taken from the Latin for nine or ‘novem’ and relates to November not September as the 9th month! Fortunately this little quirk is rare and more common in Scots than English
Scottish ‘jaj’ Dates
If transcribing Scottish documents this is one form of dating you will encounter a lot! It is much easier to think of it as what it actually is – a corrupt form of 1m or 1,000 with year numbers added with a ‘C’ at end so the year 1600 would be written jajvj C. (the jaj = 1,000 the vj C 600) or 1652 as ‘jajvj C & lij’ – note the ‘&’ after the C.
It is helpful to remember there was no such thing as a dictionary of ‘all words’ much before the definitive work of Dr Johnson in 1755. Spelling was largely phonetic, and words were written as they were spoken which means a great deal of regional variation occurred. You may find it helpful to say the word out loud in your best attempt at a regional accent. Nonetheless, it is particularly important to check words in your transcription which make no sense at all - as this probably means that your solution will be wrong and you should think again! It may be that just one or two letters have been mis-transcribed even though the word is misspelled according to modern convention! As rule of thumb if it does not appear in dictionaries of old words it was not a word at all. Although the Oxford English Dictionary Online requires a subscription it is an invaluable aid to transcribers.
Scots had its own peculiarities – most commonly ‘sch’ for sh and ‘quh’ for wh. In addition ‘and’ was the usual Scots termination for verb forms now ending in –ing – e.g. ‘teland’ for tilling (as in land). Words ending ‘ed’ were often replaced by –it, –yt or –at – e.g. ‘clothit’ for clothed. An ‘is’ at the end of a word indicates a plural e.g. ‘debtis’ for debts. Often if preceded by an adjective this too will be in the plural e.g. ‘the saidis debtis’ meaning ‘the said debts’ etc.
Punctuation was virtually non-existent in the form we know it today, which can make the interpretation of documents tricky too. Again reading out load may well help you make sense of what has been written and help you spot any inadvertent omissions!
Clearly it is impossible to cover every aspect of palaeography in one short blog, but I hope the brief overview and hints and tips above have inspired you to have go at tackling some older documents. If you are still feeling unsure of how and where to get started, keep an eye open for opportunities to learn through practical projects run by local archives or history societies. Alternatively, I shall again be running two workshops at Family Tree Live the 17th and 18th April 2020 at Alexandra Palace. The workshops are included in the price of admission to the show but must be reserved in advance. Workshop places and admission tickets can be booked online at the same time you purchase a ticket at
If you would prefer some ‘one to one’ personal tuition, perhaps using documents that relate to your own personal research project then please do get in touch. Then again, if you would like to me transcribe the documents for you I would be delighted to do so too!
Useful Resources for Transcription
Dictionary of Scots Language http://www.dsl.ac.uk/
Oxford English Dictionary http://www.oed.com/ (requires a Subscription or is available for free through many public libraries)
Latin Dictionary https://www.latinitium.com/latin-dictionaries This brilliant new site also has the benefit of English to Latin
Hilary Marshall ‘Palaeography for Family and Local Historians’ Philmore, 2010.
Bruce Durie ‘Understanding Documents for Genealogy & Local History’, Stroud, 2013
Grant G Simpson ‘Scottish Handwriting 1150 – 1650’ Edinburgh, 1998.
Pit your palaeography skills against the ducking stool with The National Archives
Some further guidance and practice available at
An online course in conjunction with Cambridge University https://www.english.cam.ac.uk/ceres/ehoc/
The Strickland Family of Yarm - Records of Chemists, Druggists & Pharmacists for the Family Historian
It can be the smallest thing that sparks a thought (or indeed evokes a memory) and so it was that whilst chatting to my brother the idea came to mind for the topic of this month’s blog. Middleton St George near Darlington cropped up in our conversation to which I mentioned we had relatives who had lived there in times past. ‘Who was that’ he asked. ‘The Middletons’ I said. ‘Never heard of them’ came the reply, as sure and certain as any direct admission could be that he has never read any of my blogs! If he had then perhaps he would have remembered the post of December 2014 and the four Middleton brothers of Strathmiglo who were all lost to war, and other connections that have cropped up in many others.
Not that I blame him - family history is not for everyone and very often the preoccupation with pedigrees rather than the lives of the people within them can be pretty dull, two dimensional and boring. Nevertheless, 'Every generation should produce at least one person who is prepared to preserve and enhance the [family] records' wrote Anthony Christopher Middleton of his inability to ‘identify or isolate’ one suitable candidate in the UK in a letter to Philip Aynsley-Smith dated 1992. Philip had been assisting Anthony with his history of the Middleton family, or as he referred to it his ‘Magnus Opus’, by drawing and building on research first assembled by his father George. In the current generation of Smith family and its broader connections I guess that ‘one person’ would be me.
As it is some time since I have ventured into ‘Middleton’ territory it is perhaps the time to revisit them and look at some other members of the family who, rather than be farmers, were ‘Chemists & Druggists’. It is also a good opportunity to share some of the interesting and freely accessible record sources that are available for folks with ancestors who followed a similar occupational path.
By the mid-1800s, the English chemist and druggist were well-established professionals, defined by their work in a wholesale and retail capacity, and catering to a population before, instead of, or in addition to, the intervention of a GP. Their services were wide ranging and competitive; they sold a variety of items, from toiletries and food to ointments and pills, and were appealing to a paying customer who (at least in the cities) had a choice of establishments to patronise. Despite this, many succeeded in making an excellent living, and had a high standing within their communities. Broadly, they functioned as a medical “first-port-of-call” for many different social classes.
Background to the Middletons
Whilst the Middleton family pedigree stretches back well into the sixteenth century it was during the mid eighteenth century that they first ventured north from the area around Darlington to Norhamshire. The couple making the move circa 1756 was Jonathan Middleton baptised at Haughton-le-Skerne Dec 1726 and his wife Mary Hodgson the daughter of William and Jane Hodgson of Sellaby, Gainsford. For a time they farmed at Norham Mains but connections with home must have been maintained as not only were their children baptised at Haughton-le Skerne but the couple were buried there in 1799 and 1803 respectively. In her letters to GAS, Sarah Nicholson of Horncliffe (1842 – 1932), great granddaughter of Jonathan and Mary states that the Middleton family owned Denton but whether this is actually true has not been determined. It does make an interesting point of discussion, however, as the Culley brothers, the famous agriculturalists who likewise moved to Northumberland, also hailed from Denton. Matthew and George Culley born 1730 ad 1734 would have been contemporaries of Jonathan Middleton and undoubtedly known the family before taking the tenancy of Fenton near Wooler in 1767.
The Middleton pedigree is a complicated network of interwoven relationships which is difficult to follow at times. The number of cousin marriages that occurred throughout the generations rivals and possibly even outstrips, that of the Nicholsons with whom along with other families they intermarried several times. For the purposes of this post these complex twists and turns will be kept to an absolute minimum, but I do have the information here should anyone be interested in learning more.
Jonathan Middleton and Mary Hodgson had 10 known children, of which their third son Hodgson married ‘the beautiful Phyllis’ daughter of George Smith of Horncliffe and Norham East Mains. Hodgson and Phyllis themselves had seven children, the youngest of which their daughter Phyllis married Robert Strickland, a schoolmaster at Middleton St George, at Darlington in 1841.
Robert and Phyllis had four sons, Robert b.1841, Oliver b.1844, Henry b.1846 and George Hodgson Strikland b. 1949. Robert the eldest died aged 11 in 1853. The three remaining brothers joined an emerging group of people, including a few of their cousins who became ‘Chemists and Druggists’. In 1871 the brothers are living together above the retail premises on the east side of the High Street in Yarm.
Oliver and Henry are listed as Grocers and Chemists but youngest brother George is listed as a Pharmaceutical Chemist – a notable difference. Also living with them are two apprentices, two servants and another visiting chemist by the name of Sanderson. The ‘Chemist and Druggist’ was an occupation which truly emerged at the beginning of the 19th century in distinction to more the traditional Apothecary. Chemists and Druggists ‘dispensed compounded medicines made to published recipes and pre-packaged ‘patent’ medicines whose contents were secret… Chemist and druggists’ shops sprang up in cities and country towns. Some were scientifically competent, many were not’. In addition to medicines they also sold a variety of other ‘useful’ items including poisons. The following evocative extract, written by Chris Chapman is taken from the Chemist and Druggist website by Chris Chapman who looks at the life of an apprentice in 1859. (More on the website!)
t’s a typical store: large shelves are occupied by gleaming jars containing the ingredients of the druggist’s trade. Whale oil is nestled against containers filled with calomel and camphor, while jars hiding lavender, coriander seeds and balsam of Peru occupy the shelf above. The colour of each glass container hints at the contents: a ruddy cobalt hue suggests a syrup, while a mysterious green indicates a poison.
The apothecaries on the other hand had moved their focus away from retailing such medicines towards the treating of patients in the role of a general medical practitioner. During the mid 19th century a certain rivalry began to develop between apothecaries, the high street ‘chemist and druggists’ and the newly emerging pharmaceutical chemist which would lead to the establishment and regulation of distinct, yet complementary professions.
Between the 1815 Apothecaries Act and the 1858 Medical Act, the practice of medicine became regulated in Britain. Apothecaries became subject to rules regarding training, licensing, and practice. Chemists and druggists were excluded from this licensing, but defined as a distinct profession with their own jurisdiction. Towards the middle of the century, they began pushing for their own regulatory body in order to prevent charges of quackery, and reinforce their medical status. This culminated in the founding of the Pharmaceutical Society in 1841. Schools were then set up to teach pharmacy, and the Pharmacy Acts of 1852 and 1868 helped to regulate the sale of pharmaceuticals, and create uniform standards of training and examination. However, not all chemists and druggists educated themselves in this way, and many continued to learn the ropes via apprenticeship until late in the nineteenth century.
The new legislation for Chemist Druggists and Pharmaceutical Chemists introduced both examinations and registration. These new regulations created a paper trail which may be extremely useful to the family historian and many of the records are freely available online.
1. ‘The Chemist and Druggist’ magazine has digitised its collection from the first edition in 1859 through to the discontinuation of the print edition in 2016 and is available through Archive.org. It is a veritable cornucopia of advertisements, business listings as well as the latest ‘medical’ innovations. Only delve in here when you have a few hours to spare!
2. Several editions of ‘The Registers of Pharmaceutical Chemist and Chemists and Druggists’ are also available online through Archive.org. They list details as to the type and date of any examinations passed along with the number of their certificate. The extract below shows George Hodgson Strickland in the 1885 edition
and John Holt from the 1919 edition of the Register
The Strickland Family & the ‘Strickland & Holt’ Legacy
In June 1872 Oliver Strickland married his cousin Eliza Jane Waugh, the daughter of Margaret Middleton and Alexander Waugh, at York. The couple went on to have three children Phyllis, Robert and Isabella Waugh Strickland in 1874, 1875, and 1878 respectively. Oliver’s brother Henry Strickland married Hannah Margaret Hauxwell at Worsal Village in 1874. Henry died just a few months later and the couple’s only child, Henrietta Margaret was born posthumously on 8th January 1875. George Hodgson Middleton has not been located in either the 1891 or 1901 census, but in 1911 he was living at 29 Percy Street Middlesbrough where he died on 12th June 1913. He is listed as unmarried and a ‘smallware salesman’. To date nothing is known about his life after 1881.
At some point in time as yet undetermined, Oliver Strickland went into partnership with John Holt and the business became known as ‘Strickland & Holt’. Oliver died on 19th April 1884, it is ‘said’ from a bout of pneumonia he developed as result of rescuing livestock from the River Tees which had burst its banks. (Rather topical given the devastating floods experienced in parts of Yorkshire recently.) His wife Eliza and their daughters Phyllis and Isabella stayed on in Yarm and can be found living in the High Street in the 1891 census together with her widowed father-in-law Robert. Eliza was listed as a Grocer and Chemist so it would seem that she continued to be involved in the business for sometime after her husband's death. The official notification of the dissolution of the partnership appeared in the press in July 1896.
However, 'Strickland & Holt' is still operating today from the original premises in Yarm where it is now run by John Holt’s descendants. Their website notes that ‘Today, his [Oliver’s] descendants live in Canada, but the connections and friendship between the two families is kept alive through correspondence and occasional visits.’ They, along with many other families descended from Hodgson Middleton and Phyllis Smith live on today with a goodly dose of Smith and Middleton genes between them! Many are overseas, but there are the others who did not emigrate still living much closer to home.
 Centre for the History of Medicine, Boston. Apothecaries from the Eighteenth Century Onward: England.
 Rowe, D. J. 'The Culleys, Northumberland Farmers, 1767-1813.' The Agricultural History Review, vol. 19, no. 2, 1971, pp. 156–174.
 Science Museum
 Chemist and Druggist Website https://www.chemistanddruggist.co.uk/content/day-life-victorian-pharmacist
 Centre for the History of Medicine, Boston. Apothecaries from the Eighteenth Century Onward: England. https://collections.countway.harvard.edu/onview/exhibits/show/apothecary-jars/eighteenth-century-england
 Chemist and Druggist Magazine online
 The Registers of Pharmaceutical Chemist and Chemists and Druggists
Are you are a McDougall (and all variant spellings!) with ancestors from the Border counties of Berwickshire, Roxburghshire or North Northumberland? If so, the chances are your research will have ground to halt in the mid-eighteenth century. If not, rightly or wrongly it is likely you have tapped into the pedigree of the McDougall families of Stodrig and Makerstoun and at some point along the way. But are you correct? Both myself and the McDougall Surname DNA Project are now on hand to help you discover more about your McDougall ancestors from the Borders than ever before.
There are other benefits to joining FTDNA or a surname project too – a small fee of $19 unlocks the many additional tools such as a chromosome browser – an essential piece of kit for those serious about cousin matching. Membership of a project also usually attracts significant discounts against all types of future testing.
My interest in the project was sparked in March this year when I was contacted by Mike McDougall in California and his paternal aunt Marty. Mike was busy planning a trip to his ancestral homeland and wanted to ‘pick my brains’ for places to visit and information that would add context and colour to the extensive family tree that had been researched by his late Grandfather, John (Jack) Errol Malcolm McDougall back in the 1960’s. From the point of emigration in 1833, Jack’s research into his family history is some of the best I have ever seen, and Mike and Marty have very generously made it available for members of the McDougall surname project to consult.
Mike and Marty’s ancestor was John McDougall, who together with his wife Margaret Purves and four young children emigrated from the Scottish Borders to Quebec, Canada in 1833. John was born on 25th July 1805 to parents John McDougall senior and Janet Wilson at Donaldson’s Lodge in the Parish of Cornhill on the English side of the border. Sadly, Mike and Marty’s earliest known ancestor John McDougall senior had been aligned to a baptism in 1782 at Coldstream to parents Alexander McDougall and Isabel Foster. This was an easy mistake to make - right geographical area and right time frame - nor were they alone in arriving at this conclusion. This circumstantial evidence has been incorrectly replicated in many other family trees not just those associated with the family!
Three key pieces of information came to light very quickly during the research process that would prove beyond doubt that this connection was misplaced:
The 1841 Census, the death record for John McDougall senior and his monumental headstone in Foulden Churchyard all point to a birth year of 1771, some seven years before Alexander McDougall and Isabel Foster were married on 22 November 1778. So just who were John’s parents if not Alexander and Isabel?
Whilst living at Donaldson’s Lodge John and Janet baptised a total of 9 children at Coldstream:
Typically for this region no marriage has yet been found for the couple, however, John’s occupation of labourer was a red alert to the possibility that there may have been other children and to date two have been found. The earliest baptism to be identified was for a son named James McDougall baptised at Yetholm on 14th June 1800 where John was recorded as ‘Hind at Mindrum’ the second was for a William McDougall baptised at Sprouston on 1st May 1803 where father John was recorded as a ‘Hind at Pots Close’. Clearly these two boys and a sister Isobel had died young, as children born to the couple at later dates were given the same names. Although no death records survive for Sprouston beyond a couple of pages for 1633-37 and the headstone itself is long gone, a record of the memorial inscription remains which provides some vital information.
In memory of John McDougels son William who died 21.7.1804 aged 1 year 4 months, also his daughter Isabel who died 21.4.1808 aged 11 months, also his son James who died 27.3.1814 aged 14 years. Reverse: In memory of William M__ who died ?4.1805 aged 80 years.
Whilst further research produced several options for potential parents of John McDougall born in 1771, the registers and other available sources of information were unable to provide conclusive evidence. What has become clear in the course of the research is that whilst John McDougall’s occupation acted as a ‘red alert’, it may also have been a bit of a ‘red herring’.
By the mid 1820s John senior had sufficient capital to take the tenancy of the Mill at Foulden and establish himself as the Miller. Before he emigrated his son John was a clerk at the Gunsgreen Distillery and had sufficient capital not only to fund his family’s move to Canada, but to set himself up in business. Firstly as the keeper of a general store and ‘steamboat agent’, then becoming President of the ‘Three Rivers Gas Company’, acquiring several plots of land and being elected Mayor of Three Rivers in 1855 before purchasing the St Maurice and L’Islet Ironworks in 1862. His brothers also enjoyed a high degree of success, mostly as Millers or Merchant Millers in both Quebec and Ontario. They may have been workers and labourers in Scotland but in Canada they were very much the business owners and employers of men.
Families were large, with often upwards of 8 children. A record for Gordon parish suggests at least two families in the eighteenth century had families that were even larger still. One farmer had 15 children by one wife and another, a meal maker, had 20 children by two. It is worth remembering that under the Scottish Law of primogeniture, the eldest son inherited his father’s interests in freehold property or land (immoveable estate), therefore younger sons would need to find, and quite often fund, their own path. Whilst some remained in the immediate area, others often moved away to areas that afforded better opportunities.
To help track down his correct ancestral line Mike has tested both his autosomal and Y DNA. He also joined the McDougall surname project which has provided some interesting results. There is most definitely more than one McDougall line who have been resident in the Scottish Borders for some considerable time!
McDougall’s Flour and other connections with Coldstream
There is a distinct family line which is descended from James McDougall, believed to be eldest son of Alexander and Isobel of Coldstream. After a varied career as a Shoemaker, School Master then Pharmacist he invented self-raising agent and founded McDougall’s Flour. As their pedigree was drafted by the ‘College of Arms’ it is almost certainly the line of the McDougalls of Stodrig and thus is believed to be linked to the family who had owned the Makerstoun Estate from the mid-fourteenth century. Although this line is not a DNA match with Mike, theirs is also a fascinating story and like ‘sheep dip’ which was invented by George Wilson, a druggist in Coldstream in 1830 (a relative of Janet perhaps???) is another innovation linked with the Town albeit rather loosely.
Another McDougall family not yet connected to the project but also associated with Coldstream are the McDougalls who were saddlers and leather merchants. John S McDougall saddler appears on the Town Map of Coldstream in 1862 with premises on the High Street which was, until very recently Coldstream Post Office. Later the business moved from the High Street to the Market Square.
Other Border McDougall families.
A family descended from a William McDougall b. 1782 at Ednam left Roxburghshire for Dalkeith and subsequently emigrated to Ohio. Initial test results would indicate that this is potentially a close match to Mike but to date a connection on paper has not been found.
Aside from those known to have tested their DNA, another John McDougall born at Kelso, Roxburghshire in 1802 emigrated to Ontario in the 1850s - their family home is now open to the public. But perhaps most intriguing of all is yet another John McDougall born in Berwickshire circa 1826 who also emigrated to Quebec and who was the owner of the Caledonia Ironworks. To date researchers have been unable to determine if the two families of Iron Foundry fame, who were clearly in close contact, were in fact related.
Of course there are also the families who did not stray at all such as the McDougal farmers of Gordon, who are still faming the same land as their ancestors some 300 years ago. The numerous memorials in the Churchyard at Gordon stand as testimony to the many generations of McDougals that went before.
McDougalls in North Northumberland
Hopping over the Border to Cornhill in Northumberland, there is evidence of McDougall families living in close proximity to John and Janet McDougall whilst at Donaldson’s Lodge. A Robert McDougall recorded as a Husbandman at Melkington may well prove to be a relative of Mike – was John McDougall senior possibly working for a relative? – for an agricultural labourer to stay in one place for approximately 17 years is somewhat unusual. There was also a William McDougall a tailor and a James McDougal and his wife Jane Sutherland baptising children there at the same time as John and Janet.
Perhaps 21st century technology and the ability to trace family heritage through our genes will finally reveal if and how these families were connected, possibly many centuries ago. If you are related or descend from any of the families outlined above, or more importantly the many others that have NOT been mentioned, do please get in touch. There is a free Y-DNA test awaiting one potential tester who can prove their McDougall ancestry from either Berwickshire, Roxburghshire or indeed North Northumberland. Even if you would rather not test your DNA the information you hold may very well prove to be the key to unlocking these complex relationships, so please do contact us
My personal interest in where the McDougalls sit the region’s history has kicked in and I have been busy mapping the McDougalls of Berwickshire and Roxburghshire into family groups. A not inconsiderable task but hopefully not impossible! So just how many of them were there?
McDougall Families in Berwickshire
Note re Scottish Parish Registers
It is important to remember that for various reasons Scottish Parish Registers were also often incomplete - there may be valid reasons why you can't find your ancestor in the parish you expect.
“The parish minister or the session clerk usually assumed responsibility for maintaining the registers, but since there was no standard format employed, record keeping varied enormously from parish to parish and also from year to year. As a result, the information may be sparse, unreliable and difficult to read. The oldest register dates from 1553 (baptisms and banns from Errol, Perthshire), but although there was a requirement from 1552 that parishes record baptisms and marriages, many did not commence until much later, and some more remote areas only have registers from the early 19th century. Some registers have been lost or destroyed and the condition of the surviving 3500 is variable.”
A detailed list of the Parish Registers and notes regarding their coverage can be downloaded as a PDF from the National Records of Scotland - do you use it! Also bear in mind that Baptisms and marriages outside of the Established Church of Scotland will not appear in the Parish Registers - double check records for non-conformists too.
McDougalls in the 1841 Census for Berwickshire
In the 1841 census for Berwickshire there were 138 Individuals living in 45 Households across 15 Parishes. 14 were living on their own or with other families as servants or otherwise.
There were four parishes with a single McDougall occupant; Channelkirk, Cranshaws, Hume and Ledgerwood.
Of the 76 females - 9 were born in Scotland but not in Berwickshire and 2 were born in England.
Of the 62 males – 4 were born in Scotland but not in Berwickshire and 4 were born in England.
McDougall Occupations in Berwickshire where stated
McDougall Families in Roxburghshire
McDougalls families in the 1841 Census for Roxburghshire
In the 1841 census for Roxburghshire there were 94 Individuals living in 32 Households across 12 parishes. 13 were living on their own or with other families as servants or otherwise.
There were four parishes in Roxburghshire with a single McDougall occupant: Jedburgh, Oxnam, St Boswells and Wilton.
Of the 50 Females 11 were born in Scotland but not in Roxburghshire and 1 was born in England
Of the 44 Males 4 were born in Scotland but not in Roxburghshire and the birth place of 1 was ‘Not Known’.
McDougall Occupations where stated
The above are just a few of the facts and figures I have gleaned to date. There is a whole lot more including the outline trees illustrating the various family groups which have been researched to date. This research into the McDougall families of the Borders will also be made available to members of the McDougall DNA Surname Project, alongside that generously provided by Mike and Marty. If interested in the project or the free Y DNA test that is up for grabs, or have any information you think might be useful do please get in touch. We are here to help.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream OPR 733/ 30 90.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream OPR 733/ 30 103.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream OPR 73/ 30 111.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream OPR 73/ 30 129.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream OPR 73/ 30 132.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream OPR 73/ 30 149.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream, OPR 733/ 30 160.
 Scotland’s People, Baptisms, Coldstream, OPR 733/ 40 13.
 Scotlands People https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/guides/church-registers
How land and associated property tax records can aid family & local history research.
Kiplin Hall west front seen across a corner of the lake, the west front of the hall shows the original, almost square building of circa 1625 with a tower at the mid point of each façade. To the right is the extension of the 1820's which was added by Lord Tyrconnel to make the building into more of a comfortable country house. Kiplin Hall west front Kiplin Hall, Scorton, North Yorkshire cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Gordon Hatton - geograph.org.uk/p/5867091
In seeking inspiration for this month’s blog I was thumbing through some old pedigrees and came across an extensive tree for a Hedley family with familial connections to both Turner and Turnbull families. Whilst I know how the family links to my own through the Trotters of Sprouston and beyond, I am totally ignorant of its wider connections. Being far too extensive to get to grips with in the short time I have had to prepare for this month’s instalment, plus the fact it raises issues over what is possibly the most inaccurately represented pedigree in online trees I have EVER seen, it went back into the heap. Instead I picked up the Cargey pedigree, about whom although I know precious little more, contact between the families was still alive and well in my younger years. I remember being told of the high excitement enjoyed by Cargey descendants who travelled by ‘horse and cart’ from Edinburgh to visit their Smith second cousins at Longhoughton. Indeed during the early part of the 20th century the Cargey’s lived in the same roads of Harewood Grove and Stanhope Road in Darlington as their Aynsley-Smith cousins. In my experience it is often the families that are known to us that get overlooked during the research process in favour of dim and distant cousins. Anyway, I set off to see what else I could ‘dig up’.
Cargey Connections with Kiplin Hall Estate
A quick Google for the name Gilbert Cargey, (as it is prevalent in every generation of the Cargey family), brought up a reference to a dish ‘a duo of local cheeses, onion marmalade, fruit, white baguette slices and oatcakes’ served in the tea room at Kiplin Hall near Scorton, North Yorkshire. It transpires that Gilbert Cargey b. 1810 - d.1882 had been Land Steward on the Kiplin estate for 21 years to the 4th Earl and Lady Tyrconnell (Sarah Crowe). The Friends of Kiplin Hall have done a fantastic job of piecing together the pedigrees of the four interconnected families that owned Kiplin throughout its 400 year history.  The Crowe family (the third owners) are described as ‘minor Northumbrian gentry and venturers until Christopher made his fortune in Italy and married a King’s granddaughter (albeit from the wrong side of the blanket)’ and their family tree contains many familiar Northumbrian names such as Burrell, Reveley, Delaval, Grey and Collingwood.
Other than one or two interesting snippets, very little information is available online that can shed much light into the Kiplin Estate during Gilbert’s time of office or, the issues he dealt with in his roll as land agent there. However, the estate archives containing documents relating to the families’ various interests are held by North Yorkshire County Record Office in collection ZBL. Matters pertaining to the Estate and its management are held in ZBL IV and its sub folders which contain Correspondence, Leases and Agreements, Accounts, Rentals, Surveys and Valuations, Agents’ Notes and Papers as well as information relating to land holdings further afield in Surrey, Sussex, Buckinghamshire, Worcestershire and London. For anyone with ancestors who were tenants or worked on the estate these records may hold a wealth of information!
Reaching further back in time the archives also contain the Manorial Records for:
A brief overview of Manorial Records
Manorial records, can be rich pickings for those with the patience to scour their contents. As well as details of its land holdings, which in turn would have been held from a feudal ‘superior’, the Manor performed important administrative functions through its own courts – The Court Baron and the Court Leet.
The Court Baron dealt primarily with landholdings and the surrender, succession and inheritance of tenancies. Manorial tenants could be classified as ‘free’ or ‘unfree’. In very simple terms free tenants paid a monetary rent for their farms and enjoyed a large degree of independence but were still expected to attend the Manorial courts as jurors. ‘Unfree’ or customary tenants as they became known held land from the Manor according to its customs and by ‘copyhold’ which was a copy of the terms and conditions of their lease as entered in the Court Roll. However, as the two basic types of tenure were held either by inheritance or for life or a specified number of lives, the court rolls for customary or copyhold tenants are often rich sources of genealogical information through the procedure of identifying rightful heirs.
The Court Leet heard petty offences such as affray, nuisance, debt and failure to observe the customs of the manor. Its primary function was keeping the ‘King’s Peace’ and as such it appointed officers to do so. This court became obsolete with the introduction of more centralised administration systems and the establishment of parish and town officials and justices of the peace. However, the records may still hold some juicy tales of misdemeanours perpetrated by our ancestors that would otherwise be missed!
Extract from the Tweedmouth Court Leet in 1658. Image courtesy of Berwick Record Office. The Text Reads 'They p[re]sent Hector Howitson for a Blood & Affray Made by him upon Margery the wife of William Allom, for w[hi]ch he the said Hector is fined five shillings & the same to be Leveyed on his Goods & Chattell[es] for the Use of the Lord[es] of this Manor'
Following the death of Lady Tyrconnell in 1868 Gilbert Cargey branched out on his own as a Land Agent and Valuer based in Darlington. Clearly he is still remembered at Kiplin, hence the eponymous title of this post, but for good or ill I do not know!
The Cargey Family of Ponteland
Although the Cargeys were living in Edinburgh at the time of their visit long ago, their pedigree as sketched out by GAS in the 1930s stretches back in time to a burial at Ponteland in 1678. This area seems to have been ‘their stomping ground’ for a least a century or so before various descendants spread their wings and dispersed to other areas. Their ancestral line isn’t all that challenging to trace – Cargey is an unusual name, it is helped by the fact that the Ponteland registers have survived from 1602 and by a detailed memorial inscription on a family headstone in Ponteland churchyard.
In Memory of Gilbert Cargey Senior late of Ponteland who died Sept. 21st 1763, Aged 53 Years. Elizabeth his Widow died November 12th 1786, Aged 90 Years. Catherine Wife of Gilbert Cargey Junior late Farmer at Stickley died December 17th 1766 Aged 24 Years. Margaret his Daughter died Oct 29th 1772 Aged 4 Years. Catherine his Second Wife died, March 6th 1777 Aged 38 years. Elizabeth his Daughter died June 23rd 1801 Aged 35 Years. The above Gilbert Cargey, January 5th 1823 [sic] Aged 81 Years. Photograph courtesy of 'Find A Grave' UNCEM_2430157_336ac765-3e7e-423c-ae84-2d3b5b842207
As it transpires the Gilbert Cargey who died in 1822 was the second of the name and had been married three times, his third wife Sarah Anderson, survived him. Needless to say he had a fairly extensive family comprising 9 known daughters but only one son (from his second marriage to Catherine Sanderson) who lived to adulthood. It would seem from his Will that the outnumbering by female members of his family was keenly felt, as in addition to an annual allowance of £20 and the bed she brought to the marriage, Gilbert recommends that Sarah go to live with one of her daughters!
At the time of his death in 1822 Gilbert was farming at Stickley, at Horton near Blyth but was already branching out elsewhere. His surviving son Gilbert 3rd was by then farming his father’s interest at Scremerston Farm near Berwick. The Ponteland Registers suggest that the family had been butchers as well as farmers which was not uncommon. As such more information may be found in the Newcastle upon Tyne Guild Records Ref:GU.BU (part MF), 298. 
William Cargey great grandfather of the above who died in 1713, was likely of some standing as he was buried within the Church on 12th January 1714, as was his granddaughter Margaret in 1717, and son John in 1760. The early records are trickier to piece together with any degree of absolute certainty beyond this established familial relationship. However, an extremely useful record that has survived which sheds some light on the situation is the registers of the estates of Roman Catholics in Northumberland, taken for the purpose of calculating land tax.
Roman Catholic Register & Land Tax
Land Tax was first introduced in 1692 levied against real estate and personal property. During the 1690s the rate was established at 4 shillings in the pound and accounted for circa 35% of the national revenue to the Exchequer. From the 1780s to the mid 1830s proof of payment of Land Tax was a qualification requirement in order to vote in elections. As such, many land tax returns for this period can be found within the records of the Quarter Session Court. However, Roman Catholics paid double the rate of tax at 8 shillings in the pound. If landowning ancestors are found paying the higher rate of land tax it is a strong indication that they too were Roman Catholic. One reason for this higher payment rate was their support of the Jacobite cause and the exiled Stuart family.
However, it was felt that the law was not being sufficiently adhered to and following the rising in 1715, a new law was passed that introduced a Register of Catholic Landholdings. The register was to include their;
names, lands, tenements, the names of the tenants, or those in possession of the said lands, the yearly rents thereof, particulars of leases, fines (admittance fees) paid on renewal of such leases. The certificates were to be brought to the Clerk of the Peace either by the landowner in person, or by others to who he had given Power of Attorney, and enrolled in Court in parchment books to be subscribed by him or them, and laid up with the records of the county or shire.
Therefore detailed records often exist in the Quarter Session records from a much earlier date. Copies of the certificates that made up the register for Northumberland were copied and published by the Surtees Society in 1918. ‘Northumbrian Documents of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries comprising The Register of the Estates of Roman Catholics in Northumberland and the Correspondence of Miles Stapylton’ is freely available online at Archive.org. (The very first entry in the book contains clues which I believe link to the Bolam family of whom I wrote in March this year – clues that are too good to ignore given the Christian names of Isaac and Christopher!)
Pages 25 and 26 of the register contain the return of the estates of Nicholas Stapelton alias Errington of Carlton, Yorkshire and relate to the former Manor of Ponteland in 1717. Page 25 contains the names of Matthew and Edward Crow, at West Houses. Whilst these two do not currently feature in the list of descendants of George Crow of Kiplin Hall, with a bit more digging they may well be found to tie-in somewhere with other Crow family members known to be resident in Ponteland during the same period.
Page 26 records a William and John Cargey along with another known Cargey family connection Cuthbert Charlton, the husband of John Cargey’s sister Ann. A question mark remains over the identity of this William, as the father of John and Ann was buried in Ponteland Church in 1713, some 4 years before the certificate had been drafted. However, as the tenancy appears to have been in joint names and there is no evidence of another William Cargey having been baptised, died, married or having had children of his own, it is possible his name had remained on the lease. Sadly no other records survive for the Manor of Ponteland to verify this or indeed provide further information on the family in the late 17th century.
In 1750, John Cargey and his son Gilbert again appear in the declaration of the same estate returned by Winifred Stapleton alias Errington, the third wife and widow of Nicholas Stapleton alias Errington above. (See page 102 of the Register).
The last event for the Cargey family to have been recorded in the Ponteland register was the burial of Gilbert Cargey of Stickley on 8th February 1822. The Gilbert Cargey who gives his name to the title of this blog was the 4th of the name. He was the son of farmer Gilbert Cargey 3rd of Scremerston and later of Lindean near Galashiels. Although he married Margaretta Richardson Blythe in 1844 the couple had no children. Whilst there are many branches of descendants through the female lines, to my knowledge there remains only one family bearing the name Cargey still living in the UK that stem from the Ponteland line. They descend from the nephew of Gilbert Cargey 4th, Gilbert Cargey 5th of Edinburgh who visited their Smith cousins at Longhoughton all those years ago.
 Kiplin Hall Website https://kiplinhall.co.uk/
 A list of Guild Records for Newcastle upon Tyne available from Tyne and Wear Archives is available online as a pdf. A William Cargey a butcher & likely uncle of Gilbert Cargey 2nd was admitted as a Freeman of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1747. The Freemen records for Newcastle upon Tyne can be accessed online through The Genealogist.
 The Manor of Ponteland was sold circa 1774 to George Silvertop of Minsteracres. High Sheriff of Northumberland d. 1831. The advertisement for the sale appeared in the Newcastle Chronicle on the 8th October.
or 'The ancestor who refuses to be found'
Brick walls – we all have them, even experienced genealogists who have been researching their families for decades are likely to have come up against an immoveable obstacle that resolutely refuses to budge. Although research will naturally reach a point where the records run out, those that hover around the statutory registration and census periods are particularly annoying, as one way or another a solution, or at least a theory, should be possible to find.
Not so with a 2 times great grandmother of my own, Ann Ross, who adamantly refuses to give up her ancestral history, and is frankly making the family tree look somewhat lopsided! Every now and then I go back to her and do a bit more digging in the hope that inspiration will strike but invariably come away disappointed. It may seem odd to be writing about what is essentially a failure, but I thought others in the same position may be interested in a few of the methods and thought processes I use to successfully resolve cases like these, even though in this instance it has yet to produce a result. On many occasions the devil is most definitely in the detail!
Reliability of Sources
One of the first things to consider when dealing with a ‘problematic’ ancestor is to assess the facts known about the person and the reliability of the sources. It is also worth remembering that whilst records of life events and the census remain the foundation stones on which to build an ancestor’s story, there are many other potential places where reliable information can be found. Some of these may even be among your family’s personal possessions, or in the possession of others researching the same ancestral lines. They often say far more about a person and their character than an official record can too.
In the case of Ann Ross most of what I knew before I started digging came from my grandmother’s personal knowledge. Although Ann and her husband John Davison a printer in Alnwick, had both died before she was born, granny would often talk about her paternal spinster aunts, Sarah Ann and Mary Ogilvie Davison, whom she knew extremely well. Following the death of their father John in 1895, the aunts together with their widowed mother moved from the printing works at St Michael’s Pant to a little house at No 2 Croft Place, Alnwick. Of Ann herself, if my memory serves me correctly, granny spoke very little, other than imparting the fact she was Scottish, not a total surprise given her surname and the middle Christian name of one of her known daughters!
In terms of reliability of the source, everything Gran told me about her family history has to date proved to be ‘spot on’ – but did she know everything, and even so was some information perhaps held back?
One piece of information that came to light relatively recently was evidence that there had been another child, a son, who had died as a youngster. He was distinctively named William Tulloch Davison and had been born in second quarter of 1852 and died aged 3 on 27th January 1856. Further evidence perhaps of Ann’s Scottish heritage? It is always worth double checking for other children born to a couple, even if they died young, as their names may hold some vital clues, or indicate naming patterns. In this case William may well have been named for John’s father, but what about Tulloch? Every marriage combination of Ross, Davison, Ogilvie and Tulloch has thus far drawn a blank in terms of a viable potential connection for Ann. However, it is important to think beyond the immediately preceding generation – surnames used as Christian names often refer to grandparents or even further back still.
The Marriage Certificate
John Davison and Ann Ross had married at the Register Office in Alnwick on the 1st July 1851. She was described as 24 years old, a spinster, of no occupation, the daughter of John Ross a Shoemaker and a resident of Alnwick at the time of her marriage. Witnesses to the marriage were Mary Gilroy, John Davison’s married sister, and a David Geggie, possibly a cabinet maker in the town, whose wife’s maiden name was Amory. There does not appear to have been a representative of Ann’s immediate family present. Neither father is noted as deceased, although William, John’s father is thought to have had died before 1841.
Eking out every last drop of information and potential clues in official documentation is essential in difficult cases or where there is a conflict of evidence. Sometimes taking a close look at the witnesses to the marriage can provide hints too, as can they place they were married. In this case the Register Office may point to one or more of the parties following a non-conformist faith. If Ann Ross was of Scottish descent she may well have been Presbyterian and would not have wanted to marry in an Anglican Church.
In terms of reliability, the marriage certificate is often the least reliable of the three. Folk tell ‘fibs’ about their ages, and be prepared for invented names and occupations of fathers! There are many reasons why this may be the case not just illegitimacy; it can indicate the child had little or no knowledge of the father, perhaps he had died young and the child had grown up in a second family, was a smoke screen for a clandestine affair or used to invent a more suitable background – I have encountered them all and more! Is Ann’s marriage certificate truthful? When taken collectively with other information, her age would certainly seem to be correct, but there is a lingering question mark about her father’s name and occupation, despite her second son being called John.
Post Marriage Census Records
In the census records following her marriage Ann states her age and place of birth as:
Although her place of birth varies, her age is relatively consistent and suggests a birth year of 1827/28. In terms of the reliability of census information it is worth bearing in mind that the person completing the return may not have had the specific knowledge of the birthplace of a spouse, visitor or even children if the family often moved. Therefore at times the information in a census may be a ‘best guess’.
As to the reliability of post marriage census records for Ann Ross: – her place of birth is mostly given as London and her age remains consistent so on balance it would seem reasonably reliable.
Ann has not been identified living in Alnwick or the surrounding countryside in either the 1841 or 1851 census nor is there any sign of a John Ross, shoemaker! For sure there are several Ross families resident in the area but none fit any known criteria beyond a common surname. The only John Ross that has been identified living in Middlesex during this time was a dentist born circa 1816 in Scotland. Ironically he is living at 9 Kings Terrace, Clerkenwell with what appears to be his brother James, in the same building as a William Ross, a bookbinder, and his family also born in Scotland circa 1811. They appear to be the only Ross family living in Middlesex in the 1841 census. William and family are still living in Clerkenwell in 1851 at 11 North Avenue and William’s place of birth is given as Kelso, Roxburghshire. From this information his parentage was traced to a George Ross, a Printer in Kelso and his wife Isabel Scott. Whilst this couple are most certainly not Ann’s parents and the location and occupation may be purely circumstantial, there may yet prove to be a connection, and then again it may just prove to be another wild goose chase!
As it stands Ann has yet to be found in either census predating her marriage. There are too may variant factors to consider; she may have working in a household away from her family, one or both her parents were deceased, or she was visiting friends or relatives, which when combined with a not uncommon name make it impossible to draw an adequate conclusion. To date it is thought that she came to Alnwick from London shortly before her marriage. It is known that her husband John prior to opening his own print works in Fenkle Street in 1855 had worked for a Mr Pike in printing houses both ‘North and the South’ – is this when he had met Ann?
George Pike, Printer and Bookbinder operated at that time from 37 Market Street, the premises to which John Davison and his family would relocate in the 1860s and where they would remain until circa 1937.
Death & Burial
Ann Ross died on 21st April 1902 and her age recorded at death was 75. She is buried with her husband John and their two daughters in the family plot No. A353, in a block for non-conformists in Alnwick South Road Cemetery. (Many thanks to Ian Hopper at the Cemetery Lodge for pointing out on the location on a map and where it lies as there is no headstone marking the grave.) This confirms that the family were indeed non-conformist and whilst I do not have the baptisms of John and Ann’s children to confirm their religion, it is interesting to note those of John’s sister Mary Gilroy took place at the Alnwick Unitarian Chapel (or Ebenezer Unitarian Meeting House) in the Parish of Alnwick.
Much of the information contained in Alnwick’s various non-conformist Church records is not yet digitised or available online – certainly not post 1838, but many of the records are available to consult at the Northumberland Record Office at Woodhorn.
Birth or Baptism Record
As Ann was born circa 1827/28 some ten years before the introduction of statutory registration introduced in 1837, (and even then registering a birth did not become law until 1874), the best record of her birth that could possibly be found is her baptism. On the basis of her age at marriage, given in census returns, and at death, the best estimate for her birth would be the second quarter of 1828. Needless to say no baptism record has yet been identified. As she is thought to have been non-conformist, her baptism is also unlikely to be found in Parish records. I say unlikely, as some parishes did record the vital events of ‘dissenters’ in their registers, but in the main the only place where non-conformist registers can be found is in the National Archives Series Code RG. Many of these records have been digitised and are available through The Genealogist.
I can hear you asking ‘surely DNA has provided some answers’? Well, actually as yet it hasn’t! The biggest issue faced with trying to find clues within the DNA matches of myself and my brother is that we are the only living descendants of Ann Ross. Furthermore, we do not know if Ann had any siblings – if she had then we are looking at mutual common ancestors in her parents, who would be our 3rd great grandparents. This would mean that realistically the closest living relatives we could have in Ann’s line would be 4th cousins. If Ann was an only child, or the only child of her parents to have children then we are looking a generation further back again and to 5th cousin matches and a generation about which we have virtually no knowledge. As a result any matches that are lurking out there are potentially going to be quite small. Whilst we both have a few known Davison matches they are no use in this particular quest as they all descend from John’s sister Mary Gilroy and therefore will not carry any Ross DNA. In summary there is just not enough information out there at present from which to draw any sort of conclusion!
Ann Ross left no will herself and the wills of her two daughters Sarah Ann and Mary Ogilvie Davison which were both proved in London hold no clues whatsoever. The only will that I do not have as yet is that of Ann’s son John. Primarily this was because until a few days ago I had no idea when and where he had actually died, only that he passed away before my father was born. As his wife died in Northumberland ten years later I was unaware they had left the area. Once it had been found courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive it certainly came as a bit of surprise!
The motto here is always to expect the unexpected!
Mary Ogilvie Davison
Is it possible that Mary hold the key to this mystery? Just where was she on the night of 3rd April 1881 when the census was recorded? – she certainly wasn’t at home! My efforts to trace her have not borne fruit as yet – but then there are quite a few Mary Davisons listed in the 1881 census! The images used in this blog have been taken from Mary’s personal sketch book which is now in my care and features many paintings and illustrations not just by herself but also other people. It appears the album was begun in 1880/81 and the last entry is dated 1899. Whilst many of the pictures are just initialled, including one by her brother John, an H.R, a P.R. and a J.G.R also feature – could the ‘R’ possibly be for Ross? Other contributors have signed their names such as G Wilson, R Dodds, but there is one that stands out, Tom Paish in 1886 – just who was he?
 William Davison was a witness at the baptism of his grandsons William Gilroy in 1829, and James Gilroy in 1830 but was not present in 1841 census. The Gilroy family were Unitarians.
 The Genealogist.co.uk Non Parochial BMD Database RG4: Non-parochial Registers 1567-1858,RG5: Protestant Dissenters' Registry,RG6: Quaker Registers 1578-1841,RG7: Fleet Marriages 1667-1777,RG8: Non-Parochial & Miscellaneous Registers,RG32: Registers Abroad and on British & Foreign Ships 1831-1969,RG33: Foreign Registers & Returns 1627-1960,RG34: Worldwide Foreign Marriage Returns 1826-1921,RG35: General Register Office: Miscellaneous Foreign Death Returns - 1791-1921,RG36: Registers & Returns in the Protectorates etc of Africa & Asia,BT158: Registers compiled from Ships' Official logs of passengers at sea 1854-1908,BT159: Registers of Deaths at sea of British and other nationalities 1875-1888,BT160: Registers of Births at sea of British Nationals 1875-1891
Other useful Links for Alnwick
Durham Records Online database contains the burials for St Michaels Parish Church in Alnwick.
Family Search Wiki Page contains a comprehensive list of resources for researching ancestors from Alnwick
Non Conformist records from The National Archive Code RG series are available through The Genealogist
Last month Rosemary Dixon-Smith looked at the story of the ‘Redeswire Affray’ and how stories recounting this Border skirmish may have circulated amongst her ancestors in 19th century Northumberland. Here she was alluding to the ‘oral tradition’ which is the means by which events of the past have been verbally perpetuated into the present, particularly amongst local communities. Many of us will have encountered it in our family history too! However, over time embellishments and omissions often mean that the truth, although still there, has become distorted and is somewhat harder to piece together.
So what IS history? Simply put it is the study of past events, particularly in human affairs or a series of past events connected to a person or thing. It is perhaps the origin of the word that provides a more practical definition. ‘History’ as derived from the Greek ‘Historia’ – meaning 'inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation' – is the past, as it is described in written documents. The period before the existence of written accounts is therefore called ‘pre-history’.
Rosemary’s blog coincided with the annual Jedburgh’s Callants Festival and the Redeswire Rideout in early July. These Festivals and Civic Weeks hosted by many Scottish Border towns run throughout the summer and celebrate their unique identities, individuality and the roles their town played in the history of the Border. They culminate in Coldstream with the Flodden Rideout to Branxton Hill and the service of remembrance for the men of both nations that fell at the Battle of Flodden which took place in 1513. For those who have not heard of the Battle, it was a crushing defeat for the Scots, whose King, James IV was slain along with many of the Scottish nobility at the hands of the English. It might seem strange then that such an event should be remembered with such passion 5 centuries on, particularly by the side that essentially lost. But then the Borders and indeed the Battle itself remain a bit of an enigma!
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of Flodden. As a youngster the annual pilgrimage made around Christmas time to Tithe Hill, the then home of my grandfather’s sister Mary and her husband Willie Davidson, which lies almost adjacent to Branxton Hill. As my interest in family history grew I became aware of historic farming connections in land to the east that faced the battle site and over which the English army undoubtedly trod as it marched to meet the Scots on that fateful day. Aside from the connection to the Greys of He[a]ton who held the estate from circa the 13th century, a paternal 5th great grandmother penned her last will and Testament at the farm of New Heaton on 5th May 1814. She was Isabella Pringle, twice widowed and the last surviving child of John Pringle of Fenton & Kippy. Isabella had married Ralph Coxon in 1767 and following his death in 1768, married secondly, Edward Mole, with whom she had 4 known children. Edward Mole died in 1790 and Isabella was appointed administratrix of his estate with Edward Anderson of Glanton and Thomas Vardy of Rothill standing surety for the penal bond of £560. In 1804 Isabella’s last remaining brother John Pringle died intestate at New Heaton on 10th January 1802. Isabella was again appointed administratrix by the court, but on this occasion in addition to Edward Anderson (junior) of Glanton, (Senior had died in 1799), Edward Pringle of Snitter stood surety to the rather heftier penal sum of £18,000, or some £1.2 million in today’s terms. Undoubtedly there was a familial connection between the various parties, some of which are known and for others the exact details still need to be conclusively established and are therefore, the subject of ongoing investigations.
As chance would have it, I myself came to farm at New Heaton through marriage, at which point elements of my past and present collided. It was then with my feet firmly planted on the ground that the English army may well have passed, and with the battlefield in places in full view, that my interest in Flodden was reignited.
This interest was then cemented through a project of voluntary re-examination of some of the original documents pertaining to the Battle preceding the quincentennary commemorations in 2013. However, the project was naturally limited as to the number of documents it could cover, and therefore in many ways left more questions unanswered than it solved. When combined with the history of area of the region in the early 16th century it was only natural that other aspects of the Flodden campaign should form the topic of my prize winning MLitt dissertation ‘Food for Thought’. A 24 page document containing quantities of corn purchased and shipped from Hull to Newcastle for the English army formed part of the primary evidence in support of that specific ‘argument’. However, the document alone was insufficient to test the theory and required evidence drawn from other sources, such as corn imports, rent rolls and archaeological findings.
Now that the dissertation is behind me, my interest in the history of the area and events surrounding the campaign has not diminished but rather, the evidence uncovered through the research has prompted me to challenge long established theories still further. Mainstream accounts of the English army’s route of approach skirting around New Heaton to the east rather than either passing through it, or skirting it to the west, makes very little sense at all, armed as I am with a first hand working knowledge of the terrain.
Most accounts state that Surrey outflanked the Scottish army, and suggest his intention was to take Branxton Hill himself, and from there to engage on more equal terms with the Scots who had been dug in on the facing Flodden Hill. Yet the approach route that is shown, which roughly follows the line of the road from Tillmouth to the A697 today, crosses land that would have a) been in view b) crosses other areas of potential bog and c) necessitates the English army navigating a second area of bog below Pallinsburn and then marching directly in front of the entire Scottish army to take its position.
There are many books on the market that look at the campaign from different angles. However, a glance at the footnotes, endnotes or bibliography clearly show that the same old sources are rolled out time and time again. More annoying still is that the majority of the sources cited refer to the ‘Calendars of State Papers’ rather than the original documents themselves. The ‘Calendars’ are summarised extracts of document contents. In some cases they are extensively condensed and barring a couple of salient points bear little resemblance to the full contents of the original. Whilst useful for pinpointing primary documentary sources that may contain information of interest, they cannot be considered primary sources in their own right. Yet, time and time again the same condensed extracts are interpreted, quoted and cited – of course it is far quicker and easier than ploughing through pages and pages of 16th century script – but by doing so, they are at the mercy of the compiler of Calendar’s own opinion as to what is important and what is not. Furthermore, not all documents have even been ‘calendared’. There will doubtless be more clues and evidence as yet lying undiscovered in the collections held by The National Archives.
View of supposed English approach from Pallinsburn. Etal Castle is clearly visible. From this angle and position which is also taken from the mid-Scottish Line, it is clear to see that the land falls away and without the trees a body of men would have been in clear sight. The ridge of hills in the background have Berwick at their eastern foot.
Clearly some authors have actually visited the battle site (which is a bonus) and chapters of their books are adorned with bonny photographic plates. However, I have yet to see one that has looked at the Battlefield from the English perspective much beyond the view from Pipers Hill. There are few with pictures taken from the hill itself looking towards the terrain of the English approach, but alternative approach routes themselves have not been considered. The only account I have read to date to challenge this established route is ‘The Battle of Flodden and the Raids of 1513’ written by a Col. Fitzwilliam Elliott in 1911.
Had the authors done so, one landmark in particular would have stood above all others and possibly prompted further investigation. It is the hill that stands roughly in the centre of New Heaton, at the top of the ‘Noddens’ – standing at some 306 meters. Today it is a Trig Point and more obvious because of the wood that stand on its summit. To either side the land drops away; to the south the steading of New Heaton sits in a dip before rising up again to a ridge of 260 meters in height which runs in a similar trajectory to the hills above Branxton before sloping away just beyond Marldown and Cramond Hill. This ridge forms a false skyline when viewed from the approximated lines of the Scottish troops; to the north of the Noddens, the land again dips away into a valley at the bottom of which runs an old By-way known as Muggers Loan, which runs along the course of the Oxendean Burn.
To my mind for the outflanking manoeuvre, as it so often described, to have been successfully achieved, the route of at least a substantial body of the army, would more likely have passed through either Donaldson’s Lodge or New Heaton. Two possible routes through New Heaton are the line of Muggers Loan where the army could have passed unseen until it emerged around the bottom of Cramond Hill or Marldown, or, along what is now known as the ‘Thrieprig’ track, where again a body of men would have been hidden behind the false skyline, only emerging on the top of the ridge near Marldown. A view that was clearly shared in part by Col. Elliott in 1911. By approaching the field from this direction would also have eliminated the necessity to negotiate the boggy ground below Pallinsburn. An approach taking any other route from the crossing point of the River Till would have been, at least in part, clearly visible to the Scots. If Branxton Hill was indeed the objective then the alternative routes are also the shortest.
That they travelled unseen is suggested in Hall’s Chronicle by the Lord Admiral sending his ‘Agnus Dei’ to his father alerting him to the fact the Scots had changed position. This would certainly infer that both the Admiral and his father travelled with the Scottish army out of their field of vision, as it moved from its encampment on Flodden Hill to that of Branxton. However, the same paragraph mentions the Admiral first had sight of the Scots army after crossing the burn at ‘Sandyfford’. The only Sandyford to my knowledge lies to the east of Crookham, and if Hall is to be believed, this would contradict my earlier the theory in every way.
The Admiral’s father the Earl was reported to have been at his east again, which makes even less sense if the objective was Branxton Hill and the battle was fought on the site alleged. The Sandyford burn runs north into the Till, to cross it from the east heading west the Admiral is most unlikely to have crossed the Till at Twizell Bridge. Furthermore why would he? Travelling via Sandyford would also have added approximately another mile to the Pallinsburn route. It would however, have made (a little) more sense if Surrey’s objective was not Branxton Hill at all, but to have engaged with the Scots in their original position.
The inability of the English to see the Scottish position is attributed by Hall to a veil of smoke from fires deliberately lit in the Scot’s camp. With a prevailing westerly the smoke could not have covered the Scots as they moved position. If not, the the veil of smoke would surely have been between the English at Sandyford and Branxton and thus obliterated the view?
There are three main contemporary accounts which are referred to time and again; the ‘Articles of Battle’ although unsigned, looks to have been written by the Admiral himself, The Trewe Encounter and Hall’s Chronicle. The battle is also mentioned in various pieces of correspondence including a letter written from Bishop Ruthal to Wolsey on 20th September 1513. Herein lies a problem in itself as all of the accounts (with the exception of Ruthal) are attributed to the Howards, their followers, or on behalf of the King and none agree in the detail. They were mounted (Hall), they were on foot (Ruthal), they travelled from 5am to 4pm (Hall) and 8 miles to the Battle (Ruthal) etc. The latter is an impossibility if they travelled via Twizell as it is 7.4 miles in a straight line from Barmoor to Twizell alone, with approximately another 5 miles to the Field had they travelled via Pallinsburn as suggested. However as the crow flies, and had the army (or part of it) crossed the Till around Etal the distance from Barmoor to Branxton is approximately 7 miles.
Regardless of the historical project, the ability to transcribe, read and understand historic manuscripts is only half of the challenge, the remainder being the ability to interpret and contextualise their contents. It is necessary to raise the further questions of; by whom, why, where, when and for whom each ‘document’ was written. The ‘by whom’ and ‘for whom’ are clearly important factors when considering the various accounts of the battle. When referring to any primary written source, an assessment of the reliability and motives of the author are of paramount importance.
In the case of Flodden what has been left unsaid is as important as what has been ‘documented’. There is no record of Surrey’s original intent, whether that be to station his army on Branxton Hill, or to engage with the Scots in their original position. Then again, by not recording the aims of the manoeuvre, the leaders of the English army could not be admonished had those aims not been achieved. A great many of the details of the final day remain unknown, open to interpretation and opinion, which is not helped by the lack of archaeological evidence. With the exception of reports of a couple of cannon balls, one of which was allegedly found on the slopes of Marldown (what could it have been doing there?) and other unsubstantiated finds, no archaeological evidence has been found to date that places the battle in its current location. Of course there are many reasons why this could be the case – one being the documentary evidence in the form of accounts of armour being stripped from the bodies of the fallen and sold from the field – where money is concerned there is usually more than an element of truth – the other is that prolonged agricultural activity and quarrying in the immediate area have obliterated what few artefacts that may have remained.
I am not suggesting that my own theories are necessarily correct, but knowing the terrain first hand as I do, they must at least proffer a viable alternative. As it stands it would appear the English Army of circa 20,000 fighting men, with their ordnance in tow, marched upwards of 14 miles, navigated difficult terrain en route, in the form of a gorge at Heaton Mill and a bog at Pallinsburn, and then began a battle at 4 o’clock in the afternoon from which, although significantly outnumbered and having had nothing to eat for a couple of days, they emerged victorious.
History is in the main just that – ‘his story’, after all what could a mere woman possibly know of tactics, terrain and common sense. The history of war-fare still remains a male preserve. However, there is a reason the saying tells us to go to the horse’s mouth and not its backend! Speaking of which, a trick was clearing missed in failing to interview the last known survivor of the Battle – one Henry Jenkins, who died in 1670 aged 169 years!
Now that really IS a canny story!
(Postscript - we sold New Heaton in 2011, nonetheless I still look directly onto Branxton Hill today. Ironically, today it is from where I receive my internet signal!)
 Sir Thomas Grey of Heaton wrote the medieval history ‘Scalachronica’ whilst a prisoner of War in Scotland. Any King examines the work in some depth in his MA Thesis of 1998. King, Andy (1998) Sir Thomas Gray's Scalacronica: a medieval chronicle and its historical and literary context, Durham theses, Durham University. Available at Durham E-Theses Online: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/4842/
 Patience Anderson sister of Edward Anderson senior married John Grey in 1767, before purchasing Middle Ord they lived at Old Heaton. Edward Pringle of Snitter’s wife was Margaret Vardy. Two of Edward Pringles children married Re[a]dhead siblings. Numerous connections between Pringle, Thompson, Hogg , Coxon and Readhead. Only familial connection not proven Isabella Pringle to Edward of Snitter.
 Accounts of Richard Gough E101 56 28.
 Col. Fitzwilliam Elliott, 'The Battle of Flodden and the Raids of 1513'
 ‘Mugger’ is the old word for Gypsy or Tinker.
 Hall Chronicle https://archive.org/details/hallschronicleco00halluoft/page/560
 This same reference seems to have caused some confusion for the Battlefield Trust too. See page 8.
If, like me you are trying to track down your Pringle Forebears, a first step may be to contact the Clan Pringle Association where you will find more details on how to join both the Association and also the Pringle DNA project.
As the 2019 Common Riding season is now well underway which sees many Border towns celebrate their unique but common heritage as they ride their historic boundaries throughout summer, this month’s guest post written by Rosemary Dixon – Smith could not be more appropriate. Initially I had thought of writing an introduction to her piece, but then thought no, and my reasons for this are tri-fold. To begin with, Rosemary (Mole) is a first rate genealogist and family historian based in South Africa. Secondly, she will need no introduction to regular readers of my blog, as she first acquainted us with her own Smith Family of Northumberland back in June 2016. Thirdly, her article stands so well on its own it does not require any preamble from me! In reading it, I hope that readers will be inspired to adopt Rosemary’s principle and take some time to think ‘outside of the box’ when researching their own family history. I have merely added some notes and links that may be of interest or use at the end.
Smiths at Fenwick and the last Border Raid
Moles Genealogy Blog Though South African ancestry is of particular interest to me, there are no boundaries in family history. I have traced my own and other peoples' ancestors in the UK, Canada, US, Australia,and Europe. My special field is Natal - settler families, maritime history, Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer Wars; favourite pursuits: dating photographs, costume history, the history of slavery, lighthouses, history of India and the Indian diaspora, explorers, missionaries, ships; shipwrecks, British history, militaria. Comments on my blog or questions welcomed.
If you a question for Rosemary or would like to contact her you can do so here
Edward Stamp was the son of Thomas Stamp and Mary Nicholson born circa 1813 in Alnwick. He was a Master Mariner and ‘industrialist’ who in the 1860’s became involved in the Canadian lumber business in British Columbia. A memorial plaque mounted on a rock in Stanley Park Vancouver reads
Captain Edward Stamp
Pioneer Industrialist and Legislator started lumbering operations, then finding a better site, he moved elsewhere on Burrard Inlet, and founded in the wilderness, now the City of Vancouver, the famous Hastings Sawmill 1865 
His biography states that
Donkin would have passed into obscurity had he not published, a year after his return to England, an account of his experiences under the title Trooper and Redskin in the far north-west: recollections of life in the North-West Mounted Police, Canada, 1884–1888. As an ordinary constable he had served during the rebellion, come into close contact with Riel, and lived the life of a mounted policeman in the early years of western settlement. His book, however, contains little of the self-glorification, heroism, and romance that is characteristic of most literature of the period on the NWMP. From the moment he arrived on the prairies, Donkin was struck by the contrast between his own experience and the way the country was portrayed by those “journalist globetrotters” who had set forth its “wondrous glories.” The result was an unembellished account of the daily routine of mounted police life, the harshness of the climate, the rude prairie settlements, and the loneliness of police detachments. With an eye for detail, Donkin described his experiences in a candid and critical manner, leaving behind a valuable record not only of the NWMP but also of western Canada at an important period in its development.
This was the first legislative recognition that the state was responsible for the safety and well-being of emigrants leaving the British Isles. The Act regulated the number of passengers that could be carried on a ship, determined the amount of space allocated to them, and required the provision of food and water for the voyage. While based on earlier legislation, the 1828 Act was the true foundation of British and colonial legislation, designed to protect emigrants from unscrupulous shipowners and shipmasters and from the perils of the North Atlantic crossing.
… promised productive soil, adequate rainfall, a good growing season, bountiful crops and a healthy climate. Such words as "cold" and "snow" were universally banned from the pamphlets in favour of the more positive terms "invigorating" and "bracing." With their colourful covers and attractive photographs, the pamphlets visually reaffirmed the Prairie West as a land of prosperity and happiness.
 Stanley Park Vancouver,
 The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/stamp_edward_10E.html
 Dictionary of Canadian Biography http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/donkin_john_george_11E.html
 RCMPVets Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/RCMPVets/posts/homeless-veteran-left-account-of-christmas-eve-in-the-early-mounted-police-winni/981513715243338/
 Library and Archives Canada http://www.collectionscanada.ca/immigrants/021017-2111-e.html
 Library and Archives of Canada http://www.collectionscanada.ca/immigrants/021017-1100-e.html
 The Ships List http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/Arrivals/1834b.shtml
Many just want to test their 'admixture' or, as Ancestry calls it 'ethnicity', which represents the ancient migratory paths taken by our ancestors. Others are keen to use 'cousin matching' to reconnect with lost family members. Whatever your motives are for testing, do take some time to consider the potential downsides and the emotional upset it may cause before you 'spit'. A while ago, Margaret Ross contacted me for a little help which did lead to a revelation which could potentially have caused a great deal of family upset. I suggested she write about her experience so that others may be forewarned. She very kindly agreed. I hope you all enjoy the read.
Identity and the Pitfalls of DNA Testing
by Margaret Ross.
“Amaze yourself … find new relatives you never knew existed” (My Heritage)
“Confirm family history and traditions” (FTDNA)
As my research got under way, I became more interested in locating the diaspora than going straight up my direct lines. In the nineteenth century numerous siblings of my ancestors (mostly agricultural labourers or mariners) emigrated from the British Isles to make new, and hopefully better lives for themselves and their descendants. Others went overseas with the military or colonial service. It has been fascinating to discover how they succeeded, where their thousands of descendants live, and to have contact with far-flung family members.
Four years ago, I was given an Ancestry DNA test to help me dig deeper into my family history. I put a note on my Ancestry Member’s page to say I’d tested, including details of my GEDmatch number. I gave my closest cousins kits to help identify where my matches fitted into our tree. But there were several lines where I had to try to persuade newly-discovered, overseas cousins to take the test. As far as I was aware, this was unsuccessful.
Last month I discovered a new tree on Ancestry which had incomplete details of some of my ancestors. I left a note for the tree owner, not expecting any response. Luckily, he replied immediately, saying that he had looked at my member’s page, and was surprised that we did not show as DNA matches, because we were third cousins (3C) sharing great-great-grandparents. Nor did I match a kit he managed for my second cousin once removed (2C1R) in the same line.
Alarm bells began to ring in my head. This is one of the largest group of relations in my tree, a group which is very proud of – and partly identifies with – our shared Celtic heritage. It was one where I’d been trying to persuade cousins to test on Ancestry. I gave my new contact the names of DNA-confirmed cousins of mine in this line and a link to Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM tool. There were too many relevant cousins in his DNA matches to list: he opened his matches to me so I could check for myself.
Instantly, I could see that I had succeeded in persuading cousins to do DNA testing with Ancestry! At least 50 of his matches were on my own paper tree at 3C2R or closer. But neither I nor my own confirmed cousins on that side matched anyone in this family. It was obvious that our shared paper trail was wrong; there was no way we were related.
Neither my new contact nor I could identify at least eight close mutual matches he had with his known cousins in this line. The mutual matches he had with each of these eight invariably included most of the rest of that group. They all had a distinctly different ethnicity from his known cousins. My assumption was that their trees could lead me to whoever was his great-grandfather if that was not my x2 great-uncle. Given these doubts, I felt the least I could do was try to find the true parentage. I needed to identify someone of the right sex (male) who was travelling through or living in the correct isolated, rural location in the Rockies over a period of at least 15 years.
It would have been inappropriate for me to contact any of this group, and certainly my newly discovered “Not 3C” wouldn’t want to. Only one had a public tree linked to their DNA, with 21 people in it. Another three had unlinked trees with one, five and 25 people. Three had no trees but one had a locked tree of around 450. I noticed that this DNA match was managed by Susie Douglas of Borders Ancestry, a professional genealogist living here in Scotland whose blog we follow in this household. After a lot of soul-searching, I decided to contact Susie in case she was puzzling as much over her matches with my “cousins” as I was over her match to my erstwhile family.
Whilst I was waiting for a reply from Susie, I started building a “quick and dirty” tree for each of these unknown matches. I saw that the two closest, both at 3C level, had the same surname as a further possible 3C whose linked tree revealed the name behind her alias. This suggested to me that the three were siblings, maybe researching their history after one or both parents had died. An Ancestry search on their father’s name brought up a recent result in the Find A Grave Index where hyperlinks enabled me to build back several generations on both sides of their family. I had no idea to which side my “cousin” connected but suspected it was through the paternal line. Another match in this group (unlinked tree) descended from a line with that name spelled differently.
With the help of Google and comparing the two very small unlinked trees, I discovered that two distant matches for my “cousin” were themselves first cousins. I built back their shared ancestral line for several generations, once more with no idea where I should be concentrating. At that stage I could not join up the two first sets of matches. Although my own search was not relevant to Susie’s research, she very generously worked up a few ancestral lines in a “quick and dirty” tree for this set of matches. She provided me with the surnames of their shared ancestors living in England and New Jersey, America back in the eighteenth century. Luckily for me, one of these names was the maiden name of a paternal great-grandmother of the three sibling 3C matches, suggesting that my “cousin’s” true ancestor was most likely one of her sons or, less likely, a brother.
I needed to study the census returns. The couple lived on the east side of North America and had four sons and two daughters. Based on relationship probability, I discounted the grandfather of the 3C matches, leaving three sons to research. One had died before some of the children had been born, another showed up consistently in all relevant records living in the east. However, the census showed that the second oldest son, a Government official, had moved to the Rockies sometime in the late 1880s. From that time until his death in the 1930s he lived within ten miles of my great-great uncle’s family and would have travelled extensively throughout the whole area as part of his Government duties. He never married.
I have no doubt that this man, not my great-grandmother’s brother, is the ancestor of the large group of people I hoped were my relatives. One of the children was given his mother’s first name. We shall never know which man fathered the only one of the children who was childless, and who had the same name as my great-grandmother’s mother, but they all had my ancestor’s surname. Their descendants share great pride in the farming and engineering projects the man they believe is their ancestor carried out in the area and he was without doubt a loving and caring, “hands-on” father and grandfather after a divorce, when their mother moved away.
After careful consideration, I told my cousin what I had discovered. He was very disappointed but, given his understanding of DNA testing, not really surprised. Together we have researched deeper into the history of the area at the turn of the twentieth century. There is the possibility that the man fathered other children locally; if he did, then this could further confuse anyone in either family undertaking a detailed analysis of their DNA results. The surprise is that none of my “not 3C”’s close relations has queried their results yet. His assumption is that finding out about ethnicity and health risks is more important for most of them. And those who do research the family do not go further back than two generations. At present, he is not inclined to share this story with them; he expects that some elderly relatives would be distraught to know the truth.
To end on a more positive note, we have now discovered that my “not 3C” is distantly related to both sides of my husband’s family, certainly through his paternal line and probably through his maternal line as well. He still has Celtic connections! This account only serves as reminder that DNA testing comes with the following caveats, albeit often tucked away in the small print …
(In Ancestry’s Privacy Statement)
“…may reveal you are related to someone unexpected, or that you are not related to someone in the way that you expected” (LivingDNA’s FAQs)
“… you may also experience surprises, such as unknown relatives that you and your family were not aware of”
(FTDNA’s Consent to Participate in Matching).
Robert Bolam 1952 - 30 March 2019
A brief look into an extraordinary farming family from Northumberland
Mr. Isaac BOLAM is living for the present on Mr. ATKINSON's farm with his two sisters, their brother, John BOLAM ----------- the farm, having run away to escape justice after many frauds and forgeries his effects were seized and sold but the ruin thereby brought upon the rest of the family seems to be rather affirmed by themselves than believed by their neighbours. One female servant lives with them who is Presbyterian They have four Bibles and three Prayer books.
In 1866, his brother George was farming at Horton Grange, but as a result of John’s untimely death relinquished the tenancy to concentrate on the family’s interests nearer home. George, aged 45 married a Catherine Hall in Edinburgh on 1st August 1873. Together the couple would have three children, George b. 1879, Catherine Annie b. 1882 and Johnina Jane b. 1885. In 1881 George was living and farming at Alwinton but by 1891 had taken up residence at the family farm of Fawdon. In 1893 George too met with an accident that would ultimately cause his death.
 Rothbury Bible census https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/NBL/Rothbury/Rothbury1816
 Bishops Transcripts for Ingram