Almost…

Looking through the Statutory Death Records for Unst today, I came across this record. Normally the age of the deceased is recorded just with a number of years, except in the case of infant deaths which haven’t made it to one full year yet.

I get the impression in this case that her grand-nephew wanted to make sure it was known how close to 100 years she achieved.

No. Name and Surname.

Rank or Profession, and whether
Single, Married, or Widowed.
When and Where Died. Sex. Age. Signature & Qualification of Informant,
and Residence, if out of the House in
which the Death occurred.
11 Elizabeth
Sandison

Widow of Charles
Sandison

Fisherman

1899
February
Twenty sixth
4h 30m P.M.

Muness,
Unst

F 99
years
11 mo
25 days
Thomas Gifford
Sandison

Grand-nephew
Muness

While she and her family and friends may have celebrated had she reached 100, the telegrams from the monarch to congratulate a centenarian didn’t begin until 1917.

Elizabeth was born before the days of statutory birth records, so the only record of her early life is a baptism record for 10 Aug 1802. With this detailed age on her death record however, we can calculate her exact birth date to be 1 Mar 1799.

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Who is Elizabeth Fordyce?

To ensure I’ve found everyone who lived in Unst, I am going through each page of the census returns. In one page in the 1871 census I’ve come across an entry that has me stumped.

1871 Census

ROAD, STREET, &c., and
No. or NAME of HOUSE.
NAME and Surname of each
Person.
RELATION
to Head of
Family
CON-
DITION
AGE
of
Rank, Profession, or OCCUPATION
Males Females
Burnside Alexr Fordyce Head Mar 75 Fisherman
Catherine Do Wife Mar 75 Do Wife
Elizabeth Gaunson Daur Mar 38 Sea Capts Wife
Elizabeth Fordyce Grand Dr 14
Catherine A Gaunson Grand Dr 22M
George F Do Grand Son 3M

I have found Alexander Fordyce and his wife Catherine (neé Jamieson) and their children, one of whom is Janet Elizabeth who married George Gaunson and had several children, the first two being Catharine Ann Gaunson and George Francis Gaunson, two of the three grandchildren listed on this return.

Initial Fordyce Family Tree

Alexander and Catherine with their five children

It is interesting to see the daughter listed as Elizabeth here, and not as Janet/Jessie as in all previous census returns. She is listed as Elizabeth in the 1881 return as well (where she and her children are again seen living in Burnside with her parents while her Sea Captain husband is, one assumes, away at sea). Did she adopt her middle name upon marriage or does her father, the head of the household and likely person to convey names to the census enumerator, prefer to call her that?

So, what of this other grand-daughter, Elizabeth Fordyce?

At this point in my research, I was aware that Alexander and Catherine had five children, two sons, one who dies as a youngish man, neither of whom have any children that I know of, one daughter Ann dies young, and two remaining daughters, one also called Anne Ursula, both of whom have children.

We’ve seen the daughter Janet Elizabeth, on the census return. Her two children have the surname Gaunson as per her married name. If the other grand-daughter was also hers, she would have been born prior to her marriage (which would explain the surname being Fordyce) and when Janet was aged 23. This is certainly a possibility.

The other daughter, Anne Ursula, married Charles Johnson in 1856 and had a daughter, Catherine Elizabeth Johnson in 1857. This girl is a grand-daughter of the correct age, and could be known by her middle name. The use of her mother’s maiden name instead of her correct surname is not unheard of. This could be her, except, she’s recorded on the census in 1871 as being with her parents and siblings in their house in Lerwick.

I have seen several examples of people recorded twice in one census, some cases of grandchildren recorded both at home with their parents, and also at their grandparents house. One assumes the child was visiting the grandparents in the evening when the enumerator visited, but then went home and so met the criteria of “everyone who sleeps in the house on the evening of the census.” However, it is highly improbable that such a visit could happen in Unst by a grand-daughter from Lerwick.

Having ruled out that grand-daughter, I looked for all girls born in Unst (as this census return records she is) around 1857 (+\-2 years) with Elizabeth as a first or middle name (given the use of a middle name elsewhere in this household), listed in the 1861 census. There are 19 of them. My hope here was to find a girl in the 1861 census that is unaccounted for in 1871 and is maybe a grand-Neice or cousin of the family, who has just been rather sloppily referred to as a grand-daughter. However, none of the girls are unaccounted for in 1871. There is quite simply no-one called Elizabeth Fordyce born in Unst around that timeframe.

Having followed the premise that the name was wrong and that the place of birth was correct, I now changed tack. I started to search for Elizabeth Fordyce, born around 1857 anywhere in Shetland, which yielded nothing, and then born anywhere in Scotland. At this point out popped Elizabeth Fordyce, born 15 May 1856 in Edinburgh to parents James William Fordyce and Elizabeth McLeod. If this is James William Fordyce born in Unst, then she would indeed be a grand-daughter. I had not been able to find anything about James after he left Unst and was living in Edinburgh in 1851.

Having found this family through the grand-daughter Elizabeth, I could now see why. Her father James, is listed as having been born in Golspie, Sutherland and his wife Elizabeth McLeod is recorded as being born in Shetland. Following Elizabeth with her remaining children after James dies, it would appear that she was not from Shetland, it was she who was born in Golspie. So I believe that either the enumerator or the Ancestry record transcriber (since I haven’t seen the image for this one to know) has got the places of birth switched around. This is indeed James William Fordyce from Unst and his daughter Elizabeth Fordyce is visiting her grand-mother in Unst.

Fordyce Family Tree

Fordyce Family Tree
Green shows the people on the census return. Blue shows the family discovered as a result

Two wrongs don’t make a right, and in this case the two wrongs

  • Elizabeth Fordyce (grand-daughter) was not born in Unst, but in Edinburgh
  • James William Fordyce (son) was born in Unst and not in Golspie

left me with some searching to do, but I found them in the end!

The added benefit of locating this mystery grand-daughter was also the finding of the missing son and thus several more grand-children who are Unst descendants, so well worth the search.

Finishing a knitted garment

The last two days have been busy with two cruise ships coming to the island and visiting the Unst Heritage Centre.

Cruise ship

Ocean Nova Cruise ship at the Baltasound Pier

When visitors come and I chat to them, I never know what their interests will be.

This time, one group was interested in some of the displays about finishing and dressing; stretching knitted garments into shape.

Nana's mum Betsy with shawl

Morag’s great-grandmother Betsy with shawl being stretched

Large boards for dressing shawls would be put outside to dry, especially since the houses were small and room was limited.

One old lady told me of a incident when a shawl was put out to dry and then “da grice gaed trow da middle an dat wis a winter’s wark geen”

(The pig went through the middle of the shawl, and that was a whole winter’s worth of knitting gone!)

Wood shaped for stretching socks, gloves, jumpers etc was used for the various garments. Since wood was a scarce commodity in Unst, any source of wood would be gratefully recycled into the shapes needed.

I still have a jumper board and use it to keep our woolen jumpers in good shape.

Adjustable jumper board

My adjustable jumper board – still in regular use!

I am currently knitting hats, so I need a plate of the correct diameter for stretching those!

Some visitors were interested in the knitting belt that we still use here in Shetland. It fits around the waist and helps the knitter steady their knitting and keep the tension even.

Knitting Belt

My knitting belt

I have always wondered how widespread the use of the knitting belt was. I would be interested to know if anyone has researched this subject.

Peerie Knitters Visit

Recently the young knitters from the island of Whalsay came on a visit to Unst to meet our peerie knitters.

Map of Shetland

Map of Shetland showing the island of Whalsay in the East, and Unst in the North

They were accompanied by adults who help and teach in the two groups.

People in Unst Heritage Centre

Some of the ladies from Whalsay who came to help.

The day was arranged in such a way that the children moved round in small groups with children from both islands in the each group.

Activities included spinning, dying wool, finger knitting, crochet, knitting.

Members of Unst spinners and knitters group were there to help the groups.

Peerie Knitter dying wool

Having an opportunity to dye wool proved popular.

The children could also see the fine lace knitting on display in the Heritage Centre.

They especially seemed to enjoy the school section of the Heritage Centre displays!

Children using the Unst Heritage Centre school displays

Trying out schooling, the old fashioned way

Lunch was supplied from the nearby tearooms and enjoyed by all.

Group photo of all the Peerie Knitters

The whole company.

Thanks to everyone who made it an enjoyable day.

Time Machine?

Here’s an odd entry that I found recently in the Unst Old Parish Records for Births and Baptisms. It seems that Thursday September 13th 1832 was a busy day for Baptisms. Including one baptism that took place the day before the child’s birth!

1832
Births
1832
Baptisms
Baptisms 1832
Aug 29 Sept 13 Ross Sutherland, Mail’d a Daur Joanna
" " " " John Nisbet, Garden a Daur Joann Mary
Sept 4 " " Andrew Smith, Garrig’t a Son John
" " " " James Ramsay, Gardie a Son Henry
Sept 14 " " George Jameson, Squarefield a Daur Jane

Check the dates!

Once the statutory records started in 1855, it became much easier to correctly identify people because you have both parents names recorded on a birth record. In the Old Parish Records you have no such luxury as all you have is the father’s name.

Well, that’s not entirely true, you have the father’s name, and where he lives. This does actually help hugely when trying to separate out people born to the same father and those who are a different man.

I’ve recently been following William Gilbert Jameson (to try to figure a natty problem with a death record) and to find all his children required looking through the Old Parish Records for Baptisms. Here’s what I found:-

  • 1791 Sep 19 Willm Gilbt Jameson, Hagdale a daughter bapd Catherine
  • 1794 May 14 Willm Gilbt Jameson, Hagdale a daughter Margery
  • 1796 Apr 9 Willm Gilbt Jameson, Hagdale a Son James bapd
  • 1798 Jun 30 Willm Gilbt Jameson, Hagdale a daughter Janet bapd
  • 1798 Sep 23 William Gilbt Jameson, Gew, a Son Andrew bapd
  • 1800 May 26 Willm Gilbt Jameson, Hagdale a Son William bapd
  • 1802 Sep 16 Willm Gilbt Jameson, Hagdale a daughter Isabella
  • 1804 Jul 26 Willm Gilbert Jameson, Hagdale a Son Gilbert
  • 1807 Jun 25 William Gilbert Jameson, Hagdale a Son Thomas

There’s one thing that immediately stands out from this list for me. All except one has William Gilbert Jameson living in Hagdale. The other lives in Gew. For me this is enough proof that there is a second William Gilbert Jameson and these are not all children of the same man. In case you’re not completely convinced though, you should also take into account the birth dates of daughter Janet and son Andrew. Both were born in 1798 and with not enough of a gap between them to be from the same woman.

The problem that will catch many people out, is that the on-line records at places like Ancestry or Family Search only show the place as “Unst, Shetland”, and don’t include the detail of the house name which is what helps hugely in spotting this kind of problem. It’s always worth looking at the actual records to see ALL the information.

Of course, I suppose it could be the same man and two different women!

Inaccurate recording strikes again

I love it when you find a record and all the names match up, correct parents, spouse, any mentioned children. Tick, tick, tick. All good, it’s definitely them.

However, every so often you come across one where it doesn’t fit and you run around in circles looking for the other person with the same name that isn’t them, to whom this record must refer, and end up back where you started with the belief that the record must be wrong. And after all, records are sometimes wrong. It’s like a detective story, where you have to work out who is lying, except (one hopes) the person who recorded the wrong information wasn’t lying deliberately, they just didn’t know (and didn’t realise the frustration their inaccuracies would cause 200 years later!).

This evening I have a Thomas Jam(i)eson whose death record shows his parents as William Jamieson and Catherine Christie, and wife Jane Fordyce. The record was informed by his son Thomas, so you start off feeling you can trust the information.

No. Name and Surname.
Rank or Profession, and whether
Single, Married, or Widowed.
When and Where Died. Name, Surname, & Rank or Profession, of Father.
name, and Maiden Surname of Mother.
Signature & Qualification of Informant,
and Residence, if out of the
House in
which the Death occurred.
16 Thomas
Jamieson

General Labourer

Married to
Jane Fordyce

1887
August
Twenty seventh
7h am

Cathoul,
Unst

William Jamieson
Fisherman
(deceased)

Catherine Jamieson
M.S. Christie
(deceased)

Thomas Jamieson

Son
(present)

Prior to his death Thomas can be found in the census returns along with his wife Jane and their children, and in two of the returns, also his sister Janet lives with them – in 1851 and 1871. I suspect she also lives with them in 1861, but she is recorded as a visitor in another house on the night of the census so that secret is likely lost to the mists of time.

1851 Census

Name of Street, Place, or
Road, and Name or
No. of House
Name and Surname of each Person
who abode in the house
on the Night of 30th March, 1851.
Relation
to
Head of Family
Condition Age of Rank, Profession,
or
Occupation
Males Females
Catt Houl Thomas Jamieson Head Mar 42 Day labourer, Crofter
Jane Do. Wife Mar 35
Ann T. Do. Daur 4
Elizabeth Do. Daur 2
Janet E Do. Sister Widow 49 Pauper
Catharine Fordyce Wife’s Sister U. 25 Pauper, nearly helpless

1871 Census

ROAD, STREET, &c., and
No. or NAME of HOUSE.
NAME and Surname of each
Person.
RELATION
to Head of
Family
CON-
DITION
AGE
of
Rank, Profession, or OCCUPATION
Males Females
Catthoul Thomas Jameson Head Mar 67 Quarryman Crofter
Jane Do Wife Mar 60
Margery Do Daur Unm 15 Veil Knitter
Thomas Do Son Unm 12
Janet Do Sister W. 70 Pauper

When I find his sister Janet’s death record however, I find that she is recorded with different parents to that on her brother’s death record. The informant for Janet is her brother Thomas himself – so I feel this record is more trustworthy than his one.

No. Name and Surname.
Rank or Profession, and whether
Single, Married, or Widowed.
When and Where Died. Name, Surname, & Rank or Profession, of Father.
name, and Maiden Surname of Mother.
Signature & Qualification of Informant,
and Residence, if out of the
House in
which the Death occurred.
24 Janet Williamson

Pauper
Widow of
Thomas Williamson
Seaman

1874
June Fourth
5h am

Baliasta,
Parish of Unst

William Gilb’t Jameson
Fisherman
(deceased)

Isabella Jameson
M.S. Anderson
(deceased)

Thomas Jamieson
His X Mark
Brother, present

Peter Johnson
Registrar, Witness

Thomas clearly knows who his own parents are, so is the death record for a Thomas Jamieson actually for someone else? Perhaps there are two Thomas’s and both married someone called Jane and that’s what’s causing the confusion?

Looking at the Marriage record in the Old Parish Records it shows the names of the two parties but not their parents (that only comes in with the Statutory Records in 1855). However, it is likely that the witnesses are in some way related to the marrying parties, and looks like Thomas’ father William was one of the witnesses. (Note: The names Jane/Jean are often interchanged.)

1841 Contracts of Marriage
Dec 2 Thomas Jameson, Stutoft & Jean Fordyce, Greenroad, were married by the Rev James Ingram. James Johnson, Greenroad, William Jameson, Stutoft, Witnesses.

This is clearly the same Thomas as on the Death Certificate because in both cases we have his wife’s maiden name. Here we can see that prior to getting married, Thomas lived in Stutoft. If we look at the census which was taken less than 6 months before (1841 census was taken on 6 June 1841) we can see all the people who lived in Stutoft.

PLACE NAME and SURNAME, SEX and AGE,
of each Person who Abode in each House
on the Night of 6th June.
OCCUPATION
Here insert
Name of Village,
Street, Square, Close
Court, &c.
NAME and SURNAME AGE Of what Profession,
Trade, Employment, or
whether of
independent means.
Male Female
Stutoft William Jameson 75 Farmer
Thomas do 30
William do 12
Ursula do 19
Joan do 8
Catharine do 50
Isabella do 70

1841 census don’t show all the relationships between members of the household (that doesn’t begin until 1851). The pattern I’m used to seeing, from extensive reading of 1841 census taken in Unst, is the Husband and head of household on line one, followed by his wife on line two, and then the children listed either in descending age order, or grouped into boys and then girls and in descending age order within each gender. This record has an odd order. William is listed first, and that is one thing all records agree on – Thomas’s father is called William. There is also a woman, of an appropriate age, called Isabella also living at this house, but she is listed last, like a servant or ‘other’ relation would be. If she had been listed second, that would have sealed it for me, but this record still leaves a small doubt in my mind.

Isabella and William Gilbert’s children span birth dates from 1791 (when Isabella was 20) until 1807 (when she was 35). I believe that the younger children on the 1841 census are not her children but in fact her grandchildren (and in one case step-grandchild), and that may account for the odd ordering.

Stutoft 1841 Residents Annotated

Here are William Gilbert Jameson and Isabella Anderson’s children.
The red borders show the people present on the 1841 census
The green bordered person shows where the death record confusion may have come from.

Christie is not a common surname in Unst, and it always pays to have a wider look around when faced with confusion such as this. I see that Thomas’ brother James is married to a Catherine Christie. I have to assume that this is where the confusion came in for Thomas’ son when informing the register of the details for the death record.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that the death record is wrong.