Tombstone Tuesday: the Black family in Kinglassie

In Kinglassie Cemetery, Fife:


“Erected by William Black in memory of his father and mother. James Black who died ??? 1897 aged 77 years and Caroline Goodall widow of James who died ??? 1901 aged 67 years.”

James and Caroline were my 3x great grandparents. They lived their entire lives within a small area of rural Fife; raising five children, including my great, great grandfather Alexander Black.

Before her marriage, Caroline worked as a domestic servant. Towards the end of her life, the census records her – aged 67 – working as an agricultural labourer.

As was usual for the children of the poor, the Black children all began work at an early age; my 2x great grand aunt Christian Black was a factory worker at age 12. William, who is responsible for the headstone, became the village blacksmith, while my great, great grandfather Alexander left Kinglassie and became a coal miner.

Seeing this headstone – the first of several I’ve found on my trip to the UK – was really quite special. The cemetery is barren and treeless and lies beside the B921 overlooked by the towering blades of the local wind farm. The headstone itself has toppled over and is unadorned, but it’s very existence is testimony to a son’s desire to honour his parents. Amongst my largely invisible ancestors this tangible symbol of family means a lot.

A tale of two children

My 2x great, grand aunt; by 12 she was already in the workforce

My 2x great, grand aunt; at 12 she was already in the workforce

Last weekend I took advantage of Ancestry’s free holiday weekend access to UK census records. It was a fruitful exercise and one that has (as always) raised lots of questions that are now bubbling around in my head and need Scotland’s People credits to answer.

But one little piece of data really leapt out at me from those census returns. In 1871, my 2x great grand aunt Christian Black was twelve years old, living in Kinglassie, Fife and described on the census as a factory worker.

Those two little words, taken in conjunction with her age, just about broke my heart. Continue reading