My hunt for Nicholson ancestors has made significant progress since I found Mary Todd, wife of Alexander Nicholson and my 3x great grandmother – in the 1851 census.
Between the 1841 and 1851 censuses Mary gave birth to five more children, including twin girls. who both died in their first three years. She also buried her mother Margaret, in October 1846 and her husband of twenty years, in November 1848. On a happier note, her eldest living daughter, Ann, married Alexander Campbell, a Railway Overseer, in April 1848.
At the 1851 census Mary Todd was living at “Country Road, East Side, Dysart”. Her household included her children Joanna, 18; Jemima, 15; Alexander, 16; William, 14; Andrew, 12; Isabella, 10; Jean, 9; Christian, 6; and Mary’s father James Todd – a retired Carter aged 74 (according to the census).
There was also a lodger called Robert Greig, who went on to marry Jemima Nicholson in July 1854.
The presence of Mary’s father James Todd in her household at that time gave me my first ancestor I could firmly place in the 18th century, and told me that he was born in Dysart. Mary’s birth and death records also tell me her mother’s name was Margaret Sinclair (death record)/ St. Clair (birth record).
I also have James Todd’s death record from Scotland’s People. It shows his parents as James Tod and Margaret Stewart. This is a wee bit at odds with the birth record I found (the only James Tod born at around about the right time), which show his parents as James Tod and Helen Stuart. The different spelling of Stuart/Stewart is to be expected, but the first name difference bothers me a bit.
I’m sure the death extract from Scotland’s People is for the correct James Todd – because his occupation and address are consistent with other information I have, and because the informant of the death is given as his grandson Andrew Nicholson (my 2x great grandfather). I’m guessing that Andrew (who was unlikely to have even been born when his grandfather’s parents were alive, may have mistakenly given the wrong name – his grandmother’s rather than his great-grandmother’s?
There is a wee bit of evidence for this hypothesis of a mistake in the reporting. James Todd and Margaret St Clair had three children together – Helen in January 1798, Jean in February 1802 and Mary (my 3x great grandmother) in June 1803. If James’ mother’s name had been Margaret, I would have expected to find a daughter with that name.
James Tod senior and Helen Stuart were married on 21 November 1767 in Dysart. I don’t yet know how old they were at the time, but assuming they were at least 18, that means they were alive – albeit children – at the time of the Battle of Culloden. It’s also possible that their parents were born before the Act of Union of 1707 and thus were born citizens of Scotland, not the United Kingdom.
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.
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.
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.
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
Ok, so the second mystery. It’s not as juicy as the significance of the mysterious John Boyd – but I’m curious all the same.
Susan’s three Trustees were John Boyd, William Nicholson (her youngest child – and given that he was born 23 years after her first child, probably something of an after-thought), and David Forbes Nicholson, Susan and Andrew’s eldest surviving son.
What I’ve learned about David so far is that he was their third or fourth child, and the first to survive more than a few weeks. He was born in 1865 while the family was living in Glasgow. The 1881 census shows 16 year old David as an apprentice bank clerk. He then disappears from the Scottish records until the 1901 census. There is neither a mention of him in the 1891 census, nor a marriage record, although I know he did marry. I suspect he was living in England for at least part of the period (why? I’ll tell you in a minute).
By the 1901 census David has reappeared and is living at Rosslyn Villa, Windmill Road, Kirkcaldy with his wife, Minnie and a servant named Elizabeth Penman (who I’m sure is related to David’s brother-in-law and my great grandfather, Thomas Elder). Minnie’s place of birth in the census is given as Guernsey, Channel Islands. That makes her the first member of my ancestral family that I’ve found who was born outside of Scotland . David’s occupation is given as Inspector of Poor, Collector of Rates and Clerk to the School Board – probably not the most popular man in Kirkcaldy!
In the 1911 census, he and Minnie are still living at Rosslyn Villa, but now have a servant called Helen Marshall. Minnie’s sister Louisa Warry is also living at the address. David’s occupation is now given as Inspector of Poor, Parish Council.
The reasons I suspect that for at least some of the years between the 1881 census and the 1901 census, David Nicholson lived in England are first of all that Minnie is English. According to Susan’s Will, Minnie is actually called Mary Ann Clementine Warry. In those days I don’t imagine single women had the same freedom to travel, so I’m guessing they met closer to Minnie’s home than David’s. Also, a search of the English census records for 1891 in FindMyPast gave me an entry for a David Nicholson, aged 26 (tick), working as a bank clerk (tick) and living as a lodger at 42 Rectory Road, Hackney. The problem is that his place of birth is listed as Kirkcaldy, Scotland and I know that while the family is from Kirkcaldy, David was born in Glasgow. However, the other person listed as living at the same address is also a bank clerk from Kirkcaldy, so it is possible that there was a mix-up in either listing or transcribing the birthplace. I did this search in a rush at the library, so will have to go back and investigate further.
Anyway, I’m curious about David and Minnie. I don’t know when or where they were married, and whether they had any children. There are no children living with them in either the 1901 or 1911 census, but it’s possible they did have one or more kids who did not survive.
One of the reasons I’m interested is that in Susan’s Will she left three portraits in oils to David. These were of Susan Forbes, Andrew Nicholson and Andrew’s father Alexander Nicholson. Since I have no photos of any of these people, I’m utterly fascinated by the idea that there were portraits in existence. Since it seems that neither David or William had surviving children, I wonder what happened to the paintings. My guess is that they’ve been destroyed, and this makes me incredibly sad.
David Nicholson died on 16 January 1946, at a nursing home in Burntisland, Fife. he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and cardiac failure. His brother William is given as the informant of his death, and his usual address was given as Ladysmith Cottage, Windmill Road. This was the house his mother retired to and the house that William lived in, and inherited from Susan. Minnie had died in 1934, and it seems the two – apparently childless – brothers shared their mother’s house after that time.
William died in 1964, at the age of 81. When I mentioned to my dad that I’d been looking into this part of the family (his maternal grandmother’s line), he remembered both his great uncles Bill and David. He’s never mentioned the two great aunts, Elizabeth and Mary – so I guess I’ll have to check them out next.
… there’s a mystery (or two).
Apologies for the terrible pun, but I’ve just been looking through my 2 x great grandmother’s Will. Susan Forbes died in 1912, leaving what seems like (certainly for my family) a reasonably tidy estate.
1912 being well before the advent of “plain English” Wills, I’ve struggled a wee bit to unpick all the jargon and get to the juicy bits – who got what! In fact, I’ve actually been a bit sidetracked by a couple of mysteries.
Who was John Boyd?
Susan Forbes named three Trustees in her will; her sons David and William Nicholson – and also John Boyd, Teacher, Dysart.
I initially assumed that John Boyd was a son-in-law since, as well as her two sons, Susan had three daughters (Mary, Elizabeth and Annie) who survived to adulthood. All three are named in her Will along with their husbands. Mary married a George Brown, a Joiner; Elizabeth married a David Oliphant, a Grocer, and my great grandmother, Annie married Thomas Elder, an Ironmonger. So no John Boyd there.
The 1911 census shows a John Boyd aged 64, School Master, living at 33 Normand Road, Dysart along with his wife of 34 years – Jessie – and three adult daughters. John’s place of birth was Perthshire, and although I’ve found branches of my family in that region, the Forbes-Nicholson lot seem to have been in Fife (in fact in and around Kirkcaldy) for generations, so there’s no obvious Perth connection. Jessie Boyd, however, was shown as having been born in Dysart.
My next thought was that Jessie Boyd may have been a sister of either Susan Forbes, or her husband, Andrew Nicholson. That didn’t seem to be the case, so I used some of my dwindling supply of Scotland’s People credits to try and find the marriage of John and Jessie. The only one I found that fitted the time-frame (I assumed they married in Fife on the basis that it seemed more likely he or his family had travelled from Perthshire to Fife (like so many others looking for work) than that she had travelled to Perthshire, married then come back to Fife).
It’s testimony to how much I love a mystery that I actually used up my last credits to see the extract of the Marriage Register. It looks like the right John Boyd; the age matched the census and his occupation was given as Public School Teacher. Jessie’s maiden name is Watt, and that’s not a name I’ve found anywhere in my family tree so far. John’s mother’s maiden name was Scott. I was about to write that this hasn’t appeared in my family tree either EXCEPT THAT …
… my great grandmother Annie Nicholson (daughter of Susan Forbes of the cryptic Will), had an illegitimate son in 1894, named Andrew Scott Nicholson. His father is not named on his birth certificate and I had wondered where the Scott came from. At the time Annie was a Public School Teacher – the same as John Boyd.
Is it too far-fetched that my 2 x great grandmother named as a Trustee in her Will the married-to-someone-else father of her illegitimate grandson? Susan Forbes seems to have raised her grandson – despite his mother living around the corner with her husband and legitimate children. She also left Andrew £100 in her Will. Actually, she left it in Trust – earning interest until Andrew reached majority (not sure what age that would be – 18 maybe?). The more I learn about Susan, the more I realise she was a very canny woman.
So there’s my first mystery? Who was John Boyd and why did Susan Forbes make him a Trustee?
I know that the Fife County Archive has Minute Books for schools in Dysart that cover the period my great grandmother was a teacher there. If I ever get my UK trip organised, I’ll have a look and try to find out if John Boyd was a colleague. Meantime, I’ll try to think of other connections that I might be able to verify.
Any suggestions about this very welcome!
And so to the second mystery …
where does time go when I’m blogging? Actually that’s not it, but I’ve just seen the clock, and I’ll have to make the second mystery another post.
Bye for now.
Featured image thanks to photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/joelmontes/4762384399/”>JoelMontes</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
With thanks to Lisa Alzo, author of The Accidental Genealogist blog for her wonderful idea to “celebrate and honor ‘fearless females’ in our family trees”. This post is inspired by her ‘Names and Naming Patterns’ suggestion.
As a very small child I used to get confused by my family. Both my granddads were called David, I had three uncles called David, a couple of Uncle Sandy’s and more than a few Uncles Bill. I also had an Aunt Sandra, a cousin Sandra, two cousins called Robert and two called Elaine.
Partly these came about through marriage, but mainly it’s because my family seemed to adhere to a very Scottish pattern of naming children. I won’t try to explain it here since Judy Strachan at Judy’s Family History has done such a good job of it already. In fact, it’s since I read Judy’s post on the subject that I’ve been able to add a few more people to my tree. These have tended to be children who were born and died between censuses. I’ve found them because I knew they probably “had to” exist – based on the names I had for family members who did appear in the records.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m named after my paternal grandmother, Susan Elder. What I only discovered recently (see above) was that she was named after her (maternal) grandmother, Susan Forbes. Actually, in writing this, I realise that my parents weren’t really adhering to the pattern, or I would have been called have been Margaret; and that would have made three – no four living related Margaret’s for me to be confused about.