Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Did your ancestors work the land?

If your ancestor was a farmer, shepherd or agricultural labourer you may be able to find information in estate records. 


Families who owned large estates would need their own records. These might record who were their employees, or who rented their farms. These records can be useful when you are researching your family history. For example, it’s not unusual for a farm to be rented by generations of the same family. This can be crucial information for periods when there are no census records or there are gaps in church records.

Valuation Roll, Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotalnd (1896-97)

In general, you are more likely to find records of farmers and shepherds than agricultural labourers. This is because the farmer would often sublet the cottages on a farm to workers, in fact, the cottage would probably come with the job. In this case, your ‘Ag Lab’ may not appear in the estate records. Having said that, records of this nature vary so if you are up against a brick wall it may be worth checking.


Step one is to find out the name of the estate and who owned it. There are a few ways to go about this. One way is to look at the Valuation Rolls, some of which are on ScotlandsPeople. They will tell you who owned a property, who was the tenant and who lived in it. Not all small properties are listed in the early years and they only go back to 1855. Although they were produced yearly, ScotlandsPeople has generally added the volumes ‘between the census years’ like 1855, 1865, 1875 etc. 


Another way to find out is to search the newspapers, this is particularly helpful for farms. If a farm was available for rent it will be listed in the newspaper and tell you which estate it was on. This is also interesting as it will tell you a bit about the land your ancestors farmed. 


Maps from the National Library of Scotland can also be very helpful. Ordnance Survey maps are good but there are also a growing number of estate maps available: https://maps.nls.uk/estates/


The Register of Sasines records heritable property being transferred.
In some cases, you may need to use property records. As these are not online, I try to use the other means already mentioned, but here is some information about Scottish property records:
https://www.scottishindexes.com/learningsasines.aspx


Once you know which family owned the farm you can search for their estate records. The National Records of Scotland and National Library of Scotland both have large collections so they can be a good place to begin. 


Archives across Scotland also have their own collections of estate records. Either go to the archive for the area your ancestor lived or search the Scottish Archive Network catalogue: https://www.scan.org.uk/.


The National Register of Archives is another good place to look. The National Register of Archives for Scotland (NRAS) was established by the Scottish Record Office (now the National Records of Scotland) in 1946 to compile a record of papers of historical significance in private hands in Scotland. You can search this catalogue here: https://catalogue.nrscotland.gov.uk/nrasregister/welcome.aspx


One thing to remember is that often these records still belong to the family. Think of your small family archive, perhaps you have photographs of your great-grandparents or letters written to your granny. These are precious and belong to your family. Even if the letter mentions somebody else it’s still your letter and it’s up to you how it is used. It’s the same with estate records, they still belong to the family. Many estates allow access but they are not public records. This means that some may have restrictions on copying and publication. Make sure you find out what these are. 







Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Robbie Collins - an Eccentric Vendor

Today we have another story from John B. Drylie’s book, “Worthies of Dumfriesshire”

"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 [I will tell you more about Wull in another post], his books and clothes, 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 short of stature, lame of a leg, blind of an eye, and decrepit in mind as well as in body, and it was said that he had a "spice of the knave in him as well as the 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 last grew rich, at least comparatively for a man of his grade, and he was able to deposit in the parish bank a sum little short of £70. His "round" was travelled very cheaply. Although most extensive, 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.


As 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 like "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 to 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 on the long-eared tribe.


Robbie's success in some measure "turned his head." Tired of wandering, nothing would serve him but a little shop, and ultimately he secured one in Church Place, Dumfries. This he furnished with all sorts of small gear under the sun, and, as he had the 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 a pension of six shillings per week for many years, he would have been reduced to the greatest penury and distress. Thus secured, 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 the 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 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 his 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 only 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 through the glen, "they were daft tae refuse Robbie Collins.""





Monday, 18 April 2022

Lawrence Murphy — what a chancer!

‘Worthies of Dumfriesshire and Galloway’ was written by Jon Drylie and published in 1908. It is similar to other publications of the period, giving a biography of various characters in the area. Today’s story is that of Lawrence Murphy aka, ‘Tarry Larry’. The challenge for us as family historians is to separate fact from fiction.


Some research shows that Larry died in April 1902 in Dumfries Poorhouse. His age is recorded as 101; is this correct? I started doing some digging and on Findmypast I discovered Lawrence Murphy in the Merchant Seaman records. We’re told that he first went to sea as an apprentice in 1835 and that he was born on 10 March 1822. This is a long way off his date of birth being around 1800.


I checked Scotland's Criminal Database on Scottish Indexes and discovered that Lawrence was no stranger to the prison at Dumfries. In 1841 his age was recorded as 20, which was about right. Eight years later in 1849 he’s only 6 years of age. By 1857 he’s only 42 and by 1868 he was claiming to be born in 1811. This age massaging continues. By the census of 1891, when he was living in the poorhouse, his age was recorded as 88, giving him a birth year of 1803/4. Somehow by the time he died he had managed to increase his age again! 


Bear these facts in mind as you read the chapter, ‘Tarry Larry’ from ‘Worthies of Dumfriesshire and Galloway’, written by John Drylie.


“Lawrence Murphy, who lived till he was over 100 years of age, and who died only a few years ago, was a native of Dumfries, and in the twentieth century he could relate to the smallest detail his recollections of the French prisoners in Dumfries at the beginning of last century. With them he was on intimate terms, and acted as a sort of page boy. For them he made excursions to Lochar Moss and the Long Wood for puddocks, frogs, and hedgehogs, on which the French officers would dine. Larry, as he was familiarly called, took to a seafaring life in his early days, and for almost half-a-century he followed that vocation, during which time he saw a good deal of the surface of the globe. He sailed a lot between Canada and Britain, and he used to say that "the very dogs in Quebec knew him."


Once when sailing on the "John Wilson," which was bringing home timber from Quebec, and which belonged to Laird Thomson, commonly called "the Laird," the skipper of the bark refused to allow the sailors the usual allowance of "grog." The weather was bitterly cold at the time, and "Larry," who was generally the ringleader in any adventure, undertook to supply the crew with a share of the special brandy which was contained in a big jar enclosed in a wicker case for the Laird's delectation. Larry's "modus operandi" was as follows. Cute enough not to touch the seal he turned the jar up-side down, and boring a hole into it, he extracted the liquor, which was substituted by salt water, the hole plugged up, and the jar returned to its proper place. The Laird naturally was amazed at the transformation of his wine into salt water, and he thought that the agent at Quebec had played a practical joke upon him. It was a year after that before Larry found occasion to explain the real reason for the disappearance of the liquor. He was rafting timber on the Nith at the foot of Bank Street, and when the Laird unwarrantably "yoked on " Larry, the latter took the Laird off with the remark - "Hech, ye needna be sae bubbly; we did ye wi' the brandy last year."


During his seafaring career, Larry was an adept at smuggling tobacco. He had no faith in the stereotyped false-bottomed chests, or any her worked-out fakes, but like Myles Crow, he was original in his ideas, and fortunately or unfortunately as readers may think, Larry was more successful than that unfortunate whom we met in a previous chapter. Sometimes Larry would tie the tobacco into a tight bundle, climb to the truck of the mast, secure the bundle there with a cord, and remove it from its lofty resting-place on the quiet. Another plan was to put the weed into an old canvass bag, tie it round and round with ropes, and then besmear the whole with tar. It is needless to say that such an article got little investigation from the officers of excise.



Tired of the sea, Larry settled down in Dumfries, and was principally employed rafting on the river. He had a constitution of iron, and was devoid of all fear. About sixty years ago the scaffolding at the Martinton Railway Bridge, on the Castle Douglas Railway, which was then being built, was carried down the Nith by a flood, and a considerable quantity of it was stopped by the piers at the New Bridge, Larry was swung from the bridge by a waistband and a rope, and by this means he tied ropes to the planking and machinery swirling in the flood below, which were then drawn safely to the side. Larry might be said to have been a water-kelpie. On one occasion someone, by way of a joke, had nut an advertisement in the newspapers stating that on a certain day an American diver would dive into the Nith from the Old Bridge. A large crowd of people turned out to witness the exhibition, but the Yankee failed to appear, and Larry, always ready to please, said: "We'll no see folks cheated; I'll dae't mysel'." Thereupon, Larry, fully dressed, dived from the Bridge to the great amusement of the people. He was warmly received on swimming to the shore, and like Tam Broon, who had accomplished the same feat several times, he was trotted across to the "Grapes Inn," and royally treated for his pluck.


Larry was also instrumental in saving a good many lives. On one occasion when he was about sixty years of age, two boys got beyond their depth at the "gullet pool" near the Caul. A man named Glendinning, who was rafting wood below Bank Street, ran to the spot, dived in after them, and disappeared. Larry, who had been similarly employed, stripped off his jacket and waistcoat, plunged into the river, and succeeded in rescuing one of the boys, Bob Bennet, a celebrated Maxwelltown worthy. also lent a helping hand, but as Larry said with a grin - "He was nae use." After Larry had brought the first boy safely ashore, the cry went up- "There's another!" and again our worthy dived and brought up the second boy. "Where's Glendinning?" was the next cry, and Larry with his unconscious humour, asked if there was "mair yet," and then diving brought up Glendinning, who, however, had succumbed in his effort to rescue the boys.



Shortly after that a painter named M'Culloch got into difficulties while bathing at the same spot, and Larry was again instrumental in saving life. Subsequently Larry came across this same man in a public-house, and as a reward, Larry wanted him to "stand his hand"; but the painter in an ungenerous and uppish fashion ordered Larry off, whereupon the latter retorted - "Ye needna be sae big; yo wisna sayin' that when ye wis gruppin' at the chuckie stanes at the bottom o' the gullet pool."


When Larry became unable through advancing years to follow the employment of rafting, his principal source of income was from tarring fences and wooden sheds, etc. When tarring high buildings, his experience before the mast stood him in good stead, and like the baker, the sweep, and the coalman, he bore marks of his profession, both on his clothes and on his hands and face. It was then that the younger generation bestowed upon him the nickname of "Tarry Larry." After the death of his wife, the poor old man fell on evil times. He lived in a little barrow shed in the yard of the White Hart Hotel, the site of which is now occupied by a big drapery establishment in Buccleuch Street, This shed was more like a dog's kennel than the abode of a human being, and it was pitiful to see him crawl into this box at night, and pull an old rag down over the front, which was all the protection he had from the strongest gale and the keenest frost. On one occasion he was found lying outside his hut, with his hair frozen fast to the ground, and it was only after hot water had been applied to his locks, that he was released. No ordinary man could have endured a tithe of the privations that Larry survived and indeed seemed to thrive upon.


Even in his later years, Larry was renowned as a pugilist, and being possessed of abnormal strength, he generally came out of any broil unhurt. Even when his legs would scarcely keep his body in an upright position, he would support his back against a wall and continue the fight with vigour, and sometimes his friends would hold him up from behind, while Larry kept his fists going like battering rams. One winter he was found lying covered with snow, only one foot being visible above the white blanket. It was then that he entered the Poor-house for the first time at the age of 81. In the Poor-house he was well behaved, and he was the generally accepted chairman of the room in which he and a number of other old people dwelt. His fighting spirit remained with him to the last, as will be evident from the story that when Larry was 98 years of age, he quarrelled with James M'Inroe, a frisky emigrant from the Emerald Isle, who was 88 years of age. Larry, who always respected the rules of the house," went to the Governor, and said:-"Please, sir, may I ha'e five meenits o' Jimmy M'Inroe ootside?" Of course the request was not granted, but Larry stoutly maintained that he could have settled Jimmy in two meenits."


Larry had only been a month or six weeks in the Poorhouse when he began to make approaches to the governor with the intention of asking permission to go and get his whistle wet. For some reason or other Larry's heart failed him at the critical juncture, and he always left the governor's presence without stating his errand. Probably it was the fear of being refused that prevented him from expressing his wish, but at last he could stand it longer-for Larry, it must be explained, was a man who could get drunk and sober two or three times a day before he went into the Poor house and being granted permission he remained outside for three or four days in a perpetual state of intoxication. Subsequently an arrangement was come to between Larry and the inspector of poor, whereby Larry consented to go to the Poorhouse on condition that he got out for an afternoon every month. Regularly for many years after that, the poor old man was allowed out to see his friends once a month, and, as regularly, Larry got roarin' fou," the cab men having a standing order to convey him to the Poorhouse from wherever they found him lying about the town. Latterly, our aged worthy was unable to walk out of the house himself, his legs, which for many years had been his greatest, and, indeed, his only physical defect, having become completely useless; but, notwithstanding, he was enabled, through the goodness of the inspector, to pay his monthly calls as usual by means of a cab, which was provided for his use on one afternoon every month. A cab was hired for the afternoon, the driver taking his instructions from Larry, and in this way he continued his periodical visits at his ease and comfort, and in a style worthy of his venerable age. Larry at last passed away in Dumfries Poorhouse on the 11th of April, 1902, in the 102nd year of his age.”


What a story! How can we separate fact from fiction? We can compare what we’re told, whether in a family story or a printed book, with original sources. We can be fairly confident that Larry did not go foraging for frogs on Lochar Moss to feed the French officers! The story about saving lives in the river may well be true, but he was a lot younger than he said and I suspect the story is greatly exaggerated. 


One thing we do know, however, is that Larry was certainly a character. Even if some of the stories are tall tales, they are very entertaining and I would be very happy to have him in my family tree!


These volumes rarely had large print runs. Although they pop up on auction sites from time to time, a good place to hunt for them is in local libraries. Many libraries now have their catalogue online. Note that this will be separate to the archive catalogue, even if the library and archive are in the same building. If you live in the UK you may be able to access some volumes through ‘inter-library loans’. 


Follow our blog for more from ‘Worthies of Dumfriesshire and Galloway’.










Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Why did you start tracing your family tree and why would you encourage others to start?

Here are five 5 reasons I think people should ask about their family history this weekend; there are many more I am sure!


Want to make a start? Use our free guide to help you get started:
https://www.scottishindexes.com/learningdetective.aspx 


One

It’s a great puzzle! Great fun. As you learn more it’s as if your jigsaw gets bigger and bigger. There are more pieces to find and more puzzles to solve. Some are easy; some are more challenging. If you love puzzles you will love family history! Is there a family mystery you want to uncover?



Two

It helps you understand your relatives. As you talk to your family about their life you learn more about them. More than that, though, you can learn more about the family you never met. Finding out about a great-grandmother could help you understand your parent’s childhood; the life experiences that shaped them. 



Three

It stimulates thinking and long-term memories. Sadly as we age our short term memories can suffer. This can make conversations difficult with older people. Asking them about their childhood can stimulate long-term memories and lead to an enjoyable conversation. Of course, some may not want to talk about it. Always be kind and considerate of other people's feelings. 


Four

It’s a great way to learn about history. We may know the basics of history but discovering your ancestor's place in the past gives you a whole new perspective. Were they some of the weavers who rioted due to low wages in the early 1800s? Did they leave Ireland during the great famine? Were they interviewed as part of a Royal Commission report into housing? Did they witness King George IV visit Edinburgh in 1822? Were they moved from their home as part of the Highland Clearances? Whatever part your ancestors played in the past they are part of history.



Five

Discover more about the place where you live. If you still live in the area your ancestors lived in, you may be surprised by what you discover. Did your children go to the same school as your great-great-grandmother? Is the house they live in still standing? If you are planning a trip to Scotland, knowing where your ancestors lived, even the house they lived in, can make the experience so much more enjoyable. 



Want to make a start? Use our free guide to help you get started: https://www.scottishindexes.com/learningdetective.aspx 


Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Lost loves and failed relationships: what happened in the past when a relationship went wrong and children were involved?


Whether married or not, if a man left the mother of his child because their relationship broke down this left the mother in a difficult situation. 

In the census we often see grandchildren living with their grandparents while the mother is working away from home, perhaps in domestic service. When you find children living with their grandparents, dig a little deeper to work out who they all are.


In Scotland, at one time most children took the surname of their father whether their parents were married or not. After 1855 however, the child would usually be registered under the mother’s surname. 


Generally speaking, it is easy to identify children on the maternal line as we find them with their mother or her family. What about on the paternal line? And how can we discover the background to this relationship?


Top tip #1


Search the Scottish Paternity Index for your male ancestors only. Leave all information about the mother blank and see if your ancestors fathered children you know nothing about. 


This index is predominantly an index to Sheriff Court records where the mother took the father of her child to court to force him to pay maintenance for the child. This can include unmarried mothers but also married women abandoned by their husbands.


You can search for free here: https://www.scottishindexes.com/paternitysearch.aspx 


Top tip #2


Check the Kirk Session records. Sadly there are very few indexes but the records themselves are free to browse on ScotlandsPeople. Look for the parish where your ancestors lived and read through the minutes. As well as finding cases of fornication you may find other entries relating to your family too. 


There’s no index but they are free to access on https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/


Top tip #3


A man who did not support his family could find himself in prison. Search Scotland's Criminal Database to discover who spent some time in prison. Again, these would include fathers of illegitimate children and men who refused to support their families. If you find a man in a civil prison there's a higher chance it’s this type of case.


Search here: https://www.scottishindexes.com/ScotlandsCriminalDatabase.aspx 





Top tip #4


Search poor law records. If a mother could not provide for her children she may have asked for assistance from the parish. These records may give a clue as to who the father of the child was. In the case of married women they may also indicate why the relationship broke down. 


Sadly these records are not all in one place. Use our free article her to locate the records for the area your family lived in: https://www.scottishindexes.com/learningpoor.aspx


Top tip #5


Divorce in Scotland was rare historically but it did happen. In fact, abandoned or mistreated women may have been given financial assistance to divorce or separate from their husbands. From 1830 until 1984, all divorce cases were dealt with by the Court of Session and the online catalogue of the National Records of Scotland may reveal if your ancestors were divorced. Find out more here: https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/research-guides/research-guides-a-z/court-of-session-records

Friday, 18 March 2022

What if they didn’t pay?

We’re often asked what happened if the father of an illegitimate child did not pay maintenance to the mother. If a woman had taken the father to court and proved her case there would be a decree made. This decree would be legally binding. 


For example Mary Irving who lived at Marjoribanks in Lochmaben, Dumfriesshire, Scotland had a child on the 19th of November 1871. At Dumfries Sheriff Court on 26 April and 7th Mary 1872 Mary pursued her case against William Richardson.


William Richardson is described in the case as the son of and residing with David Richardson, Farmer at Riggside, Lochmaben. David is ordered to pay Mary four pounds yearly as aliment for her child. He was to pay until the child was 10 years old. David was also to pay half-yearly and in advance. 



What did David do? Often the decree is the last mention of the case in the records. Our recent indexing project of prison records has uncovered more. We’ve just added an index to Dumfries (Maxwelltown) Civil Prisoners. In this register, we have found many men sent to the person for not paying aliment of children. One of these men is William Richardson. 


Interestingly he was sent to prison on 6 August 1872 for a debt he failed to settle with William Wright. The debt with William was settled a few days later but not the debt to Mary Irving. He languished in prison until 7 September 1872. 


For now, these entries are in the prison index on our website with a note, ‘Aliment of a child’. In time we will add these to the Scottish Paternity Index too. 


You never know what you will find in historical records. Search over 400,000 Scottish criminal records in Scotland's Criminal Database: https://www.scottishindexes.com/ScotlandsCriminalDatabase.aspx


 

Thursday, 24 February 2022

"I received your sister’s letter announcing the birth of a thumping laddie" - Betsy's court battle against a lawyer!

Graham and I were back in the National Records of Scotland this week. Being in so rarely these days really makes me appreciate getting my hands on original records. I love working with records of ‘ordinary’ people. Our ancestors, the ones who don’t pop up in the history books but are very important to us.


This week I discovered a hidden gem. On 13 June 1836 Elizabeth Aikman, an unmarried mother, gave birth to a wee boy. The father of this baby was Mitchell Patison, a lawyer in Edinburgh. We already knew from the decree that Elizabeth had won the case and that Mitchell was to pay £8 per year to Elizabeth. The court processes however add more detail, giving us the background of the case (NRS reference SC39/17/846).


You can search our index here: Scottish Paternity Index


What did the court process tell us in this case? We learn that to begin with, Mitchell paid for the child’s care, in fact, there were some very sweet letters. 


On 21 June 1836, Mitchell wrote,


“Dear Betsy, 


I received your sister’s letter announcing the birth of a thumping laddie - I am proud of it and I hope you and he will be long spared and the he will prove a blessing and I here solemnly pledge and bind myself to have him brought up and educated as well as any other member of my family in as far as my abilities will enable me to do…” 


By 19 April 1837 Mitchell was already behind with his payments. He wrote to Elizabeth’s representative:


“I enclose three pounds as I promised in my last, this pays you up to the first of June next so far as board goes. I am still your debtor however for £2 of expenses incurred by you which I will send some time next month - Let me know how the little fellow is getting on - I intend being out to see him soon as I can spare time.”


The case papers also tell us how Mitchell and Betsy met. Betsy was a servant at the neighbour's house and their paths crossed as the gate was opened. Although we see in this record that Mitchell had a change of heart, we’re not told why this happened. Why was it that at first he was so pleased about the birth and happy to support Betsy? What changed so that Betsy had to drag him through the courts?


Mitchell was a lawyer so it is hard to believe that he simply couldn't pay. We cannot say for sure why Mitchell stopped paying, but what we have discovered is that on 1 June 1837 Mitchell Patison married Eleanora Mitchell Wilson, daughter of the late George Wilson, a farmer. It seems to be around this time that Mitchell became less supportive of poor Betsy and her ‘thumping laddie’.


This is just one of the genealogy gems hidden in the archives. What survives for your ancestors? To be able to learn so much about a woman and her circumstances in the 1830s is amazing.


Search for here and see what you can discover: Scottish Paternity Index