Category Archives: Scotland
Illegitimate. This word describes my grandmother. Elspeth Mill Bowie Orrock was born on January 3, 1875. My great-grandmother, Ann Linn Orrock was unmarried and she registered the birth of her daughter and signed the register with her mark.
When my father passed away, I found an extract of the Register of Corrected Entries for the District of Arbroath in the County of Forfar, Scotland among his documents. 1 This was the 1990s and I was astounded that my father never mentioned that his grandmother was unmarried at the time of his mother’s birth and that she remained unmarried.
I remember discussing it at the supper table and my two school-age children shrugged their shoulders and said, “Who cares if they weren’t married.” Exactly. Who cares? One hundred and fifty years later, no one in the family cares whether Elspeth’s parents were married or not. But in 1875, it would have been a serious offense.
The Presbyterian Church of Scotland (Kirk) formed parish councils that held Kirk Sessions, addressing matters of everyday life, such as “church non-attendance, sexual matters, bastardy and illegitimacy.”2 The Church elders dealt with the moral behaviour of their parishioners and “adulterers, fornicators, drunkards, slanderers and Sabbath breakers were all brought before the Kirk Session to answer for their behaviour and to do penance for their crimes. In the case of an illegitimate birth, the father’s name might be recorded along with the penance committed by both parents.”3
In the case of my grandmother, her mother registered the birth and gave her the father’s name as a middle name. Even though the name is recorded as Bowie, I assume that it is a mistake given that her mother could not read or write and did not know that the registrar had written Bowie instead of Boggie.4
The register of birth was corrected six years later when my great-grandmother decided to sue the father of her child in a paternity suit. On February 17, 1881, the Sheriff Court of Forfarshire found that Elspeth Orrock was the “illegitimate child of the said Ann Orrock and Henry Boggie.”5
The year of the court case, 1881, was also a census year. Ann was still living at the same address that she lived at when she gave birth to Elspeth six years earlier. She was also still living with her mother and her three siblings. Also present were both of Ann’s daughters, Elspeth and her sister, Jemima, eight months old.6 Jemima’s birth registration states that she was also illegitimate.7
The paternity suit that Ann instituted against Henry Boggie would have been a civil court action heard by the Sheriff Court under “Actions of Affiliation and Aliment.”8 I will probably never know why Ann took Henry to court but it is safe to assume that she was looking for an alimentary pension for her child. Was Henry a deadbeat father for six years? Maybe. Then again, maybe he stopped paying once Jemima was born. Or Ann simply needed more money, now that she had two children to care for by herself. It is impossible to know.
About fifteen years ago, I wrote to the Sheriff Court and asked them if they had a transcript of the court proceedings. Unfortunately, they had destroyed all transcripts after 1860 if there were nothing remarkable in the proceedings.
- Extract from the register of Corrected Entries for the District of Arbroath in the County of Forfar, dated July 29, 1947, in the writer’s possession.
- GenGuide web site, “Kirk/Church Sessions Scotland,” https://www.genguide.co.uk/source/kirkchurch-sessions-scotland/116/, accessed March 25, 2018.
- Scotland’s People web site, “Register of Corrected Entries,” https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/guides/registering-illegitimate-births, accessed March 25, 2018.
- This is a deduction because on other official documentation, my grandmother’s name is Elspeth Mill Boggie Orrock and Boggie was her father’s name.
- Extract from the register of Corrected Entries for the District of Arbroath in the County of Forfar, dated July 29, 1947, in the writer’s possession.
- National Records of Scotland, “1881 Census,” Scotland’s People web site, Civil Parish of St. Vigeans, District of Arbroath, entry for Elspeth Orrock, accessed January 12, 2018.
- National Records of Scotland, “Statutory Registers Births,” Scotland’s People web site, entry for Jemima Kinnear Orrock, born July 25, 1880, District of Arbroath, County of Forfar, accessed January 12, 2018.
- Scottish Indexes web site, “Finding Paternity Cases in Sheriff Court Records,” http://www.scottishindexes.co.uk/learningcourt.aspx, accessed March 25, 2018.
Michael McHugh looked at his son, born only minutes before, with sadness. What would become of him? The room was warm and toasty even though it was one of the coldest winters in Scotland1 when Francis McHugh was born at midnight on February 21, 1895.2 Nevertheless Michael shivered in apprehension. The doctor was clear. Michael did not have long to live. He would likely be dead before the year was out.
Michael’s eldest son, Thomas was present at the birth. He was just nineteen and much too young to shoulder the burden of Michael’s family once Michael died even though Thomas was already contributing to the family’s finances. He worked in a jute factory as a yarn bleacher.3 At the age of 19, Thomas should be thinking of starting his own family one day. But how could he do that when he would have his mother and four siblings under nine to take care of?
Francis was the fifth child.4 The family lived in a tenement situated in the overcrowded industrial area near the jute factories. It is unlikely that the flat had a bathroom. The night that Francis was born, the flat would have been crowded. A female relative or two would have been there to help with the birth and the younger children. Thomas would have fetched the midwife or “howdie.”5 She would have stayed until Francis and his mother, Sarah, were comfortable and taken care of.
Michael had worked his 12-hour days at the jute factory6 until he could no longer manage it. He became increasing weak, losing weight at a rapid rate. He coughed up phlegm and sometimes blood. When he saw the doctor, his worse fears were confirmed. He had tuberculosis. The doctor named it phthisis. Michael knew it as “the white death.”
Michael was ashamed. It was known that tuberculosis was contagious, but the stigma remained. It was considered a poor man’s disease because of the unsanitary conditions of the tenements that the poor lived in.7
The doctor was careful to explain to Michael that it was contagious and Michael was careful not to cough or spit when he was with the children. He probably never carried Francis in his arms, out of fear of infecting him.
Michael died at home three months later.8 It would be about six years before Sarah Jane who was eight at the time of Francis’ birth, would be old enough to work and contribute to the family earnings. In the meantime, Thomas took care of them and he continued to do so, even when he immigrated to Canada in 1912, bringing his mother, his two brothers, his wife and his seven children.9
- Wikipedia web site, “Winter of 1894,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_of_1894%E2%80%9395_in_the_United_Kingdom, accessed November 28, 2017. The British Isles suffered a severe winter in 1894/1895 that ended a decade of harsh winters, sometimes referred to as the Little Ice Age. Because the River Thames froze over, shipping was restricted and the economy suffered. Coal was at a premium.
- Birth registration of Francis McHugh, Scotland’s People, Statutory registers, Births, 282/1 384, accessed November 26, 2017.
- In the 1991 census, Thomas was 14 and he worked as a yarn bleacher. Scotland’s People 1891 census 282/1 35/48, accessed November 18, 2017.
- Scotland’s People 1891 census 282/1 35/48, accessed November 18, 2017. The 1891 census shows the children, Thomas, Sarah and Mary Ann. Edward McHugh was born in 1873, as per the registration of his birth, Scotland’s People, Statutory registers, Births, 282/1 384, accessed November 26, 2017.
- National Records of Scotland website. “Safe Delivery, A History of the Scottish Midwife,” https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/learning/features/safe-delivery-a-history-of-scottish-midwives, accessed December 21, 2017.
- Dark Dundee web site, “Workers of the Mills,” https://www.darkdundee.co.uk/archive/dundee-landmarks/workers-of-the-mills/, accessed January 18, 2018. A regular working day was 12 hours in the jute mills. Dundee had one of the lowest wages in the country in the 19th century, and the highest cost of living. Low wages meant that there was little for anything that was not a necessity. While the jute mill workers had regular wages, it would have been hard to get themselves out of poverty.
- University of Virginia website, “Early Research and Treatment of Tuberculosis in the 19th Century, http://exhibits.hsl.virginia.edu/alav/tuberculosis/, accessed January 18, 2018.
- Michael McHugh’s death certificate, date of death May 16, 1895. Scotland’s People, Statutory registers, Death, 282/1 148, accessed November 26, 2017. Cause of death: Phthisis lasting 4 months. It is doubtful that it lasted four months. The four months may have indicated the time that had elapsed since the diagnosis or since he was off work or even bedridden.
- Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935 Database, Ancestry.com, accessed November 14, 2017.
It has always bothered me that on the passenger lists of the S.S. Grampian, sailing from Glasgow to Quebec City, my grandfather, Thomas McHugh, was not listed with his wife, Elsie McHugh and their seven children.
My father was always clear that Thomas arrived ahead of his large family in the early 1900s. The plan was that Thomas would have time to find work and a place to live, and get settled in.
I first found my grandmother, Elsie McHugh and the seven children listed on the passenger list of the S.S. Grampian, leaving Glasgow and arriving in Quebec City. The year was 1912. I knew that I also had to find out when Thomas arrived. I returned again and again to passenger lists for travel between Scotland and Canada in 1910 and 1911. No luck. It was only when I started to research my great-uncle, Edward McHugh that I discovered Thomas also on the passenger list of the S.S. Grampian in 1912, leaving Glasgow and arriving in Quebec City. Thomas was accompanied by his mother and two brothers.
Harrumph. It seemed as if Thomas didn’t leave ahead of time. But why in the world were Elsie and the children not listed with Thomas? Were they separated because of the children? This didn’t make sense. Elsie would have needed all the help she could get. Little Adam was just three and his brother, Thomas was one year old.
I kept going back to these entries. There was something about them that bothered me. I looked up potential reasons to be separated on a ship. I looked up whether families would be divided for any reason in the list of passengers. No luck.
Also, I kept getting mixed up whether it was May or October 1912. I would look at my notes and if it said May, I realized that the date was October and I would change it. I would then go back later and change it back to May. Argh. I needed to get it right.
This week I decided to establish definitely whether Thomas came over to Canada first. Perhaps he came to Canada and then went back to Scotland for his mother, his brothers, his wife, and his children. This would make perfect sense. This would explain why my father was so sure that he came ahead of the family and all the evidence that I had said that he came over with his family.
Well, I could find no trace of Thomas on passenger lists of 1910 or 1911. He wouldn’t have come before 1910, I would think. I did find him again on the passenger list of the S.S. Grampian, May 1912. And I found Elsie again. Wait a minute. October 1912! The penny dropped. They both travelled over on the S.S. Grampian but at different times of the year. I was so blinded by the name of the ship that I did not realize that even though they were on the same ship, they travelled on different dates.
While this was not a brick wall, it was certainly a puzzle for me. A puzzle of my own making. Once again, this reaffirms that, while primary genealogical research is important, it is also valuable to revisit assumptions, documents, and notes. Look and look again and again. Most genealogists I know enthusiastically forge ahead and tend to neglect reviewing previous finds. I am no exception.
“Those of us already deep in the accumulation may also benefit from revisiting our past research.”
Brenda Dougall Merriman, Genealogical Standards of Evidence: A Guide for Family Historians
Elizabeth Mowat is my great great grandmother. I didn’t even know her name before I began my genealogy quest. I still don’t know much about her but I now have a photograph, a portrait of her in her “go to church clothes” with the requisite black bonnet.
There were no pictures of her in the box that started my family history search, although there was a family photograph of her husband William, her son Donald, his wife Alice and three of their children, William, Mary and James Dickson. I originally thought Elizabeth was alive at the time, so why on such an occasion was she not with them at the photographers? It later turned out she died in 1883 and not the assumed 1888.
It was through the internet and RootsWeb that I finally saw her face. Robert Harkness, from her daughter-in-law Alice’s line, said his family had lost all their old photos and information in a house fire but his uncle might know some family history. I wrote to his uncle, Bruce Harkness but did not hear anything. Then a couple of months later I received a letter from a George Dickson with photos and stories. He was also a relative of Alice’s and lived in the same apartment building as Bruce, in Belmore, Ontario. Bruce had shared my letter and it was George who responded. In the package was a picture of Elizabeth.
She was born in 1829 in Pulteneytown, Caithness, Scotland. Her parents were James Mowat and Isabelle Houston. It doesn’t appear that she had any siblings or at least any that survived to the 1841 census.
She married William Sutherland a shoemaker and 13 years her senior, May 1845, in Pulteneytown and they set out for Canada soon after. They sailed with two of William’s nephews and their wives so he had some family with him, but Elizabeth left her family and her life, never to see them again. There are Sutherland letters that have survived which reported on all the neighbours and friends so I assume the Mowats also heard about their daughter’s new life and family.
Elizabeth and William had seven children, William, James, Donald, Christina, Isabella, George, and John. They moved from Toronto to West Gwillimbury and finally to their own land in Carrick, Bruce County Ontario. After clearing the land and farming for a number of years they gave up the hard work and moved back to Toronto.
Elizabeth died in 1883 and William died in 1887. My sister Jeannie and I visited Mount Pleasant Cemetery and found their tombstone. The names were readable but not the inscription. As Jeannie went to the car to get some paper to try a rubbing, the sun came out and it’s angle made the inscription jump out,“The dead in Christ shall rise first”.
Ancestry.com. Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.Original data: Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013
Extracts of entries in an Old Parochial Register. Proclamations of Banns and marriages Parish of Wick, County of Caithnes general register Office, New Register House Edinburch on 26 September 2000.
Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Series: MS935; Reel: 36 Source InformationAncestry.com. Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1938, 1943-1944, and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1947 Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.Cert.
“The dead in Christ shall rise first.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16
By Sandra McHugh
When I say that my grandfather, Thomas McHugh, worked as a cipher, Bletchley Park, MI5, and Russian spies immediately come to mind. He was neither a Russian spy nor did he work as a cipher during the war. His employer was the Bank of Montreal and it was his first job when he came to Canada in 1912.
The decision to immigrate to Canada was not easy for Thomas. He was in his mid-30s and already had seven children, between the ages of one and fifteen. For over 40 years, the jute manufacturers of Dundee, Scotland had been providing employment for his parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, wife, and for him. However, by the early 1900s, he was facing a precarious future for his children.
By the early 1900s, Dundee had suffered a serious decline in the textile industry and more significantly, the jute industry. Jute was imported from India, however, the mill owners realized that it would significantly lower the cost of production to open mills in India to prepare the jute and import the finished product to Scotland. Once mills were established in India, the jute production in the mills in Dundee decreased substantially.1
So when Thomas arrived in Canada, a little ahead of his wife and his children, he was eager and prepared to do any job so that he could. The Bank of Montreal had its headquarters in Montreal, Quebec. In the early 1900s, the bank had significant dealings with Great Britain and there were correspondence and banking instructions back and forth between Canada and Great Britain daily. These instructions were mainly sent by telegraph overnight. There were two reasons for this. Some of these instructions were confidential and it was preferred that they remain so. Overnight instructions reduced the number of people who would have access to them. Another reason was the time difference between Montreal and the United Kingdom. The banks in London and Edinburgh were open for business while Montreal was still asleep.
Even in those days, the banks were concerned about security, privacy, and confidentiality. The banking instructions and transactions were submitted by telegraph and were encrypted. It was the job of the cipher clerk to decipher them so that the bank staff could then ensure that the instructions were carried out as required.
To be a cipher clerk, one had to be reliable, meticulous, and honest, and ensure the confidentiality of the bank’s business. The cipher clerk used a cipher handbook to decipher the information. Also, the cipher clerk worked overnight, so it was a difficult job for a man with a family.
So while my grandfather, the cipher, did not work in espionage, I still think that his first job in Canada was rather interesting.2
2 As related by my father, Edward McHugh