August 2010

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On my bookshelf there is a small leather bound King James Bible with a side clasp. The licensing information on the inside page reads “Edinburgh, 14th May 1859” On the back of the front cover is a small family history written by my grandfather. “Jane Hamilton daughter of Adam married Tom Blair* and died at 21 on the birth of her son John who married Elizabeth Rankin of Ardrossan Scotland only issue Thos. H. B. who married Norah M. Campbell of Glasgow [he then lists his year of marriage, children’s names and year of birth] *Tom remarried – other Blair’s”. I was told by my grandfather that this Bible belonged to Jane Hamilton.

Bible of Jane Hamilton

My grandfather was a great one for writing small notes of things he remembered about the history of the family. I have a small collection of sheets of paper and old envelopes with notes written on them.

Finding out more about Jane Hamilton was one of the first items on my list when I started researching the family. I was lucky my grandfather had listed her parent’s names as well as her age. As is usual with family stories there were a few mistakes in the details.

Jane Hamilton married Thomas Blair on 11 February 1868 at 36 St. James Street. The banns were read at the Free Church of Scotland in the Parish of Middle Church Paisley. Thomas was 23 years of age and a coach proprietor and Jane was also 23 years of age and a mill worker. Thomas’ parents were Thomas Blair and Helen Brown. Jane’s were Adam Hamilton and Jane Smith. If Jane was 23 at the time of her marriage then she was not 21 when she died.

Her son John was born 7 June 1868 also at 36 St. James Street. Jane died on 18 February 1869 at 36 St. James Street, Paisley Renfrew Scotland. She died of gastric fever. This was sometimes referred to as bilious fever or typhoid fever. So John was about eight months old when his mother passed away.

36 St. James Street was the home of Adam Hamilton and Jane Smith. Adam and Jane married on 19 May 1839 in the parish of Middle Paisley. They had three children Robert, Ann and Jane. There may be two more daughters named Margaret and Janet.

John, Adam’s grandson, is found with the family in the 1871 Scotland census and in 1881 he is with his father and his second family. John did not have much time for his father and was not with the family in the 1891 census.

So the note written in the Bible of Jane Hamilton by my grandfather had some truth to it. He probably heard the stories from his mother as his own father died when he was very young. John Blair may not have known the details of his mother’s death. John stayed close to the Hamilton family and my grandfather was the executor of Ann Hamilton’s estate when she died.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Every genealogical researcher has come up against a brick wall in their research. Hopefully it is not one that is insurmountable but can be broken down. Have you ever done a cluster research project to help you break down that brick wall?

A cluster research project, or sometimes called a reconstruction or reconstitution project, requires that you search all the collateral lines of your family to find additional data that will hopefully break down that brick wall. It can also be a one name study in a particular area to see if familial links can be found. The process can be more difficult if the name is a common one but that just increases the challenge. Remember searching for spelling variations of the surname is another important step in the process.

I have used this method for clients and was able to get one client’s family back to a place in Ireland where he found a marriage for the couple who came to Canada. This information was found by doing a one name study over three counties and five townships in Ontario. The information did not come from the client’s direct line but from a newly found collateral line. It was a long process but was well worth it.

You might start with doing research in one county but find you will have to cover more area in your search. This is especially true if the area in the county where the family is from is near a border. You must be flexible in where your research takes you.

Do not limit yourself to the criteria with which you started the project. If you suddenly find a record that takes you to a new county follow that lead. If you do not follow the lead you may miss the link that brings the research all together. Add this new information to your research plan and continue on with your research.

This is a process I also use for my own research. It has worked well for proving a family story wrong and for proving one right. It also has not worked a few times but you never know unless you try.

Organization is critically important to the project. You have to be able to keep track of all the records searched as well as the people found. It can become difficult when you have several with the same name and have to distinguish between them. Only you can decide the best way to organize the data gathered in the project. I have used a genealogy program and a spreadsheet as well as paper and pencil. They have been used singularly or together. Research plans, research logs and source citation sheets are all very important.

A good book on the subject is “Family History Problem Solving through Family Reconstitution Techniques” by Andrew Todd. It is published in England.

It can be a large undertaking to do this type of research but the result can be the bulldozer you need to break down that brick wall you have been banging your head against for years.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

My Great Grandmother was Annie Cumming. She was one of eight children. Annie’s father was William Henry Cumming and he was a stone mason. He travelled throughout Lanark, Ayr, Midlothian and Wigtown plying his trade. The family finally settled in the Glasgow area some time after 1873.

William Henry Cumming and Jemima Grey were married in Stranraer Wigtownshire on 10 April 1866. William’s parents were Henry Cumming and Rachel Hamilton. Jemima’s parents were William Grey and Sarah McCubbin. Jemima had been born and raised in Leswalt Wigtownshire and was one of seven children.

William Henry Cumming was born in Hillsborough County Down Ireland circa 1839. The first time we find him in Scotland is on the 1861 Scottish census. He is in the house of his sister Mary Thursby.

Mary is 32, married and born in Ireland. George Thursby, Mary’s husband, is 29, born in Ireland and a porter. They have four children William H Thursby aged 9, Hugh aged 7, Margaret A aged 2 and Thomas aged 1. They are all born in Stranraer.

William Henry Cumming is 21, unmarried and a gardener. He is listed as brother in law. There is also a Rachel Cumming aged 5, born in Stranraer and she is listed as niece. The household also has a boarder James and his last name looks like Burden. James is 29, a porter and born in Ireland.

No birth record has been found for Rachel Cumming. A birth record has been found for Thomas Thursby and his mother’s maiden name is Cumming.

Mary Thursby died 27 February 1888 at 1 Hanover Street Stranraer Wigtown. Her parents are listed as Henry Cumming and Rachel Hamilton both deceased.

William, Jemima and family are found in the 1871 Scottish census in Mary Hill at the Garrioch Barracks where William was working. Also in this census William’s sister Rachel is found living with the family. In 1881 they are in Govan Lanark but William’s sister is no longer with the family. In 1891 and 1901 they are in Cathcart Renfrew. The children are Rachel, Jemima, William, Elizabeth, Anne, Mary and John. Mary was known as Pollie.

Rachel married William Moodie. Jemima married William Stewart Thomson. William died in infancy. Pollie (Mary) married James Thompson. Anne married Frederick Campbell and Elizabeth married William Linn.

It was discovered on Elizabeth’s marriage record in 1903 that William Henry was deceased so this provided a space of time to search for his death record since he was on the 1901 Scotland census. William Henry Cumming died 5 January 1903 at 7:30 pm at 347 Langside Road in Crosshill Glasgow. He was 66 years of age and his son John Cumming was the informant.

John was a mystery as he was not found in the birth registrations for a long time. He was with the family in the 1891 and 1901 Scotland census and was the informant on his father’s death registration. John was born on 1 August 1884 in Govanhill Glasgow. Nothing has been found regarding John since the time of his father’s death. Family lore suggests he died in New Jersey USA around 1905. There is a John Cumming arriving at Ellis Island in 1904 on his way to Brooklyn but no information has been found to corroborate this story yet.

Jemima Grey Cumming died on 22 November 1917 in Cathcart Glasgow. She died at 11:00 pm at 57 Battlefield Ave. Frederick Campbell was the informant.

My Grandmother always said that her Grandfather had a pig farm. She can remember Annie saying that Jemima used to wash the pigs in buttermilk in preparation for going to market. Jemima Grey Cumming may have washed pigs but those pigs were the property of her father’s neighbour and not her husband. Family stories can be a little bit like the game Telephone where you whisper a phrase into someone’s ear and it is passed down the line and the last person has to say out loud what they heard. It is rarely the same phrase that started the game.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

It is really important to keep up with all the new advancements, latest releases and general news in genealogy. Keeping up with the news will help you advance your own family history. You never know when an announcement regarding the release of records will provide you with the record to break down that brick wall you have been battling against for ages.

Generally I follow over fifty different blogs and can have up to thirty new blog posts to read everyday. The majority of them are genealogy blogs but several can be considered connected to genealogy such as writing and history blogs. A few are related to my other interests. If there is a new innovation or records are released in the world of genealogy you can count on multiple blog posts to respond. Information travels quickly in the world of instant news reports.

Genealogy blogs help me to keep up to date with the news as well as providing the opportunity of learning something new everyday. I follow the well known blogs such as Dick Eastman as well as some lesser known blogs. It is amazing the information that is flowing freely through the community.

I also love the family stories that are shared throughout the genealogy blogging world. “Write it up” has been a phrase used quite often throughout the genealogical community and the blog has provided us with a fun and relatively easy way to do so.

Blogs are just a small part of how I keep up to date with information. I read about five genealogy magazines a month. My reading material also consists of six genealogy journals that come out quarterly. The reading material comes from Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland and the United States. This way I can keep abreast of everything new in the countries where I conduct research.

I have an IPod but where most people have music on their IPods I listen to genealogical and historical podcasts. This is another way of catching up with what is going on in the world of genealogy. I am learning about record groups that might assist me with my research as well as the time periods in history that my ancestors lived through. I talked about podcasts in a previous blog entry.

While all this new and abundant information is fantastic, I have to schedule in time to keep up to date with it all.

©2010 – Blair Archival Research

Nowadays everyone who has an opinion is blogging, texting or tweeting that opinion to the world. Where can you find a lot of these people? They are in the coffee shop. They are using the free wi-fi to upload blog posts and their hand held devices to send their 140 character thoughts through the airwaves while having a coffee. Since you can only use 140 characters a new form of writing has become necessary. The coffee shop has become a place of business for a lot of people.

So let’s rewind about three or four hundred years. What were people doing? Oh yes, they were voicing opinions but the way those opinions were sent out into the world was a printed pamphlet. Oh, but these were very expensive so they had to develop a new form of writing to use less characters to get their message across. Hmmm

The coffee house was the hub of the community, next to the public house. Coffee was all the rage and coffee houses were the place to see and be seen. Samuel Pepys and Samuel Johnston frequented them. Business was also conducted in the coffee house.

Everything old is new again. What are you doing now that your ancestors might have been doing three or four hundred years ago? If you did not have any of the currently available technology is your life really all that different from your ancestors?

©2010 – Blair Archival Research