Genealogical Jurisprudence

Professor John Glaister (1856 – 1932)

Professor John Glaister (1856 – 1932) was a Scottish forensic scientist who often appeared as an expert witness in famous legal cases of the time. He authored A Text-book of Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology which was apparently quite an important reference work in those medical/legal circles of the time.

There has been a long held belief in my family that we are related to him, however I have never been able to find evidence of this.  My grandmother had first mentioned it to me but there is also a reference to the relationship in a letter my grandfather wrote to his son in 1979:

When we were in N.Z. someone told us that Aunt Amy when she was in Scotland looked up the Glaisters & Gerard Glaister is one of our relations. My maternal Grand-father was the only Glaister that wasn’t a Dr – [written above: (he was a blacksmith & my cousin Tom Allan showed me his coach-builders hand book when were in NZ.) ] & we had one of his books on veterinary [surgery] with coloured plates of horses insides when I was a kid. Tom Allen had a photo of my Grand-dad Glaister’s FATHER’s house on a Scottish estate – the house was given to him on his retirement as vet. So it looks something like this:

Incidently my uncle Murray Glaister met Prof. Glaister before the war.

+ one of his two sons (my cousin) was in the N.Z. New Years Honours list for his contribution to the meat industry.

*I believe the uncle he refers to as Murray is actually William David Murray Glaister (a solicitor in Auckland) as he was the only boy of William Murray GLAISTER & Alice Ann WHITE that lived; Aunt Amy is likely Amy Glaister/Pile; Gerard Glaister seems to refer to the British television producer and director ; I’m not sure who cousin Tom Allen refers to or the ‘meat industry contributor’.*

Seemingly lots of family information to help me piece things together but unfortunately, I know immediately that Grandad was mistaken in a few things:

  1. It was actually his maternal great great Grandfather who was a vet (Robert GLAISTER).
  2. His grandfather’s father, William GLAISTER (missing from this sketch) was also a blacksmith and it was actually HIS father who was the vet.
  3. The DR S recorded as a brother to the coach builder (William Murray GLAISTER) does not exist (at least not as this relationship – He had a brother called Stephen Glaister who was also a blacksmith.)
  4. Professor John Glaister’s grandfather was a John Glaister NOT Robert GLAISTER the veterinarian
  5. ‘…only Glaister that wasn’t a Dr…’ – no known doctors in this part of the family apart from a few veterinary surgeons

So my general assumption was that the family were mistaken and there is no link to my family.

HOWEVER:

While trawling the NZ Papers Past website for the Glaister name, I came across this article from 1932:

 

Auckland Star – 19 December 1932

 

…His death reveals a link with Auckland and New Zealand. When his daughter, now Mrs. Woodruff, was passing through Auckland to Melbourne to be married in 1919, she accidentally came into contact with the name Glaister, and made the acquaintance of Mr. W. P. M. Glaister,barrister, of this city. Subsequently Professor Glaister, who was compiling a history of the Glaister clan, communicated with Mr. Glaister, and as a result was able to furnish a genealogical history of the New Zealand branch of the Glaister clan from about 1800. Besides his specialist work in criminology Professor Glaister had wide interests, medical and scientific.

So according to this, ‘Uncle Murray’ had contact with Professor Glaister’s daughter and eventually communicated with him.  It doesn’t say ‘met’ but this was certainly ‘before the war’ so there WAS some truth to that statement.  The comment, ‘as a result was able to furnish a genealogical history of the New Zealand branch of the Glaister clan from about 1800’ isn’t exactly clear but does seem to imply that there WAS some link between both families. So for now, my search goes on…

Next Steps:

  • Determine exactly who cousin Tom Allen was & the ‘meat industry contributor’
  • Contact relatives who may still hold the books, papers and photographs referred to in the letter
  • Prepare tree of descendants of Robert GLAISTER to compare to Grandad’s sketch
  • Find link to Professor John Glaister’s family
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