The metaphor inherent in the term family “tree” is apt in many ways – not least because some branches seem to bear more fruit than others – or at least more fruit that can be harvested.
Such is the Wallace branch of my tree. Donald Wallace was my 3x great grandfather. He died at the age of 41, and so gets written out of the story quite quickly, but in trying to learn more about him, I have begun to uncover rich and complex stories about other members of his family. Indeed, I’ve spent so much time pursuing these, that Donald himself has been somewhat neglected.
Like many (probably most) of my ancestors, Donald Wallace left little trace of himself in written records, although, having been born in 1830, the an outline of his life does appear in census and statutory birth, death and marriage records.
Donald’s birth is recorded in the Old Parish Register (OPR), for the parish of Kirkmichael in Perthshire. It reads:
Donald lawful son of James Wallace in Balnald and Ann Cunnison his wife born 13th and baptized 14th October 1830.
The same parish register records that James Wallace and Ann Cunnison married on 28 September 1828.
Ann Cunnison had given birth to another child, Ann Symon, two years before her marriage to James. While birth record shows the father’s name as Charles Simon, there is no evidence he and Ann Cunnison were ever married. Ann Symon seems to have lived her early life in the Wallace household, and died quite tragically at the age of 58 – and event I’ve written about here.
OPR records show that ten children born to James Wallace and Ann Cunnison, all in the parish of Kirkmichael. These were Robert, born 1829; Donald, b. 1830; Spence, b. 1832, Elizabeth, b. 1835; Alexander, b. 1837; Thomas, b. 1839; Charles, b.1841; John, b. 1844; Margaret, b. 1845; Christian, b. 1848.
1941 Census: Kirkmichael, Perthshire
The 1841 census shows Donald Wallace living at Balnald in Kirkmichael parish, with his parents and six of his siblings. This census contains a lot less information than those carried out later, but it does show that James Wallace was a shoemaker.
1851 Census: Craig of Solaire, Kirkmichael, Perthshire (probably)
While I haven’t been able to find a record for Donald in the 1851 census that I’m totally confident of, there is a Daniel Wallace, of the right age and birthplace, working on a farm in the parish of Kirkmichael. I’ve checked the OPR records for Kirkmichael for the period 1815-1840 (a huge window that would allow for age discrepancies on the census return), and there were no children named Daniel Wallace baptised in the parish during that time. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that Daniel is actually, as not all children were christened and therefore entered in the OPR. However, given that Kirkmichael was a small rural parish with otherwise pretty comprehensive OPR records, I think it is ok to assume – until I learn otherwise – that it was Donald Wallace who worked as a farm labourer for tenant farmer John Fleming at Craig of Solaire, Kirkmichael.
1861 Census, Moneydie, Perthshire
The 1861 census shows Donald Wallace living at Kinvaid Farm, in Moneydie, Perthshire.
The household consisted of the tenant farmer – whose surname is unclear on the census but may be Line (or Lion)– his wife and two sons, plus seven servants; six men, including Donald, and Jean Morrison, whom Donald married later the same year.
1861: Marriage to Jane/Jean Morrison, Dungarth, Perthshire
Their marriage record, in the District of Dunkeld, Perthshire, shows the date of marriage as 13 December, 1861, at Dungarth. Donald was 28, and a labourer. His address is shown simply as Dunkeld (a small town in Perthshire). His parents were named as James Wallace and Ann Kinnison.
Jane’s age was shown as 22 and her address as Dungarth. Her parents were listed as Peter Morrison and Betsey Philips – both deceased.
I can’t find a place named Dungarth in Perthshire, so I’m thinking it may have been the name of a house – perhaps where Jane was employed. Dungarth is also shown as the address the marriage took place.
The witnesses to the marriage were Andrew Kinnison and Margaret Rutherford. The latter name is totally unfamiliar to me, and while I don’t yet know who Andrew Kinnison was, I am working on the basis that he was a relation of Donald’s mother Ann – a brother or nephew perhaps?
Jane Morrison is one of the ancestors about whom I’ve learned quite a lot – and have written about here:
… so I’ll not retell her story here.
1871: Census, St Madoes, Perthshire
The 1871 census was taken on 2 April. It shows the family’s address as Woodside, St Madoes Donald’s occupation was listed as farm labourer, and the household consisted of Donald, Jean and four children; Ann, Margaret, Isabella (my 2x great grandmother) and James.
I know from FamilySearch and Scotland’s People that Donald and Jane had six children together:
Ann Kinnison, born Auchtergavin, 1862
Margaret, born Auchtergavin, 1864
Isabella Simpson (my 2x great grandmother), born Pitfour, St Madoes, 1866
James, born St Madoes, 1868
John, born St Madoes, 1870
Christian, born Longforgan, 1871
Neither Christian nor John appeared in the 1871 census because Christian was born later that year, in December; and John had died of bronchitis, aged five months, in February 1871.
As a sad aside: James Wallace died of croup in February 1873, aged 3 ½. Both boys died in wintertime of respiratory illnesses – as did their father.
1872: Death, Longforgan, Perthshire
Donald Wallace died on January 23rd 1872 at Mill End, Castle Huntly (now an open prison), Longforgan, Perthshire. He was 41 years old, and died of pneumonia. His occupation was shown as farm servant; probably for the Castle’s Laird, George Frederick Paterson. (2)
The informant on the death record was Donald’s younger brother Charles Wallace, who gave his address as 62 Cross Lane, Dundee. Donald’s parents James Wallace and Ann Kinnison; were both still living at the time of their son’s death.
For me, family history research is about sharing stories. I’ve had this post about Donald Wallace sitting unfinished for a while because, while I have been able to research the skeleton of his life, I don’t feel that I have much of a story to tell about him.
Here was a man who lived his life in a relatively small area; moving from place to place as his work took him. He and his family probably lived in housing provided by his employers, and his death left his widow and children not only without a breadwinner, but homeless as well. Barely a year after Donald’s death, Jean Morrison married again — to a widower named John Balsillie.
It’s tempting to say that Donald Wallace lived and died so long ago it’s hardly surprising that his story lacks detail and texture. Yet his daughter Isabella, who was five when he died, lived until 1944, and was very much a part of my mother’s life. My mum has great knowledge of much of her family, but this Wallace branch seems sadly bare, and it’s unlikely that will ever change.
(1) Wikipedia Bothy