What kind of cousin?

What kind of cousin?

Question on Facebook which prompted this post

I’m a member of various genealogy Facebook groups and one of the questions that seems to crop up often is about cousins and once/twice removed etc.

A couple of days ago I saw this question posted on Facebook and it occurred to me that her picture was just the same way I draw things out when I am trying to work out how I am related to someone.

What tends to happen is I’ll be sent a snippet of someone’s lineage back to an Unst person that I can find in my tree, or the statement, “so-and-so was my great-grandfather”. Once I can find that person in my tree I follow back through their parentage until I come to the common ancestor between us (more on that later).

Now on my whiteboard or a piece of paper I draw out the two lines down from the common ancestor, trying to keep the generations neatly lined up.

Finally, I add in the relationship markers. The first generation down from the common ancestor were siblings, the next generation were first cousins and so on.

In many of the recent examples when I have done this, the new contact is an nth-cousin to one of my parents and so is an nth-cousin once-removed to me.

Once Removed Cousins

If you’ve been doing genealogy for a little while, you’re bound to have come across this term, but do you know what it means?

Once-removed means that you are not in the same generation at the person you are related to. In the chart above, my new contact was a fourth cousin to my parent. So they are not in the same generation as me, they are in my parents generation. Their relationship to me is then the same as for my parent but “once removed”. If I was two generations away, it would be “twice-removed” and so on.

Their children and me would be in the same generation, and we would be fifth cousins.

Finding the common ancestor

In order to start drawing out this little chart, first I need to find the common ancestor. If you are an Ancestry.com user, then this is very easy. I’m sure other family tree making software does something similar. As I said earlier, usually I am given the name of an ancestor that is how they have their Unst connection. I find that person in my family tree and then walk back through the parents until I get to a person who is a direct line back from me. So I am looking for the relationship to say “nth great-grandfather”, rather than “nth great-granduncle” or “wife of …”.


Do you have Unst ancestry? Do you think we might be related? Let’s test out that theory. Please feel free to get in touch in a comment below, or via my contact page for a private discussion.

Tracking Joan Anderson

Tracking Joan Anderson

I’ve done quite a lot of research of families in Unst, but I have not yet spent time researching the branches that left Unst and went out into the new world to places like New Zealand. I had the opportunity to look into one of these today. It was prompted by a New Zealand cousin getting in touch via a Facebook group.

From my Unst research, I only knew about two of Gilbert and Anne’s children

I knew of her great-grandfather Gilbert Anderson because he was born in Unst. He and his wife and two daughters were marked in my tree as having gone to NZ but I hadn’t looked into it further. From my Unst research, I just knew the family looked as the tree shown on the right.

Her grandfather William was born in 1878 in New Zealand. Looking in the Bayanne site, there was also another sibling, Joan, that was in Bayanne as having been born in New Zealand also in 1878. I have been learning more about doing New Zealand research since I live in New Zealand now, and volunteer at the library to help out people doing their genealogy. So I decided to try out my new found NZ research skills and see if I could find both William and Joan in NZ Historical BDMs. I found William Anderson, born 30 Oct 1878 to Gilbert and Ann, but no sign of Joan.

One of the other resources that I had learned about but not really made use of yet, was travel records. I had filed away in my head that I would at some stage try and find all the travel records for Unst families who left and went elsewhere. So I tried that out today with this family. FamilySearch has lots of travel records, so that’s where I looked, and I found Gilbert and his family. They came over with Assisted Emigration on the ship Howrah leaving from Gravesend on 29th July 1876. Here they are:-

Gilbert Anderson and his family on the passenger list of the Howrah. Here we see Joan as an infant.

As you can see, Joan is listed as an 8-month old infant in this passenger list. So clearly she was not born in New Zealand, but was born before they set off. However, I was 100% certain that she was not born in Unst. So where was she born? Next step was to use the free index in Scotland’s People, to see how many possibilities there were. This gleans a short list of four possibilities.

The Scotland’s People results for Joan

I considered that the Leith result in this list was the most likely record since I know lots of Unst families went to Leith, and it seemed a common staging post on the way to boarding a boat to the new world, so I decided to purchase the record, and indeed that is her. She was born 23 Jul 1875 (so in fact she has just turned 1 year old when she leaves on the Howrah), to parents Gilbert Anderson, Firewood Merchant, and Ann Anderson M.S. Johnson, with a marriage on 1867, Nov 1st Unst, Shetland (correct date, wrong year, they were actually married in 1866 on 1st Nov). Still, it is definitely the correct family, they just don’t appear to be very good with dates!!

So, now I have a slightly updated view of this family and their children.

Gilbert Anderson and his family in New Zealand

P.S. I have submitted suggestions to the Bayanne site to correct Joan’s Birthdate and Birthplace, and to correct William’s birth month.

P.P.S. Gilbert Anderson was a brother to William Parsonson Anderson that I wrote about here.

Family History Month 2021

Family History Month 2021

Family History Month 2021August is Family History Month (in New Zealand anyway) and my contributions expanded this year from previous years. Last week was particularly filled with Family History events.

On Tuesday we had our usual 2nd-Tuesday-of-the-month Drop-in session from 10-12noon in the Tauranga Library, but before hand we had a session with the librarians before the library even opened, as they had lots of questions that they wanted us, the volunteers, to help them with so know how to help people who come into the library.

Then on Thursday I was over the hill at the Rotorua Library giving a presentation on Scottish Genealogical Research.

Researching your Scottish Ancestors

We are very pleased to have Morag Hughson speaking about researching your Scottish ancestors.
Which records should I use? Where do I find them? What is in them and should I pay for them?
Morag has considerable experience on this topic and is keen to share her journey and advice to others who have Scottish ancestry. This talk will be held in the Community Pride Space on the Ground Floor of the Library on Thursday 12 August at 12:15pm.

This presentation was a comparison of the main sources for Scottish records and what you can see of the records in each. Ancestry, Find My Fast, and Family Search which are all free to use if you make use of your local library, and Scotland’s People which is a pay-per-record site. Some transcriptions in the free-to-use sites are enough to mean there is little point most of the time in buying the image from Scotland’s People. But for other records, there is so much more to the original record that you can see when you buy the image. The presentation showed the differences and where it was worth spending your money versus where there was little to gain.

The Rotorua Library Facebook page posted some photos of the event, including the one below.

A PDF of the slides and notes can be viewed and downloaded from here.

Morag at Rotorua Library

Morag speaking at the Rotorua Library in Family History Month

Then on Saturday, I was back in one of my local libraries, Papamoa, giving another talk about Scottish Genealogical Research. This time focusing on how to use the Scotland’s People website, with a flavour of the earlier talk since I include advice for when to buy and when not to buy.

Family History Talks at Pāpāmoa Library

Join us for a morning of family history discovery with our two guest speakers: Elinor Rawlings and Morag Hughson.

Elinor will share her own story while giving a broad introduction to the “where to go and what to do” of family history research. This session will introduce new people to the world of family history and genealogy research, offering a quick look at the difference between the two concepts and a peek at the range of places that are free to research and are a great place to start.

Morag Hughson will discuss useful ways to discover more about your Scottish ancestry. The Scotland’s People website is the only place you can see the images of Scottish records such as Old Parish Records and Statutory Records (which provide you with dates for births, baptisms, marriages and death) and Scottish Census returns where you can learn about the familial relationships of people who lived in the same households and start to put together a picture of your ancestral families. Scotland’s People is a pay-per-records website and you can find yourself spending a lot of money. In this presentation we will look at the Scotland’s People website search facilities and discuss when it is prudent not to spend money on the website and look elsewhere for transcriptions.

Tea/coffee and biscuits available. Free. Registration required.

Pāpāmoa Library, Saturday, 14 August from 10am-12noon

A PDF of the slides and notes can be viewed and downloaded from here.

Morag at Papamoa Library

Morag speaking at the Papamoa Library in Family History Month

All in all, while busy, it was a great week. Especially now looking back as today we have just gone into full Lockdown as Delta-variant COVID-19 has made it into the community in NZ.

Gold Miner in New Zealand

Gold Miner in New Zealand

One cousin in my tree, William Parsonson Anderson, I had no idea where he was during the 1871 census. A timeline for him simply had a gap. Then today, when I brought up one of the records I had already attached to him in Ancestry, there was a suggested record for the same name in New Zealand.

His name is somewhat unusual. Parsonson is not a common Unst name. He appears to have been named after the minister who baptised him who was called William Parsonson. This combination of names therefore make you feel it is likely to be the same person when you find another record with the same name.

Before today, I knew when he was born, and had found him in the 1851, 1861 and 1881 census. I also know that he got married in 1878 in Unst, and his occupation on the marriage record is stated as Goldminer. Although married in 1878, unusually, their first child was not born until 1883.

So my questions about him were:-

  • Where was he in 1871?
  • Why did this couple not have children for 5 years after being married?

I found a man with the same name living in Sowburn, Otago in New Zealand, recorded as a miner, in an 1880 Electoral roll, and also in the same region in 1871. If this is the same man as my Unst-born cousin, it would answer both the above questions with “he was in New Zealand”. It would also suggest that he went to New Zealand sometime between 1861 and 1871; came back before 1878 and got married; went out again after that; and came back again before 1881 – possibly before, or because, his father died in late 1880.

Sowburn, Otago is now called Patearoa. It is a small settlement in the heart of the Maniototo Plain that is a rural farming community that has links going back to a gold rush in the 1860’s. The location he lived in New Zealand and the occupations listed on various records, suggest he went to New Zealand for the gold rush.

Also, he is one of the few people in my Unst tree from this era that had a will. When he died in 1918, he left his wife £573. 12s. 5d. suggesting he was successful in his foray in gold mining.

Patronymic Surnames

In modern times in Scotland (and many other countries) the way surnames are assigned is well known to us. As a child you get the same surname as one or both of your parents. This has been the case since around the same time as the Statutory Records began in 1855. In Scotland, a Statutory Birth record provides both the parents names and the child’s full name so there is no doubt the name the child has been given.

The prior records, kept before 1855, are nowhere near as verbose. These Old Parish Baptism Records record the father’s full name and address and the child’s first name. Here’s an example.

Baptisms 1802
Oct 24 Thomas Johnson, Cliprogarth a Son John

You might be thinking, well, that’s not a problem, the child’s full name is easy to extrapolate from the father’s surname. Clearly the child is called John Johnson. You would not be alone in thinking that since that is how the various online indexes would interpret this record too. However, this is where the practice of using patronymic surnames comes in and confuses the issue.

Patronymic Surname

A patronymic is where the child does not inherit the surname of their parent but instead gains a surname based on the father’s first name. In the example above, if the child had a patronymic they would be known as John Thomason, that is John son of Thomas.

This is a pattern that I believe was inherited from the Norse people who settled Shetland. Going back far enough in the records I am studying you do also come across the female form of this pattern, for example Joanna Williamdottir, that is Joanna daughter of William. There are not many examples of these and it seems that by 1800 the girls were following the male pattern, so Joanna would be Williamson just like her brothers.

So how do you know which surname pattern is in use in this time period prior to the start of Statutory Records? The answer is you can’t tell from just one record. You simply have to remember to bear it in mind when searching for records about a person. Some people used them and some did not.

For further reading, the Icelandic scheme still in use today is similar to how it was in Shetland in the early 19th century.

I’ve written a few blog posts where patronymic surnames have played a part in the research:-

Tracking Thomas Johnson

I can’t resist a puzzle, and when someone posted a question about an Unst ancestor in the Shetland Genealogy Facebook Group, I couldn’t resist taking a closer look. Their 4th Great-Grandparents were John Thomason and Barbara Jane Winwick who I had in the Unst Family Tree already, and they were trying to determine John’s parents. John died on 8 April 1847 which is before 1855 and thus part of the Old Parish Records which means that no parents of the deceased are recorded.

Obituary. Burials at Baliasta 1847
Died Buried
John Thomason, Watquoy 8 April 10 Apr at Baliasta

She had found a John Thomason born to parents Thomas Johnson and Ann Williamson, and wondered whether that John could be the same one.

Thomas Johnson from Unst, and Ann Williamson from Yell (the neighbouring island) were married in Unst on 29 November 1801. From the Old Parish Record of their marriage contract we also know that Thomas was from Clipragrath.

1801 Contracts of Marriage
Nov 29 Thomas Johnson, Clipragarth and Ann Williamson

Ann Williamson/Johnson can be found in the 1841 and 1851 census returns living with her daughter Mary. She is recorded as a widow in the 1851 census, and was likely a widow in 1841 as well, but that early census does not record such data. To double check this is the same Ann Williamson, I found her daughter Mary’s death record in Unst on 10 July 1877 which shows her parents to be Thomas Johnson and Ann Williamson. So we have the correct person here. Finding all the siblings seemed to be the right thing to follow.

Looking through the Unst Old Parish Baptism Records from 1800 until 1823 (starting just before they were married in case there was a first child out of wedlock) for all children born to a father of Thomas Johnson, yields the following list.

  • 1802 Oct 24 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a Son John
  • 1804 May 2 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a daughter Mary (this one is written on the end of the list of 1804, after all the December entries, it could be an infant who died young, or a recording error.)
  • 1805 May 10 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a daughter Mary
  • 1808 July 15 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a daughter Jean Barbara
  • 1808 July 15 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a daughter Elizabeth
  • 1814 Feb 17 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a daughter Margaret
  • 1818 Aug 23 Thomas Johnston Gardie a Son WIlliam born 20 Aug
  • 1819 Nov 1 Thomas Johnson Midyell a daughter Ann
  • 1820 May 14 Thomas Johnson Haroldswick a Son Thomas born 7 May
  • 1822 Sep 1 Thomas Johnston Skaw a Son John born 11 Aug

Clearly these are not all the same father, however, the first five children (with Mary recorded twice) all born to a Thomas Johnson of Cliprogarth look very likely to be siblings.

To double-check sibling-ship, we need to find the death records for those who died after 1855.

  • Mary Thomason we found already, died in Unst on 10 July 1877. Her death record confirms both parents.
  • Elizabeth Thomason died in Unst on 17 May 1899. Her death record confirms both parents.
  • Jean Thomason is living with her twin sister in the 1861 census, and the relationship recorded confirms her as Elizabeth’s sister.
  • Margaret Thomson died in Unst on 18 December 1884. Her death record confirms both parents.

Confirmation of the parentage of all the sisters, who died after 1855, and the high likelihood that all the children born to Thomas Johnson of Cliprogarth are siblings, leaves me in no doubt that John Thomason was the son of Thomas Johnson and Ann Williamson as well.

Finally we must ask, could there be any other John Thomason born around the same time who is the man married to Barbara Jane Winwick? All we really know of John is from the 1841 census return where his age (which will have been rounded down) is given as 40.

Looking through the Unst Old Parish Baptism Records from 1795 until 1805 for all children called John, yielded a list of 46 Johns. It is unknown when looking at such entries, what surname the child will use in future records, as patronymic surnames were still very much in use at this time and the OPR entry only records the child’s given name (regardless of how some genealogy websites choose to transcribe it!). Considering both surname forms, we end up with the following list of John’s to follow-up on.

OPR Baptism Entry Patronymic Name Name
1798 June 17 George Thomson Gunister, a twin Son John John Georgeson John Thomson
1798 Sep 9 Thomas Miller, Skreveld, a Son John John Thomason John Miller
1802 Oct 24 Thomas Johnson Cliprogarth a Son John John Thomason John Johnson
1804 Mar 10 Laurence Thomson Setter a Son John John Laurenson John Thomson
1804 July 8 Thomas Harrison & Ursula Williamson a Son John John Thomason John Harrison
1804 Dec 14 Thomas Anderson Cliff a Son John John Thomason John Anderson

Here’s what we know about the above John’s.

  • John Thom[p]son, son of George Thom[p]son, lived and died in Bighton and married Ann Spence Trail. He is not the John we are looking for.
  • John Miller, son of Thomas Miller, lived and died in Petister and married Catherine Thomson. He is not the John we are looking for.
  • John Thomson, son of Laurence Thomson, married Margaret Mathewson. He is not the John we are looking for.
  • John Harrison, son of Thomas Harrison & Ursula Williamson, was a mariner, lived outside of Shetland, and married Margaret and Sarah. He is not the John we are looking for.
  • I don’t know anything about John son of Thomas Anderson, but the other children born to Thomas Anderson of Cliff used the surname Anderson, so I don’t believe he is the John we are looking for.

Through a process of elimination, we can therefore confidently say that John Thomason, son of Thomas Johnson of Cliprogarth, is the same man that married Barbara Jane Winwick. There is no other man it could be.

John Thomason and Siblings

John Thomason and Siblings with their spouses

Chain of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

I have a profile on the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) website (actually I have two, that one and one for my Unst work). I was recently contacted by a gentleman who was trying to track down the child of a couple and had no luck and wondered if there was anything I could do from within NZ as he had exhausted the online databases.

The couple were Mabel Meredith Maitland (b.16 Jun 1869, NZ) and John Arthur Mason (b. 1864, Woodford, Essex, England). They were married on 8 Jul 1891 in St Matthews Church, Dunedin, Otago, NZ, and their marriage can be found in the local paper, the Otago Witness.

MARRIAGES.
MASON-MAITLAND.-On the 8th July, at St. Matthew’s Church, Dunedin, by the Right Rev. Bishop Nevill, assisted by the Rev. R. T. Howell, John Arthur, eldest son of Thos. Mason of Merleswood, Woodford, Essex, to Mabel Meredith, younger daughter of the late W. G. Maitland, Moylneux, Otago.

There was also a report on the fashion and social attendance of the wedding in this newspaper report.

Also in the papers was their divorce, an extract of which is shown below. It was this report that showed that there was a child from this union, but that child was no where to be found in any of the online genealogy databases.

DIVORCE COURT
In the Divorce Court yesterday the Chief Justice heard the undefended suit Mason v. Mason, a wife’s petition for dissolution of the marriage.
Mabel Meredieth Mason, the petitioner, said she was married to John Arthur Mason in Denedin on the 8th July, 1891. There was one child as issue of the marriage.

I tracked down the divorce record which was found to be held in Wellington. It was free to go along to the Wellington Reading Room to view the document. However, I am not in Wellington, so it was not free to me. So I went back on the RAOGK website and found a Wellington based volunteer, and she was very happy to go along to the reading room and see what this document contained. It was a stack of about 15 documents, each with numerous pages, in a bundle and tied with a pink ribbon. They were folded legal docs and the pile stood about 3 inches high. She was so relieved when all the pertinent genealogical information was found on the first page!

Under “The Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act 1867”

TO SIR JAMES PRENDERGAST KNIGHT CHIEF JUSTICE.
THE 26th day of November 1897.
THE Petition of Mabel Meredith Mason of the City of Wellington sheweth.
1. THAT your Petitioner was on the 8th day of July 1891 lawfully married to John Arthur Mason at St.Matthew’s Church Dunedin by the Reverend Bishop Neville.
2. THAT after her said marriage your Petitioner lived and co-habited with her said husband at Tapanui in Otago, New Zealand, Melbourne in Victoria Australia and at Plymouth in England and that your Petitioner and her said husband had issue of their said marriage one child to wit John Clifford Stuart Mason aged 1year and 10 months.

I have to assume that the quoted age of the child is at the time of the document, since we know the child still lives as Mabel is granted custody of the child, according to the newspaper article on the divorce.

His Honor said he though a divorce should be granted, He gave the petitioner the custody of the child, leaving power to the respondent to apply under the Children’s Custody Act, of he desired to do so afterwards.

This would mean that John Clifford Stuart Mason would have been born around Jan or Feb 1896. From the newspaper report on the divorce we know a little of their travels around that time.

About five years ago they left New Zealand. They arrived in England in January, 1895. Whilst they were in England there was a quarrel between her husband and herself, and she returned to New Zealand with her mother in February 1896. She left her husband three or four months before that.

So would she have traveled when heavily pregnant and had John in New Zealand, or perhaps on board the ship? Or is the three or four months wait between leaving her husband and traveling to New Zealand because she waited and had the baby before traveling? This would mean that John was born in the UK.

Mabel actually married three times. She has a helpfully unique combination of names and so searching Papers Past found her several times. After her divorce from John Arthur Mason she then married Frederick Stuart Des Barres on 1 Sep 1900 in the Registry Office, Napier, Hawkes’ Bay, New Zealand. This marriage also ended in divorce on 14 Mar 1912, as per another newspaper report. Then she married a third time, in 1913, to James Ambrose Eivers and shows up in the papers again trying to get back the jewelry that her second husband used as security on an overdraft.

Helpfully, Mabel’s son John also has a seemingly unique combination of names, so I searched for his names. Nothing came up to start with, so I dropped the surname, and up popped a war record in the Auckland Museum Online Cenotaph for a John Clifford Stuart Des Barres. Des Barres was his mother Mable’s second married name. Could this be him? Reading through the record, in the listing of his company:-

1st NEW ZEALAND CYCLIST COMPANY
Reg. No. Rank. Name. Occupation. Name and Address of Next-of-kin.
10747 Corporal Des Barres, Clifford Stuart Picture-show Manager Mrs. M. Eivers (mother), Opotiki.

John Clifford Stuart Mason/Des Barres

John Clifford Stuart Mason/Des Barres
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 31-B53

He died on 30 Sep 1916, by which time his mother had married a third time and was now Mrs. Eivers. It is definitely him! And there’s even a photo of him! It seems he had dropped the John and was more commonly known as Clifford Stuart.

Knowing how he was referred to, I was then able to find a report of his death in Papers Past, in the New Zealand Herald.

Roll of HONOUR.
DES BARRES.-On September 30, 1916, killed in action in France, Corporal Clifford Stuart des Barres, eldest son of Mrs. J. A. Eivers, Te Telo, Whakatane; aged 19 years.

I stopped briefly when I saw the mother’s name here, wondering if I’d mixed up two different people. But then I realised Mabel Meredith was also Mrs James Ambrose Eivers.

According to his war record he was born in Ireland, so I guess Mabel did wait until after he was born before traveling back to New Zealand with her new-born, and it’s no wonder we couldn’t find his birth in England or New Zealand.

It seems rather fitting that this chain of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness should find this man, who died serving his country in WWI on the eve of ANZAC day.

Ancestors who lived in 1900s

Prompted by this post by Janet Few, which challenged you to realise how many of your ancestors were actually alive in the 1900s, I decided to count.

Ancesters 1900s

My ancesters who lived in the 1900s

I have 29 ancestors who were alive in the 1900s, including two Great Great Great Grand-parents.

I also have photographs of all my Great Grand-parents, and three of my Great Great Grand-parents.

However, I do agree with the sentiment of Janet’s post; I think I spend much more of my research time in the 1800s than the 1900s!

How about you?