In search of Nicholsons

Dysart Barony Churchyard; resting place of Alexander Nicholson and family. Photo credit: http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/images/buildings

Having come to a dead end in my attempt to trace the Susans in my family back beyond Susanna Fowls ( I’ve written about that search here), I decided to try and sort out the collateral information I’d gathered on the way.

Much of this relates to the Nicholson family, into which Susan Forbes married in 1860.

Susan’s husband was Andrew Nicholson – the seventh of thirteen children born to Alexander Nicholson and Mary Todd (my 3 x great grandparents).

I’ve been really fortunate with the amount of information I’ve found about Alexander and Mary. This is, I think, largely because they seemed to have lived their entire lives in Dysart Parish, and because Alexander’s occupation – land surveyor – was sufficiently well-paid that he was entitled to vote (like his future son-in-law David Forbes). He is listed in the 1835 Register of  Voters as “Land Surveyor, Proprietor houses in Gallatown.”

The family also had a burial plot in the Dysart Barony Cemetary – with a headstone – so I’ve been able to get quite a lot of information from the headstone inscription.

Of the couple’s 13 children; I know that at least four died in childhood.

Alexander and Mary named two of their daughers Mary. Both died in childhood. This is the record of the younger Mary's burial.

Alexander and Mary named two of their daughers Mary. Both died in childhood. This is the record of the younger Mary’s burial.

Their firstborn, Mary (b. 1827) died in 1835 and is buried in the family plot. Both the OPR record for her death and the headstone inscription confirm this. The headstone inscription also refers to a son who died in 1840 aged 10 months, and two more daughters, Margaret (died 1847 aged one) and another Mary, who died in 1850 aged 3 years, 8 months. Margaret and the second Mary were twins.

Baptism record for Margaret and (2nd) Mary Nicholson, 1846.

Baptism record for Margaret and (2nd) Mary Nicholson, 1846.

The headstone inscription also refers to an Aunt, Ann Nicholson, who died in 1845 and is buried with the family. As I haven’t yet managed to find out who Alexander’s parents were, this could prove to be a useful clue.

Alexander died in 1848 – aged 44. His widow Mary, survived for another 35 years,  and seems to have spending her last few years in the household of her son Andrew and his wife Susan Forbes (my 2x great grandparents).

The census records for Mary (particularly those for 1851 and 1861) have proved to be quite useful in terms of leading me in new research directions, but I think I’ll save those stories for another day.

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6 thoughts on “In search of Nicholsons

  1. When I lived in Aberdeen I learned that women often did not take their husbands’ surnames. I wondered if you have come across this added difficulty in shaking out the tree?

  2. Hi Tish. Yes, that’s an interesting one. I’ve found quite a few records where women’s married and maiden names are both shown, and some where only the maiden name is given (especially the earlier census records). It’s both a difficulty, and sometimes a benefit because if you know the woman’s surname it helps identify her parents – plus it can help identify children because of the way kids were named after relatives in those days. It’s all such a wonderful cauldron of facts and supposition and guesswork; I’m thoroughly enjoying guddling about in it.

  3. Isn’t it a great word. I find myself using both Scots and Maori words more and more to express things English doesn’t quite manage.

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