Progress … but not quite what I was looking for

After a day spent in the public library trying to trace my namesakes back beyond my 2 x great grandmother Susan Forbes, I can report only mixed success.

The only Scottish records available through Ancestry and FindMyPast (both of which are available free at the library) are transcripts of census and voter records which are only really useful for the period 1841 – 1901. I had hoped to find Susan Forbes’ grandparents – John Forbes and Susan Foulis, at least in the 1841 census as I figured they would probably  have been in their 50’s or 60’s and might still have been alive. But no luck!

Some of the census records include individuals’ ages – which, although the accuracy is debatable, at least provide some parameters for further searching . Voter registration records also include the person’s qualification to vote, which, between the first Reform Act of 1832, and the second in 1867, was “men who occupied property with an annual value of £10.”

Both census and voter lists did prove to be useful in learning more about John and Susan’s son David Forbes (my 3 x great grandfather).  Continue reading

Time to get out of my chair

Seeing how rigidly my ancestors seemed to have adhered to a quite formalised pattern of naming their children – outlined very well by Judy Strachan at Judy’s Family Tree – I decided to see how far back I can trace my own name.

William, Susan and Elizabeth Elder. Photo taken in Kirkcaldy, Fife, probably around 1914-15

William, Susan and Elizabeth Elder. Photo taken in Kirkcaldy, Fife, probably around 1914-15

So far I’ve managed to track back through my paternal grandmother Susan Elder, to her maternal grandmother, Susan Forbes and on to her paternal grandmother Susan Foulis.

My great grandmother, Annie

My great grandmother, Annie Nicholson. Her mother was Susan Forbes, her daughter, Susan Elder.

But now I’m stuck.

I know from the death certificate of my my 3x great grandfather David Forbes, that his parents were John Forbes and Susan Fowlis.

From Scotland’s People, I have a copy of OPR entry for the marriage of John Forbes and Susan Foulis (it’s handwritten, so I’m taking the spelling here from the Scotland’s People and Family Search transcriptions).

From that, I know they married on the 13 November 1806, in Abbotshall, Fife, and that David was born a year later on November 1, 1807.

It appears from Family Search that John and Susan had at least four other children, Arthur, Elizabeth, Thomas and William. There are actually two entries for an Arthur –one in 1811 in Kinross, where Susan’s last name is shown as Fowlis; and the other in Abbotshall in 1816, where her surname is given as Foulis.

In my mind, two children called Arthur means either the first died, and the second inherited the name – or that there were two John Forbes/Susan Foulis (Fowlis) marriages at around the same time.

I’ve searched Scotland’s People for another marriage between a John Forbes and someone called Susan between 1790 – 1816 (figuring that’s a reasonable time frame if they were still having kids in 1816), but my ancestors are the only likely one, so I’m going to assume that they had two sons called Arthur. Kinross is only about 15 miles from Abbotshall, so it’s possible that for some reason John and Susan moved there for a short time, before moving back to Abbotshall.

My hypothesis is supported by a burial record for “John Forbes son” in Abbotshall in June 1816 – just a month before the second Arthur was born.

"John Forbes son in the first grave south of Roderick McKinsie's property also Thomas Forbes wife his grandmother"

“John Forbes son in the first grave south of Roderick McKinsie’s property also Thomas Forbes wife his grandmother”

The interesting thing about this extract from the Abbotshall Parish Register is the bit about Thomas Forbes wife. Whose grandmother? John, or his son?

The reason of course for all the digging into my ggg grandfather’s siblings is to try and figure out (based on that Scottish naming pattern) what John and Susan’s parents might have been called – vital since I’m having trouble finding their births. If the naming pattern holds, then John’s father should be a David (but was he a Thomas?); Susan’s an Arthur, and Susan’s mother an Elizabeth. As it seems John and Susan only had one daughter, I can’t really figure out what John’s mother’s name might have been.

At FamilySearch, I looked for a John Forbes born between 1760-1790 in Fife. Lots of hits but so little detail that it wasn’t helpful.

For Susan, I found a Susanna Fowls christened 20 June 1786 in Portmoak, Kinrosshire – father Arthur Fowls and mother Betty (Elizabeth?) Grieg. Portmoak is on the Fife side of Kinross – on the Leslie road in fact.

But now I’m into the realms of pure speculation, and lacking the resources to change that without going to the library (free use of Ancestry and FindMyPast) and the Family History Centre. So I guess I’ll have to squeeze one or both of those into the next week since I’m determined to compile a list of places (including churchyards) I should visit when I’m back in Scotland in September.

Where has the time gone?

Sometimes I can’t decide where a post belongs; probably because I don’t know what I’m going to write about until I begin writing. And as this is my family history chronicle, the boy-child’s skating obsession definitely belongs.

Oh, and when he’s a famous film-maker (my pension fund), you can say you saw his work here first.

12 weeks, 4 days and 14 hours … but who’s counting?

plane wing

My trip to the UK is booked; three weeks in September – sandwiched between the big T’s work travel and the boy-child’s exams. Eighteen days to visit all the archives, libraries, churchyards, ancestors’ houses, etc that I can squeeze in. Plus a visit to the National War Musuem in Edinburgh to see the Arctic Convoys exhibition, another to Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield, the Tate Modern, a couple of trips to the theatre … oh and a chance to see my Mum, brothers, cousins and friends.

Not sure if I can achieve all of this, but I’m taking a leaf out of my friend Alix’s book and PLANNING, PLANNING, PLANNING.

Weekly Photo Challenge: fleeting. Family photos in context

Fleeting moment: my great grandfather, Alexander Cruden captured by an unknown photographer.

A fleeting moment: my great grandfather, Alexander Cruden captured by an unknown photographer.

“Fleeting” seems an entirely appropriate term for the photo above. I believe that it was taken on Kirkcaldy High Street – although I don’t know when. It was probably taken by a professional street photographer as the original has a number on the back, but there is no studio name or other identifying mark.

I have three such photos; this one, another of my paternal grandmother and the third of my 2 x great grandmother (Alexander Cruden’s mother) with her younger son Stewart. I think I’ve also seen one of my mother as a young teenager, but I’m not totally sure about this.

Strolling ... Stewart Cruden and his mother with an unknown (to me) couple

Strolling … Stewart Cruden and his mother with an unknown (to me) couple

Susan Forbes Nicholson Elder. Kirkcaldy High Street. circa 1940s.

Susan Forbes Nicholson Elder. Kirkcaldy High Street. circa 1940s.

By its nature, all photography is fleeting; capturing only a fraction of a second out of a whole lifetime. But while an image is fleeting, its context may not be. The relationship between photographer and subject can be transitory – or incredibly complex. At one end of the continuum is street photography – where the subject is unknown to the photographer and the relationship between them lasts the duration of the shot, plus the time it takes to effect any transaction that might take place if those shots are printed “on spec” in the hope that subjects will buy the print (a phenomenon these days confined to tourist attractions, graduation ceremonies and school balls).

My mother and her siblings. L-R: Margaret, Elizabeth (mum), May, Sandra, David, Catherine.

My mother and her siblings. L-R: Margaret, Elizabeth (mum), May, Sandra, David, Catherine.

But as private camera ownership has grown – to the extent that millions of us have mobile phones with built-in cameras that allow us to capture images of those around us at any time – the relationship between photographer and subject becomes more complex.

As children, my parents only had pictures taken if the family went to a professional photographic studio, happened to be captured by a street photographer, or if an older sibling or cousin saved up for a Box Brownie.

My father was a keen photographer in his youth. This is one of many portraits he took of my mother.

One of many portraits my father took of my mother.

In his youth my father was an enthusiastic photographer. This meant that when he first became a father – to me – he took lots of pictures, and my babyhood is recorded in large numbers of prints and 35mm slides. By the time my youngest brother came along, although photography had become cheaper, my father had lost his enthusiasm, and subsequently there are fewer photos of Derek as a child.

My own son has been photographed thousands of times by doting parents and grandparents. The earliest images are of a tiny wrinkled bundle barely an hour old. Pictures of his first days, weeks and months of life fill several albums and boxes. These days, I snap him in airport lounges and cafes – pretty much the only times we’re together with nothing better to do than play with our phones.

Whatever the setting or timing of the photos I take of my child, they are always informed by the incredibly powerful, complex relationship I have with him. I want to capture him in ways he’ll be happy to see – especially as so many photos end up on my blogs or other social media and I’m not the kind of parent who’s saving embarrassing shots for his 21st birthday or to show girlfriends. I guess often I also want to create and share images that I think are beautiful and that do justice to how amazingly gorgeous I believe him to be.

What that means of course, is that there is a form of censorship at work when I photograph my child. It springs from a mother’s love and dictates that even the most candid, apparently fleeting image carries with it a story that is enduring; a story of love and belonging and connection.

This week the Daily Post‘s Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Fleeting.” Drop on by to find out more.