June 2011

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This is part two of the divorce of John Sheddens Campbell and Mary Ann McDonald. You can find part one here.

The first part of the package I received was the court records of the proceedings. There were two parts to this package. The first was a printed document and it had the title “Closed Record, in action of divorce John Sheddans Campbell against Mrs. Mary Ann McDonald or Campbell.”

On 3 July 1875 the court said they would hear the case for divorce on Saturday 17 July 1875 at 11 o’clock in the morning. John S. Campbell had to pay the expenses of his wife amounting to 10 GBP. The proceedings were held in Edinburgh and they lived in Glasgow.

Next you find the summons where John S. Campbell is charging his wife with adultery. Then there is the Condescendence for Pursuer which describes his married life and is about three pages long. This document provides the date and place of marriage and who officiated. There are the names of the children and their ages.

One part that I found most interesting was where they had resided during their marriage. They first lived in Glasgow until January 1860 when they moved to Edinburgh until September of 1860 when they moved back to Glasgow. In May 1863 they moved to Greenock and returned to Glasgow in March 1865 where they continued to live until September 1874.

John S. Campbell states that the first 10 years of the marriage her “conduct and habits were unimpeachable.” Things seemed to change in March of 1867 when she “became addicted to intoxication and has ever since persisted in the habit of indulging to excess in drink.” It appears Mary was in the habit of selling anything and everything to get the funds for her addiction.

This would have been a very difficult time for John S. Campbell especially since his father was very active in the Temperance Movement in the Glasgow area. He was part of the committee that in 1837 formed the “Barony of Gorbals Branch of the Total Abstinence Society.”

It is heartbreaking that the drinking started in March of 1867 since Mary gave birth to twins in August of 1867. One of the twins died a month after birth and you wonder how the drinking affected them. There is a family story that they may have been premature.

In order to protect himself and his family he removed her from the family home around 17 September 1874. He provided her with maintenance as long as she did not bother either him or the children.

Mary agreed that all this had taken place but added that John had threatened violence if she did not sign the document for maintenance.

John contended that she has been freely going about with men and constantly in their company. Mary denies the charge of adultery. There was a list of dates provided where it was suggested that Mary had brought men back to her lodgings and she denied all these accusations.

Mary accused John of libel and the court accepted this charge.

The second part of the package is the handwritten transcripts of the court.

The court heard the divorce case on Saturday 17 July 1875 and Monday 19 July 1875. It appears Mary McDonald missed the train from Glasgow and did not make the proceedings on Saturday. The witnesses were shown a photograph of her on Saturday.

There were eight witnesses. The first witness was Mrs. Margaret Cameron or McIntyre who was Mary’s Aunt. She had been present at their marriage. The next witness was Mary McIntyre or Thomson the daughter of the previous witness.

Mrs. Janet Waddell or Johnston was the next witness and she lived at 5 Paul Street in Glasgow which is where Mary McDonald was residing after the separation. She testified that Mary stayed home during the day but always went out in the evenings until 11 o’clock or later. She brought a man home with her one night just before she left the lodgings and said it was her brother. Mrs. Johnston would not let the man in the house.

James Aitken worked for the Private Inquiry Office in Dundas Street Glasgow. He was employed by John S. Campbell to follow his wife. John M. Colton and John Phillips assisted him during his assignment. He referred to a note book to make sure of the accuracy of the dates and times in question. On many occasions he observed her meeting men and drinking.

John Colton and John Phillips also testified. John Phillips said he had only done one or two of these kinds of cases and he was a tailor by trade.

John Sheddens Campbell 1876


When John S. Campbell testified he said he employed Mr. Aitken around March of 1875. He paid him a guinea per day. He thought the price rather high but was told Mr. Aitken needed two men to help him and it could not be done for less.

Thomas Arnot testified. He was the writer for the lawyer of John S. Campbell. He said he gave Mary McDonald 10/- [shillings] for her fare to Edinburgh to be present on Saturday.

Mary McDonald’s testimony mostly consisted of the word “No.” She did not elaborate much on any details.

The divorce was granted in John S. Campbell’s favour on 23 July 1875. Mary’s case of libel was dismissed.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

I had the great pleasure of attending the Scottish Family History Workshop hosted by the Canadiana Department of the North York Central Library and the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society.

There were three speakers at the workshop: Chris Paton, Marian Press and James F.S. Thomson. Marian and James are excellent speakers and I had heard them speak on many occasions. Chris Paton had travelled from Scotland to present four lectures to the enthusiastic Toronto audience.

The audience members were not just from Toronto. I had travelled from Oakville and met others from Kingston and other parts of the province. Many of us knew Chris from his two blogs: Scottish GENES (Genealogy News and EventS) and Chris Paton: Walking in Eternity.

Chris did two plenary lectures “The Godly Commonwealth” and “Scottish House and Land History.” The first lecture provides a history of the many variations and types of churches to be found in Scotland.

The second lecture was the one I was particularly interested in hearing and I was not disappointed. Chris kindly went through an eleven page testament record of my four times Great Grandmother. It turns out she was a feuar of land that was part of the Blythswood Estate owned by Archibald Campbell. She got the rights to the land upon her husband’s death. Thanks to Chris I now understand the land system in Scotland a little better and have lots of research to do which may mean a trip to Scotland.

I had heard Chris talk about his “The Weavers of Perth” and “There’s Been a Murder” lectures on his blog so to actually get to hear them in person was a real treat.

Let’s hope this will be the first of many visits Chris makes to Canada to present lectures.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research All Rights Reserved

The feud between the Campbell and McDonald clans in Scotland is well known. So I was more than a little interested to find out that my Great Great Grandfather’s first wife was a McDonald.

When I first started doing family history research about forty years ago I was given a lot of information on the Campbell family by my Grandmother. She said her Grandfather’s first wife had either died or there was a divorce. She was not sure and nothing had ever been said.

It took a while to find the marriage for John Campbell and Mary McDonald. These are very common names.

John Campbell married Mary McDonald on 14 May 1857 in the district of Anderston in the burgh of Glasgow. John was 19 and Mary was 24. Next to this entry is a notation in the left hand margin. It is difficult to read and in part reads “Divorce See Royal … (1875)… 23 July 1875.”

There was no Register of Corrected Entries available for this registration so I emailed ScotlandsPeople and they were able to help me. They also provided some contact information for some Scottish government departments who may be able to help me find out more. I was not able to get any information about how to obtain the actual divorce file from anyone.

I then went on a search for information on divorce in Scotland. There was not a lot to be found. The National Archives of Scotland had a research guide on divorce. It was not helpful and there was very little relating to the time period I was researching.

I have a copy of “Tracing your Scottish Ancestry” by Kathleen B. Cory and “In Search of Scottish Ancestry” by Gerald Hamilton-Edwards and neither of these publications helped me with my research.

Finally I sent an email to the National Archives of Scotland. The reply was that they had checked their indexes and did not find anything relating to the case. This was getting to be a very frustrating process.

There was a light at the end of the tunnel though as I was about to go to Salt Lake City. In the Family History Library I found the “General Minute-Book of the Court of Session.” These are available on microfilm. The library does not have a complete set of the General Minute Books.

I was told by the archives that the divorce records could be found anywhere from the time of the marriage until the last child turned 21 years of age. That was a search of 1857 to 1901 but I started in 1875 because of the notation on the marriage record.

The book that covered the dates 15 Oct 1874 to 14 Oct 1875 provided me with the information I needed to order the record. Here it was recorded that John Sheddens Campbell went before Lord Craighill, MD to petition for divorce.

While going through the books to see if there were other notations relating to the divorce I found other references to John Sheddens Campbell suing people for not paying their bills.

Once I got home these documents were scanned and sent to the National Archives of Scotland. They said the divorce file was found and it would cost me 50 GBP to get a copy of it. The package arrived in a little over a week which was really good.

There were 91 pages and they were divided into two then wrapped up in cotton ribbon. There were 20 pages relating to the divorce proceedings and 71 pages of witness statements which made for very interesting reading. It appears my Great Great Grandfather hired a private investigator to watch his wife.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research

While I am a firm believer in using research techniques to find information on my family there is the ever present serendipity that shows up at the most opportune times.

I had found a reference to a possible marriage between Thomas Kelly and Mary Orford in the Marriage Licence Indexes at the National Archives of Ireland. The reference read:

Kelly, Thomas, Kildare, Gent, Mary Orford, Dublin, Sptr, 3 Aug 1767 St. Anne’s parish

I thought this was a great find for so early a record. Then in the 1980s I ordered some copies of “The Irish Ancestor” edited by Miss Rosemary ffolliott. There were nine journals to read and I was enjoying going through them all. In journal No. 2 from 1971 I came across an article called “Old Parochial Registers of Scotland: References to Parties from Ireland” extracted by Donald Whyte.

The first page described the project and the first few extractions were noted. When I turned the page the second extraction jumped out at me. It read:

“11th August 1767: Thomas Kelly from Kildare in Ireland and Mary Orford from Dublin being well attested as single persons & of good Character having got publication of Banns, were lawfully Married here this day”

This extract came from the OPR’s for Kirkcudbright. I ordered the film from the Family History Library to confirm the extraction. What they were doing in Kirkcudbright and why they married there is a mystery. The marriage licence is dated the 3rd of August and the marriage took place on the 11th of August. Since they had a marriage licence from Ireland it is possible that they only read the banns once. The distance from Kildare to Kirkcudbright is over 400 kilometers and travel in 1767 was not the swiftest.

If I had not decided to order some back copies and if there was not an extra copy of the 1971 journal then their actual place of marriage would not be known. Why they went to Scotland and how they actually got there remains a mystery which I hope one day to solve.

While doing a cluster research project in Cheshire in England I came across an interesting entry in the marriage register. Daniel Broadbent married Martha Cheetham by licence on 9 March 1780. Daniel signed his name and Martha signed her mark. “Behold!” in bold letters is written above the entry. There is a note by the minister who presided over the marriage:

“N.B. A peculiar Marriage! Daniel Broadbent was aged twenty three – Martha Cheetham aged eight three!”

The minister’s feelings may be the reason the marriage was done by licence and not banns. Maybe he refused to read the banns for a marriage with such an age difference. It would be nice to know why they decided they should get married.

While looking for the marriage of my Great Great Grandparents I came across the first marriage for my Great Great Grandfather Henry Thompson. In a round about way this also helped me find the marriage of his sister.

They were married at the same time. I would not have found this by ordering the marriage record from Ireland as they only provide you with the marriage record for the couple requested.

The Family History Library has microfilms for early civil registration records in Ireland and when you get a copy you get the full page of entries. This is how I found the marriage of Priscilla Thompson.

Henry married Hannah Fayle and Priscilla married George Richard Fayle. It is a case of siblings marrying siblings. George was a witness to Henry’s marriage and Henry to George’s. William Thompson was a witness to both and is Henry and Priscilla’s brother.

I had not known of Henry’s first marriage. My Great Great Grandmother was his second wife. He lost his first wife and child within six months of each other just over a year after the marriage.

Have you come across interesting entries in parish registers or other records? Has serendipity found its way into your family history research? Please tell me your stories in the comments below.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research

This is the time of year when we start getting produce that is grown locally. So far I have been able to get this year’s rhubarb and asparagus. This is the busy season for farmers everywhere.

This month we will be looking at the lives of our farming ancestors.

We will look at the farm labourer in the first week of June. Where can you find information on this occupation and what were the conditions that your ancestor might have worked under? A Google search will help you find the an article from the “The Agricultural History Review” entitled “Farm Servant vs Agricultural Labourer 1870-1914” by Richard Anthony which you can download. There is “The farm labourer; the history of a modern problem” written in 1913 by Olive Jocelyn Dunlop and “A history of the English agricultural labourer, 1870-1920” by Frederick Ernest Green that was written in 1920. See what else you can find.

In week two let’s look at those who may have been involved with trying to unionize the farm worker. The United Farm Workers Union is a twentieth century union from the United States. You can find information on them here.

In England in 1833 The Agricultural Labourers Union began its struggle into existence in Dorset. The organizers were transported to Australia. They tried again in 1866 with the formation of the Agricultural Labourers Protection Association in Kent. Soon labourers in other counties began similar organizations. They united in May 1872 to form the National Union of Agricultural Workers.

Did your ag lab ancestors belong to similar organizations?

What were the tools that your ancestors used on the farm? In week three we are going to try and find out more about the tools they used. A useful website called “Antique Farm Tools” has pictures of old farm tools that may provide you with an idea of what your ancestors used on a daily basis.

What did life on the farm look like? In week four we will look at the images of our agricultural labourer ancestors. The University of Reading is home to the Museum of English Rural Life. They have an online image database as well as Countryside Images Flickr Group and Farmers Weekly Gallery where you can view and share your pictures. These are modern images.

There are two online exhibitions called Farmer and Stockbreeder collection and Farmers Weekly collection. The online exhibits have photographs from the mid twentieth century. They provide a look into farming practices and not all of it has to do with machinery.

The National Archives of England have a podcast called “Sources for tracing agricultural labourers” that can help you with your research.

A useful resource book is “My Ancestor was an Agricultural Labourer” by I. Weller.

The more you know about what your ancestors did for a living and what their daily life was like the more you will learn about your ancestor.

©2011 – Blair Archival Research