Monday, 20 February 2012

I'm pleased to announce that our websites are now working normally again

Thanks to a small company,, we now have all our websites online and fully functioning again. This also means our usual email addresses are working again.

Here are some of the poplar areas of our website:

Thursday, 16 February 2012

You can still access our website

If you have visited in the last day you will have found it is unavailable. Don't worry though, we are simply changing some things in the background and it will be back to normal soon.

Our website is still accessible here: and you can search the census for free.

If you need to contact me please use the email address

I'll let you all know when we're back up and running - thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Sudden Death of a Montrose Woman - Elizabeth Sherret

I discovered this sad tale in the Montrose Standard and Mearns Register (August 26, 1864, page 4):

Sudden Death Of A Montrose Woman At Blairgowrie. – On Sunday morning last, a woman was observed sitting on a stair in the High Street, Blairgowrie, apparently in an exhausted condition. The neighbours removed her to a green at the back of one of the houses, and prepare to give her refreshments, but before these could be prepared the woman breathed her last. The body was conveyed to a house adjoining the churchyard, and was decently prepared for interment by authority of Mr. Robson, inspector of the poor. It has now transpired that the woman’s name is Elizabeth Sherret, about 49 years of age, and that she belongs to Montrose. Her sister is, we understand, presently residing here. The remains were interred in the Blairgowrie Churchyard on Tuesday afternoon.

We can search newspapers for you; did your ancestor have an untimely end? Contact us and ask how we can help you add more colour to your family tree.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

John Flynn the Vagabond

Looking through the Kirkcudbright Sheriff Court Records of Criminal Trials April 1858 to March 1859, as you do, I found the following case which interested me. This is just one the thousands of criminal trials from the South of Scotland. We hope to produce an index but in the meantime we can easily search them for you; just email me:

This criminal court material has been bound but originally was folded. When folded the following would have been seen form the outside to inform as to the bundle’s contents (it now appears in page 34 of the book: NRS reference SC16/51/16 pages 29 to 34).

Punishment for Desertion of Wives,
and Refusal to Maintain Ille-
gitimate Children

Petition and Complaint
John Thomson

Inspector of the Poor of the Parish of


John Flynn, now or
lately residing in Castle

[Page 29 of book]

Unto the Honourable The Sheriff of the County of Kirkcudbright or His Substitute. The Petition and Complaint of John Thomson, residing in Gatehouse-of-Fleet Inspector of the Poor of the Parish of Girthon in the County of the aforesaid, with concourse of George Hamilton Esquire Procurator Fiscal of the said County:

Humbly Sheweth,

Than and Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament in the year One thousand five hundred and seventy-nine, Chapter Seventy-four, intituled. ‘An Act for Punischment of Strang and Idle Beggars and Reliefe of the Pure and Impotent.’

That by Statute Eight and Ninth Victoria, Chapter Eighty-third, passed of date the Fourth day of August, One thousand eight hundred and forty-five, intituled ‘An Act for the Amendment and better Administration of the Laws relating to the Relief of the Poor in Scotland,’ it is enacted, Sction Eightieth, ‘That every Husband or Father who shall desert or neglect to maintain his Wife or Children, being able so to do, and every Mother and every putative Father of an Illegitimate Child, after the Paternity has been admitted or otherwise established, shall refuse or neglect to maintain such a child, being able to so do, whereby such a Wife or Children or Child shall become chargeable to any Parish or Combination, shall be deemed to be a Vagabond under the provisions of the aforesaid Act of the Scottish Parliament, passed in the Year One Thousand five hundred and seventy-nine, and may be prosecuted criminally before the Sheriff of the County in which such Parish or Combination or any Portion thereof is situated, at the Instance of the Instance of the Inspector of the Poor of such a Parish or Combination, and shall, upon Conviction, be punishable by Fine or Imprisonment, with or without hard Labour, at the discretion of the said Sheriff.’ That

John Flynn Labourer now or lately residing in Castle Douglas and now or lately working on the Castle Douglas & Dumfries line of Railway.

has been guilty of a breach of the said Enactment, in so far as*

That the said John Flynn is the Husband of Ann Colquhoun or Flynn presently residing in Gatehouse of Fleet in the parish of Girthon, and

*Here insert the narrative of the particular offence, taking care to observe the description in the Statute, particularly narrating - 1st That the part is Husband or Father or Putative Father, or the Mother, as the case may be; 2d. The desertion or neglect, or refused to maintain being able so to do; 3d. That the Wife or child has thereby become chargeable to the Parish.

[Page 30]

is the father of the three children born by her to [date.?? (obscured by binding)] That the said John Flynn has for some time de[serted] his said wife and children, and refuses, or ref[used] to maintain them although he is perfectly able so to do; That in consequence of the said desertion and refusal or neglect by the said John Flynn the said wife and children have become charge[able] to the said Parish of Girthon, and the pet[itioner] the said John Thomson has has advanced and i[s] still advancing sums of money for the suppo[rt] of the said Wife and Children.

The Petitioner herewith produces Extract from Marriage Register Kept by the Roman Catholic Clergyman at Dalbeattie of Marriage between the said John Flynn & Ann Colquhoun

That therefore the said John Flynn
ought to be punished in terms of the foresaid Enactments.

May it please your Lord to consider the foregoing, and in respect of what is before stated, to grant warrant to Officers of Court and Assistants, to apprehend the person of the said
John Flynn, and to bring him before you to answer to this Complaint ; and thereafter, upon what has been therein stated being either admitted or proven, to Decern and Adjudge the said John Flynn, as a Vagabond in terms of the before recited Statutes, to forfeit and pay such fine, not exceeding £10 Sterling, as to your Lordship may seem proper, and, in the event of failure to pay the same, to grant Warrant to imprison the said John Flynn for such period, not exceeding 60 days, as your Lordship shall fix, unless paid before the expiration of such period, or to Decern or Adjudge the said John Flynn to be imprisoned in the Common Gaol or House of Correction of Kirkcudbright and for such period, not exceeding 60 days, as to your Lodrship may seem proper, and grant Warrant to imprison him accordingly, or to do otherwise in the premises as your Lordship may see cause, all in terms of the foresaid Acts of Parliament.

According to Justice, &c.

John Thomson

14 March 1859
Wants concurrence
Henry Hamilton Pror. Fiscal

[page 31]

At Gatehouse on the 5th day of April 1845 John Flynn and Ann Colquhoun were married by me in the presence of Bartlry McKenna, Samuel Rogers and others - (signed) John Strain.

Extracted from Marriage Register this 24th day of March 1859.

Alexander Gordon

24 March 1859

[page 32 back of page 31]

Certificate of Marriage
John Flynn
Ann Colquhoun
5 April 1845

Produced with
Petn. & Complt. of Inspr.
of Girthon v John

[page 33]

Having considered the foregoing Petition and Complaint, grants Warrant to Officers of Court and their Assistants to apprehend the person of John Flynn complained on, and to bring him before the Steward or his Substitute for examination, and to answer to the complaint.

(signed) W H Dunbar
Kirkcudbright 31 March 1859

At Kirkcudbright the eighth day of April,
Eighteen hundred & fifty nine years
In presence of W. H. Dunbar. Esq. Steward Substitute
of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright

Compeared the Prosecutor John Thomson with his
Agent W. S. Ewart, Writer in Gatehouse. Compeared also
the said John Flynn and the foregoing Complaint having
been read over to him he answers that he is not
guilty of the charge therein contained.

(signed) John Flynn                  (signed) W H Dunbar

The prosecutor adduced the following Witnesses in
support of the Complaint who were examined upon oath:-

Ann Colquhoun or Flynn, residing in Gatehouse.
John Thomson, Inspr. of Poor, Gatehouse.
The prrosecutor adduced his Proof
(signed) W. S. Ewart Pror.

The pannel stated that he had no evidence to adduce in exculpation.
(signed) W H Dunbar

[page 34]

Kirkcudbright 8th April 1859. The Steward Substitute finds the pannel the said John Flynn guilty of the charge set forth in the foregoing Petition and Sentences and Adjudges him to be imprisoned in the prison of Kirkcudbright for the period of Sixty days from this date with hard labour, and grants warrant to all concerned and Decrees.

(signed) W. H. Dunbar

Thursday, 9 February 2012

We're fixing our website

We are moving our website to a more reliable company, this will mean you can start searching the census and prison registers for free again.

While we make the switch we may be without our usual email for a day or two, we apologise for this and have set up a new email address which will work throughout this changeover period. The new address is:

Thank you all for your patience, I'll let you know when we're up and running. Once the changeover is complete the website and email will work as normal, you don't need to change your bookmarks or anything.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Robbie Collins An Eccentric Vendor

I have been doing some Dumfriesshire research this evening and remembered about this fantastic story. It is in the book "Worthies of Dumfries and Galloway". A fine read by anybody's standards! I particularly like the part where he he sent for the cuddy, got it hoisted up the stair of the shop, and then desired the wondering beast to look round on all the grandeur and tell him “what it thought of Collins now?”

Robbie Collins
An Eccentric Vendor

Poor Robbie Collins, who was known far and near as a vendor of stationery and smallwares, was buried in Troqueer Churchyard in March, 1830. Although he had no secret hoard like Wull Steenie, his books and cloths, when turned into money after his death, sufficed to lay his head decently in the grave, even to leave a balance, which was handed to the treasurer of the Kirk Session, so that in one respect he was on a par with miser Wull, and though a pauper himself, he left a legacy to the poor.

Robbie was a native of Ayrshire, and at one time in his varied and chequered career he taught a small school in some Highland island. He was of short stature, lame of a leg, blind of an eye, and decrepit in mind as well as in body, and he said that he has a “spice of a knave in him as well as a fool.” He migrated to Dumfries about the year 1813, at which time he was possessed of only a few shillings. Gradually acquiring credit, however, with booksellers and other tradespeople, he traded his way so successfully that he at the last grew rich, at least he was able to deposit a sum little short of £70. Although his “round” was most extensive, he travelled very cheaply. He visited many thousands of people in the east as well as the south of Scotland, and there were few who grudged him a bed or a meal; indeed there were many who patronised Robbie when they could have purchased more cheaply elsewhere. Robbie had a fawning, winning manner, and as a “character” he was favoured by the rich as well as by the poor.

At times prospered the box slung behind his back was exchanged for a pair of panniers, which, when filled with smallware, were mounted on a donkey’s back, and Robbie, who had limped many a weary mile, thenceforward made his rounds more at his ease, and indeed quite “the gentleman.” By some means or other he fastened a printed label in verse on the donkey’s forehead, which served for a sign wherever he went, by intimating the owner’s name and occupation, and enumerating the various articles he had for sale.

Robbie had many a sore contest with his cuddy, which he designated as “a dour, thrawn, contrary beast,” and though he frequently tried reason with it in set speeches by the wayside, his eloquence was entirely thrown away. Nothing, however, could disabuse Robbie’s mind of the notion that the ass understood every word he said, and as he was an enemy to every form of corporal punishment, he endeavoured by gentle and lenient means to train it in the way that cuddies should go. But, like many other reformers, even of the present day, his plans were too Utopian, and in the end he procured a cudgel, and discovered that this argument was the only sort of logic fitted to make an impression in the long-eared tribe.

Robbie’s success in some measure “turned his head.” Tired of wandering, nothing would serve him but a little shop, ultimately he secured on in Church Place, Dumfries. This furnished with all sorts of small gear under the sun, and, as he had capital to begin with, he obtained plenty of credit. His arrangements being completed, he sent for the cuddy, got it hoisted up the stair of the shop, and then desired the wondering beast to look round on all the grandeur and tell him “what it thought of Collins now?” The speculation, unfortunately, failed, and, but for the kindness of a benevolent gentleman who allowed him pension of six shillings per week for many years, he would have been reduced to the greatest penury and distress. Thus succoured, however, he made long sweeps east and north, and was as well known in Edinburgh as he was in Dumfries. At one time he contemplated visiting France, and talked of drawing his pension on the other side of the Channel, and spending his days tranquilly in some sequestered corner of the finer climates of the south, and where, as he said, provisions were cheap, and taxes a trifle.

On another occasion he conceived the idea of making his fortune by marriage. He had set his fancy on two fair dames whose merits were on a par, and between whom he was as much divided as his cuddy would have been between two bundles of hay. To both of these ladies he wrote letters filled with all sorts of honeyed words, and determined to be the bearer of his own dispatches, and, as the ladies lived in the country (in the parish of Irongray to be exact), he commenced his wooing as the crow flies – that is, he called at the nearest house first, and delivered his epistle in due form. At the first the family took the matter seriously, but speedily relaxing, they merely laughed at Robbie, and instructed the servants to regale him in the kitchen. Collins “took the bite and the bat with it,” and then wended his way a mile or so further. As luck would have it, it so happened that the lady Collins first addressed was invited to tea at the second house of call, and as she travelled faster than her suitor, she got there before him. Of this the “braw wooer” knew nothing, and great was the merriment when the young ladies compared notes (for the first letter had been carried to the home of Robbie’s last hope as a curiosity), and found that the second letter was a facsimile of the first. The “Laird o’ Cockpen” had one string to his bow, but Robbie had two, and yet he was unsuccessful. Another meal was all the poor man got for his pains, and he departed as much crestfallen as his great prototype, and perhaps he said or sung, as he walked or rode though the glen, “they were daft tae refuse Robbie Collins.”

Scottish local photos and postcards now on Flickr

We have begun uploading our collection of photographs and old postcards to Flickr. Most of these will be free to use as long as you attribute them to us.

We're doing this because we know how important it is to see where your ancestors lived and how they lived, I believe you need to see more than a list of names and dates. When we create our luxury books we source photographs and postcards to help you visualise the lives of your ancestors.

Our collection is Scottish and mainly the Borders and Dumfriesshire however we may stray out of our area from time to time. We are trying to geotag photos and by giving descriptive titles and appropriate tags we hope the whole world will be able to find them! We still need your help though; if you have a personal story about a place in one of our photos can you add it in a comment. We hope it will be a simple way to share a lot of history

Take a look at our collection:

Monday, 6 February 2012

Family History Taster Sessions

From the Scottish Genealogy Society:

The Scottish Genealogy Society are offering a free session to those who are interested to find out about tracing their family tree. Each session will be held at the Society's Library & Family History Centre in Edinburgh between 10.00 - 12.00 on Saturday 25 Februrary 2012,  Saturday 24 March 2012.
Places are limited. If you would like to reserve a place please email your interest to Please indicate which date you would prefer and the number wishing to attend.

Maxwell Ancestry is on Flickr

We have started a Flickr account! The first photos to be added are the Hobkirk Kirkyard photos we took the other day. Over time we will be uploading the local photos collection already on our website with new additions.

At the moment we have not transcribed the gravestones. If you have a few minutes to spare and you can add a transcription in the comments box below the picture, I will come along and add your transcription to the description and add search tags so that everybody else can find and benefit from your transcription.

We are setting the copyright on our gravestone photos as attribution - creative commons, so whether you are a fellow professional or you find a a stone relating to your own family, feel free to use the image, just mention where you found it.

Add us as a contact and you’ll see when we add any new photos.

Come and see us:

Friday, 3 February 2012

Margaret Gow, died 1848 aged 33 years

I’m sorting through the photos from this morning (before I forget the order). Here’s another well preserved gravestone from Hobkirk Kirkyard.

In Memory of
Margaret Gow, wife of Walter Taylor, Farmer, Howahill,
Who died at Greenriver, 4th. November
1848, aged 33 years.
Also the above
Walter Taylor, Farmer, Howahill,
who died 9th January 1884 aged 74 years.
Also Isabella Taylor their daughter
died 13th October 1884 aged 46 years.
Also John Taylor their son
died 15th January 1885 aged 48 years
Also Thomas Taylor, their son
died 29th Sept. 1894 Aged 49 years.

Hidden under a yew tree

Found this stone hidden under a yew tree in Hobkirk Kirkyard. It’s been sheltered from the wind and rain.

Memory of
Margaret Jessie Kinsley
Only daughter of Jos. Kinsley
Causewayfoot, who died
October 30th 1869
Aged 3 months

Matt. XIX.14

Hobkirk Kirkyard photos

I had an enjoyable day out in the Scottish countryside today. It was a very cold but very sunny day. As traditionally gravestones face east I made a fairly early start to ensure I could catch the morning sun hitting the front of the stones.

I was looking for a particular stone, which I found quickly, but as I was there on such a beautiful day I decided to photograph all the gravestones in the older part of Hobkirk Kirkyard. An example is shown below, but someday we will try to make them all available online. In the meantime if you are looking for a particular grave e-mail me and I’ll see if I can find it for you.

In Memory Of
James Binnie Oliver son of
George Oliver Shepherd in Gatehous-
ecott who does at Carolcroft
June 21st 1853 Aged 20 years

George Oliver who dies at Burnfoot Sept. 12
1878 Aged 76 Years.

Elspeth Murray wife of George Oliver
who died at Gatehousecott, March 13th, 1862,
aged 62 years.

Also Robert Barnes their son in law
who died at Hawthornside 18th July 1894.
Aged 57 years

Also Elizabeth Oliver his wife who died
at Kinninghall 17th Aug. 1917, aged 86 years.