Thursday, April 02, 2009

The wonders of technology, genealogy division!

Genealogy geek alert!

Background: I've got a fairly complete picture of Francis McGee and Helen Cassidy after their marriage at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Edinburgh, 1848. He's born in Ireland (Donegal or Fermanagh, depending on which record I believe) while she's the daughter of Michael Cassidy and Mary Goodman, baptized at the same church in 1832. I've got them in various later censuses and details on several of their children, including my great-grandfather Peter who was adopted out, after his mother died and his older sister married and moved to Dundee. Despite having been poor Catholic costermongers (Francis was probably a famine immigrant who was likely too poor to pay for passage to the US so he went only as far as Scotland) in the tenements of Edinburgh, they did manage to leave trails in various record books.

(Side note: I'm very fortunate.... Scotland [Dad's family] and New England [especially MA; Mum's family] are some of the places with the best records for genealogists - both in terms of what's extant and in terms of what has been digitized and put on-line.)

(Second side note: on women’s names….. genealogists tend to list women by their birth name. This especially makes sense in Scotland, where women were much more likely to be listed by their birth name in records even after they married, especially before about 1865-ish. So it isn’t at all unusual to see records from say 1820 that say Robert Jamieson and Margaret Guthrie his lawful wife had a son Robert born and baptized.)

1851 census 685-1 Ed 3 p 6 (Lady Yester's)
231 Cowgate, Hasties Close.
Francis McGEE, head, 28, hawker costermonger, b Fermanagh, Ireland
Helen McGEE, wife, 20, hawker's wife, b Edinburgh, MLN
Margaret McGEE, daur, 1, ---------------b Edinburgh, MLN
1861 census 685-3 Ed 28 p 2 (Canongate)
341 Cowgate, Scotts Land.
Francis McKEE, head, 37, fishmonger, b Ireland
Ellen McKEE, wife, 27, fishmonger, b Edinburgh, Edin.
Ellen McKEE, daur, 11, --------------b Edinburgh, Edin.
Margaret McKEE, daur, 6, ---------b Edinburgh, Edin.
Edward McKEE, son, 3, -----------b Edinburgh, Edin.
(Daughters ages reversed on this return……)

Helen died in 1862, when Peter was not quite a year old. Francis didn't die until 1888, when his daughter Margaret (living in Dundee at the time; she was b. 1849 - I have the bp. record from St. Mary's) was the informant on the death cert.

I've found a couple possibilities for Francis on 1871 and 1881 but no one who is definitely him. For example, in 1881, there's a lodger listed at 65 Grassmarket as Frank with no last name, occ. fish hawker, 57 b. IRE, that I'm guessing is highly likely to be him.

Francis and Helen's son Peter (my great-grandfather) was born in Dec. 1861 in White Horse Close. He was adopted by James Jamieson and Margaret m.s. Guthrie of Leith when he was 6 or 7, so I'm guessing that happened when his older sister Margaret married in Feb 1868 and would have no longer been around to care for Peter.

In 1871, Peter is listed as a boarder with the family of James Jamieson and Margaret Guthrie.
Linden Cottage 3, Lasswade, Edinburgh, Midlothian
James Jamieson 50 boot/shoemaker Leith
Margaret Jamieson 51 Earlston
Robert G Jamieson 27 boot/shoemaker
Margaret Jamieson 18 paper mill wkr
Peter McGhee 9 boarder, scholar
Sarah S Richard 4 gradndaughter
Thomas Moffat 1 nursing

In 1881, he's with the same family as an adopted son.
Guthrie's Land, Old Sugarhouse Close, Leith
James Jamieson 60 Leith boot/shoemake
Margaret Jamieson 61 Earlston BER
Peter M Jamieson 20 Edinburgh adopted son sailmaker
Georgina D Jamieson 3 Loanhead adopted daughter
Robert Shepherd 40 boarder Greenock plater ship building yard
Janet Shepherd 37 boarder Leith
Hellen Newel 27 visitor Leith
Hellen Newel 1 visitor Glasgow

When Peter marries, he lists Francis McGee and Helen Norrie as his parents. (I'll come back to that bit about his mother's name.....) For Helen Cassidy, I had her parents' {Michael Cassidy and Mary Goodman} marriage in 1830 at St. Mary's RC church in Edinburgh, followed by the baptisms of Helen in 1832 and sister Jane in 1834. And then nothing until Helen marries Francis McGee in 1848.....

But I've had a couple (at least mini) breakthroughs in the least couple weeks! YIPPEE!

There are no further baptisms for the Cassidy family at St. Mary's, and I didn't see any the one chance I had to skim the Dundee RC records. I'm guessing that one of a couple possibilities happened:
a. they moved outside Scotland - maybe back to Ireland? And then back to Scotland with the famine in time for her to marry Francis in 1848.
b. one or both parents died, leaving 9 yo Helen to get skipped in the 1841 census. I've looked through many of the Helens (Ellens/Eleanors) born in the right time frame to see if Cassidy got completely mangled, or if there's a Helen with a last name that turns up in the various witnesses to family events.

So all speculation but fresh eyes do sometimes see something new. So I reposted the query about where Helen might have been in 1841 for the census at the TalkingScot forum, where there are lots of sharp-eyed researchers, one of whom (Sarah) posted this:

How about this one... (similar structure to the last name, even if the actual letters are different, and certainly initial C could look like G). Since I'm just looking at the Ancestry transcription, I can't tell if Gettany is for real.

Giles Street, South Leith, Midlothian
Beatrice Thomson, 50, born Midlothian, Washerwoman
Agnes Thomson, 20, born Midlothian, Dressmaker
James Hermanson, 20, born Midlothian, Glazier I
Peter Saunders, 22, born Midlothian, Labourer
Ellen Gettany, 8, born Midlothian

Do you know anything else about this family, e.g. what happened to Michael and Mary and if wee Jane survived?

I note that on the free surname search on SP there is exactly ONE occurrence of the surname Gettany. Guess where? 1841 census, of course. So perhaps that's how they actually wrote it. It does suggest, however, that this was not the standard spelling of
whatever her name was!

I think there's a good chance it's her. Who knows who answered the questions for the enumeration. The people in the household probably knew her mostly by her first name. Speaking from a phonetic point of view, every consonant is in the correct place in the mouth, just pronounced in a slightly different way. (e.g. you put your tongue in exactly the same place for "d" and "n" but just let some air out through your nose for the latter). Well, I won't bore you with the details but I found it quite convincing!

To which I replied:

Believe me, the details wouldn't bore me one little (glances at MA in linguistics hanging on wall..... ) and I think it is highly likely it is her....but figured some thinking out loud was a good idea, in case I'm overlooking something or my eagerness has me making leaps that I shouldn't - in which case, I'd hope someone would pull me back to reality.....tracing the wrong person/line is so annoying.

I looked at the actual return at SP; it does look pretty much like Gettany (surprise, surprise) but I'm still wondering if it might be her..... location not that far off, age is right, she appears at first glance to be an 'extra'* in the household, and I can see someone misreading Cassidy as Gettany when recopying handwritten returns (especially at the end of a long day....). I thought I'd looked at all the girls with something approximating the right name -- and esp. all those whose family names started with C, K, and G -- but I seem to have missed this one somehow..... eyes do cross after a while, I guess.

So, now the inquisitiveness kicks in.... random placement with an unrelated family? Or some relatives I don't know about? So many questions, so little time, Edinburgh (and its archives) so far away...... Thanks for looking - the new/fresh eyes are much appreciated!

* A scenario I was kinda sorta expecting, as I've found no trace of later baptisms after her sister Jane in 1834, which leads me to believe that one or both of her parents died in the mid/late 1830s if the family otherwise stayed in Scotland,
which seems likely, since Helen/Ellen/Eleanor/Norrie married there at the age of
16.... (and marriage quite that early also seems to suggest she didn't have much

On Helen's name: she is also listed variously in assorted records as Eleanor and Ellen; her son called her Helen Norrie on his marriage record, so I wouldn't be surprised if she went by Norrie or Nora, either. But I'm also thinking that Peter was a bit fuzzy on names and relationships.....

On Peter's adoptive father's death record, he lists James's parents as Thomas Jamieson and (-----) Hislop. I've found no trace of a Thomas Jamieson who married a Hislop in the right time frame. But I did find a Robert Jamieson who married a Janet Hislop in Leith in 1819..... and had a son James in 1820. James and his wife Margaret Guthrie named their biological sons Robert and James, while their daughters were Helen Mercer, Janet, and Margaret. Margaret's parents were Robert Guthrie and Helen Mercer. So far, so good on the naming pattern. Second daughter should be for James's mother - so the Janet checks out. Third daughter is most likely named for her mother - so third daughter Margaret fits the typical Scots naming pattern as well. If James's father was Robert, then the first son should be named Robert, which he is. But Margaret’s father was also Robert, which muddies matters a bit and bumps naming a son after his father from the third son to their second son.

So I'm guessing that Peter messed up his adopted father's father's name just the way that he mixed up his mother's name ;-) What makes it all the more likely: it looks like Robert died well before Peter was in the picture, as Janet Hislop was described as a 'relict (widow) of Robt. Jamieson' when she married Gavin Chapman in 1844 in Leith. Janet Hislop Jamieson and Gavin Chapman are listed on the 1851 census at 11 St. Andrews St, Leith. She's 55, he's 45, b. Houston Renfrew, and a fireman.

Then the next breakthrough: the Old Parochial Register deaths/burials have now been digitized and they've gone live at Scotlandspeople. The OPRs are the records from before 1855, when Scotland started doing civil registrations of births, marriages, and deaths. The OPRs are basically the records of the established Church of Scotland (a.k.a. Presbyterian) and so one mostly actually gets baptisms, banns, and burials, rather than births, marriages, and deaths. Since it is the established church, many people (Catholics and Free Church adherents being the prime ‘culprits’) didn’t bother to register various events. The baptisms and marriages have been indexed and available for years, but indexing the burials was proving to be a bit harder, as many as listed as ‘a child of Mr. Cameron’ or ‘old widow McDonald.’

So I took a peek. Since I wasn’t at home, I was working from memory, and I know the details of the Cassidy/McGee line pretty well, having gone over it lots. But they were Catholic, based on the records I'd found at St. Mary's. Was it worth trying?

Yup, it was. Occasionally one gets lucky!

There she was: Mary Goodman, age 29, wife of Michael Cassidy, buried 6 Sept 1835. So the theory that at least one of Helen's parents had died as the reason that I'd only found the two children's baptisms looks like it's true.

A remaining mystery: In January 1855, Francis and Helen have a daughter named Helen, and Francis toddles off from Hastie's Close, where they are living, to comply with the new registration law.

What caught my eye: the next line, child born same day as Helen and registered the same day, with the same witness to their father's marks. It's a James Callaghan, son of Thomas Callaghan and Mary McGhie, also resident in Hastie's Close. Aha, I think..... Any chance Mary is related to Francis? If not, it is quite the coincidence.

James's entry says his parents were married in 1844 in Dundee. Thomas, age 30 in 1855, was born in Co. Cavan, Ireland, while Mary was 38 and born in Donegal. James is her 4th child, with the previous three all deceased.

When I was in Scotland a couple years ago, I found their marriage record at the Catholic church in Dundee: 9 July 1844, witnessed by James Trainor and Mary Farrell.

Ancestry's 1851 census lists a Thomas 26 and Maria Kallican 25 at 89 Murraygate, Beattie Close, on the 1851 census, with a son Thomas aged 1 that might well be them. Hurrah for census searches that don't require a last name!

But I can't find them in the death records or later census returns. I've tried lots of combinations of spellings/Soundex/wildcards with no luck. Looked through the US census and immigration records, just in case, on the off chance that they immigrated and I'd manage to find them amongst all the possible spellings.

And in my wilder moments , I wonder if James and Helen were actually twins, with Francis and Helen not able to handle them and letting his sister and her husband adopt one. And in the really wild moments, I figure maybe someday I'll track down a direct male descendant of James to compare his DNA to the test my dad had done as a present for me.

Yes, the twin thing is waaaaaay, waaaaaay out there. But I'm sure you can see why I occurred to me, despite the am/pm difference - one family with 3 babies who've died, the other with (possible) twins and little to no income.

I think it is likely that there is some connection, even if my wild twin theory is wrong, as there seems to be some movement between Dundee and Edinburgh for both these families - plus there's a surname that turns up in baptismal and marriage witnesses for both that is a bit less common - McPhilips.


robin said...

That is really interesting! I started getting into genealogy a few months ago and signed up for I managed to tap into some other members' family trees (again, on my Scottish/English side of the family - you are really right about those records being the best). It went back to the 1300s!!

BJ said...

Yes, it does get addictive, doesn't it? If you ever have questions or need help, feel free to email me. Glad to help!
With some more poking around last night, I think I found where Peter McGee Jamieson got the Thomas he gave as his grandfather's name. Janet Hislop Jamieson Chapman (Robert's Jamieson's wife) had a brother Thomas Hislop (a minister, so he was likely somewhat prominent...). I'm guessing that - since the people involved died before Peter was old enopugh to remember them - the names got jumbled ;-) when he was trying to deal with his father's death. But I admit that it makes me feel a bit more comfortable deciding Peter goofed if the name didn't just come out of thin air.....