Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Decreet, Armstrong v Kirk - 2 September 1847

“Decreet, Armstrong v Kirk - 2 September 1847”, sounds innocuous enough, you may think. Not far into this particular decree, though, we find out some very useful genealogical information. The following decree is taken from a so far unindexed volume of the Jedburgh Sheriff Court Register of Decreets (or Decrees). Much of the material in these volumes concerns the resolution of financial disputes and the like. Interesting perhaps, but not as useful to the genealogist as the paternity cases interspersed amongst the courts business.

After 1855 we generally know if there was a paternity decree as it would normally be recorded on the civil registration birth certificate. Before 1855, however there may be very little information. Sometimes we can find an entry in Kirk Session minutes, but these have not always survived, and not all families were members of the Church of Scotland or one of the other leading Presbyterian churches which kept such records. Even when such minutes survive, the entries may give only very limited information regarding the parents.

Sometimes we see an illegitimate child use a father’s surname (often this is the case in the early census returns), and we may speculate as to the identity of the father. Sheriff Court decrees like the one shown in the extract below can enable us to positively identify the father of an illegitimate child and therefore overcome a brick wall in our family tree. The decree is often only the starting point, as in many cases the processes also survive. The processes are court papers which often give us much more information than the decree and help us to see the case from the perspective of both the pursuer and the defender.

I am pleased to say work has now begun on indexing these wonderful records. Watch this space!

In the margin we read:
2d September 1847

The body of the text reads as follows:

At Jedburgh the Twenty eighth day of July and the Sixteenth day of August Eighteen hundred and forty seven years Sitting in Judgment John Craigie Esquire Sheriff Substitute of the County of Roxburgh in an action raised before the Sheriff Court of the said County at the instance of Jemima Armstrong Daughter of and residing with William Armstrong Blacksmith in Morebattle Pursuer against William Kirk Blacksmith in Morebattle defender. The Sheriff Decerned and Ordained and herby Decerns and Ordains that the said William Kirk Defender to make payment to the said Jemima Armstrong Pursuer of the sum of One pound of inlying expenses of a male bastard child of which the pursuer was delivered on the twentieth day of March eighteen hundred and forty seven of which the said William Kirk is the father. Item of the sum of one pound ten shilling per quarter for three quarters of nursing fee. Item of Four pounds per annum of aliment thereafter payable quarterly and per advance which aliment is to continue until the said child shall arrive at the age of ten years unless the said defender shall when the child shall attain the age of seven years offer to take it to his own home and provide suitably for it reserving to the said child its relations to apply and shew cause for a continuance of the aliment after it shall arrive at the age of ten years and to the Defender his Defences as accords. Item of Interest on the several sums as they have become or may become respectively due until paid. Item of the sum of Three pounds & eight pence of Expenses of process and Item of the sum of four shillings as the dues of Extracting this Decreet and of Recording the same. And I the said Sheriff &c
Written by Geo. Henderson Collated by I Stewart Newbigging

Taken from Jedburgh Sheriff Court, Register of Decrees (NRS reference SC62/7/9, pages 4 and 5).

This record now helps us to identify the William Kirk or Anderson seen here in the census of 1851 as the child of William Kirk seen here. Hopefully unravelling a little mystery for the Armstrong family!

Do you have this type of mystery? I hope the indexes that we are going to make available soon will help. In the meantime email me with your genealogical queries and we will see what we can do.


Sunday, 25 August 2013

Grand Local & Family History Fair: Celebrating Lanarkshire 2013

We had a stall at the Grand Local & Family History Fair: Celebrating Lanarkshire 2013 yesterday, hosted by the Lanarkshire Family History Society. It was a marvellous event, well organised, well attended and full of interesting stalls.

Giving DNA advice for family history

As usual we were spending the day helping people unlock their family secrets. Graham helped a number of individuals through the free 30-minute genealogy consultations. Using his experience he managed to help a number of people overcome a brick wall so that they could continue their research.

We also encouraged a number of people to enter the world of prison records. Our free online index can unlock a part of your family's history hidden for over a century! The register itself tells you basic details such as name, address, age, place of birth and religion but also tells you details you are unlikely to find on any other record such as height, appearance, hair colour, eye colour, education and of course offence.

Whilst interesting in itself the prison register gives the date of a trial (if there was one) which means you can then go to the relevant court papers and find out more details about the offence and the people involved. Quite regularly the court documents will name family members or give some other clue to assist your research as well as offering a fascinating glimpse into the life of your ancestor.

All dressed up

With a huge array of stallholders there was definitely something for everybody at this event. I hope this becomes an annual occurrence!

Scottish Monumental Inscriptions
Scottish Monumental Inscriptions

After the fair was over the members of the Scottish Genealogy Network met for our monthly meeting. It was great meeting some for the first time and putting a face to the name. If you are looking for a professional genealogist look out for the Scottish Genealogy Network logo on their website or blog!

Scottish Genealogy Network