The Will of James Findlay

 

Port Henry Harbour (via The Buchan Heritage Society)

James Findlay and his wife, Helen Buchan were living at 29 Port Henry Road in April of 1881 with 6 of their 8 children (Jane Ann & Agnes appear to be in service at this time). James was a boat builder and ship carpenter and they had been married for 20 years.

The Findlay family in 1881

Sadly, only a few years later,  both James and Helen were dead. Helen died of dropsy in 1885 and the following year James died of pernicious anaemia, leaving behind their young family.

Approximate age of James Findlay’s children at the time of his death:

  • James 23
  • Jane Ann 21
  • Agnes 20
  • Margaret 17
  • William 14
  • Arthur 10
  • John 8
  • Helen 6

(note: Another daughter named Helen (b.1870) died before 1880)

James’ estate was only valued as a total of £18 14s (equivalent to roughly £1500 in today’s money) but he also owned the house on Port Henry Rd* where the family lived.

Extract Inventory of James Findlay

 

On the surface, there wasn’t a lot of genealogical information in these documents (the only relative named was his son), yet it still managed to indicate the care he had for his family.

1886 Will of James Findlay (img 690)

 

…(First) My said Trustees and their foresaids shall as soon as convenient assign convey and deliver to my son James Findlay Junior Fisherman Port Henry Road Peterhead the whole of my moveable estate in consideration of which the said James Findlay Junior shall be bound to pay my debts and funeral expenses including sums due to my children for money lent to me (Second) My said Trustees and their foresaids shall allow the said James Findlay Junior to occupy free of rent with power of subletting my house in Port Henry Road on condition that the said James Findlay Junior shall (in the first place) maintain such of my children as are under the age of seventeen years until the said children or the survivors of them individually reach the age of seventeen years or give such assistance as said children require for their maintenance in addition to their own earnings Declaring that I wish my children to understand that my desire is that they shall as soon as possible do what they can to maintain themselves Declaring further that the said James Findlay Junior shall not be bound to maintain or assist in maintaining any of said children unless they are content to live in family with him in his house and (in the second place) provide a free lodging in said house for such of my daughters as are unmarried though above the age of seventeen during such time as said unmarried daughters have no other home open to them but [beyond] the simple shelter of his house the said James Findlay Junior shall not be bound to maintain or assist in maintaining any daughter beyond the age of seventeen.  This provision in favor of unmarried daughters shall cease to be binding when as hereinafter provided my house is conveyed to the said James Findlay Junior in absolute property or is sold Declaring that the said James Junior shall not be bound to perform any of the above conditions in favor of my children and unmarried daughters unless said children and unmarried daughters conduct themselves properly and to the satisfaction of my said Trustees and their foresaids (Third) When my youngest child then alive attains the age of seventeen years if the said James Junior is alive and has fulfilled the above conditions of maintaining my younger children and providing a lodging for my unmarried daughters my said Trustees or their foresaids shall convey my said house to the said James Findlay Junior as his absolute property…

Basically, James willed that his eldest son James Jr would inherit his estate and take ownership of the house, as long as he continued to provide for the younger children until they were 17 years of age and behaved themselves (but desired that they try to maintain themselves as soon as possible). He also hoped that James Jr would allow his unmarried sisters above the age of 17 to lodge rent free in the family home if needed, but wasn’t bound to support them outside this. James Jr appeared to have honoured his father’s wishes.

On the 1891 census, Arthur & John were recorded still with him on the 1891 census. Margaret was boarding with sister, Jane Ann in Almanythie Lane (2 streets over) and the youngest, Helen, was recorded with older sister Agnes in Port Henry Lane (a lane connecting Longate to the harbour – since demolished).  I have as yet been unable to locate William.

Arthur and John living with James Findlay Jr in Port Henry Road 1891
Helen living with sister Agnes in Port Henry Lane 1891
Margaret living with sister Jane Ann in 1891

 

Map of Peterhead c.1900 showing Port Henry Road & Almanythie Road

Interestingly one of the named executors refused the role.  John Suttar was a long established local merchant who “carried on an extensive trade with the fishing community” [Aberdeen People’s Journal 15 December 1906 p9] and John Gilchrist Mitchell was a fish curer whose son was the solicitor named in the will, Henry Benjamin Gilchrist. Both were clearly acquainted with James and may have even been close friends but as Suttar declined it’s unclear.

*house number seems to change but still refer to same address

Double Death Developments

In the post, Double Death, I said:

The death certificate records Grace’s cause of death as  ‘Valvular disease of the Heart – Bronchitis’.  Obviously, the son’s certificate will need to be viewed next if I’m to solve this mystery.

The son, Edward STYLING’s death certificate has now been viewed but has only heightened the mystery – he ALSO died of ‘Valvular disease of the Heart – Bronchitis’!

Edward STILING’s death certificate 1873
Grace STILING’s death certificate 1873

What can I see?

  • Same date, place and cause of death.
  • Edward’s death was recorded in the register (#85) before Grace (#86).
  • The same informant (Ann Maunder) and registrar.

I find this incredibly strange…

A mother and son, 24 years apart in age, living in the same house (Ashley Cottage), die of the same disease on the same day!

And no one seemed to find this odd!

It’s possible there was some kind of epidemic in the area at the time but in what circumstances might death like this happen?

I guess it could be a coincidence but it’s all a bit suspicious to me…

Ashley Cottage (2009) via Google Street View

Wonder No Maunder

Turns out the Ann Maunder who was present at Grace STILING’s death is not the family member I suspected and apparently no relation at all  (Read related post HERE).

c1903 map showing the proximity of Broad Lane to Ashley Cottage, Tiverton

For some reason, bad transcription I guess, I was unable to find Ann on the 1871 census through name & town alone.  Using the find my past address search function, I was able to finally locate Broad Lane on 1871 census and there she was – married to a James Maunder and nearly 50 years younger than the Ann Maunder I expected/hoped her to be.

Ann Maunder of Broad Lane on 1871 census

Ann’s maiden name was Bowden and she married James in 1851.

Ann Maunder/Bowden’s marriage record, 1851

At least I’ve cleared that up for myself.  In other news, I’ve ordered Grace’s son, Edward STILING’s death certificate. Will Ann Maunder appear as witness there too?

 

Mayoral Connections

St Andrew’s Street, Tiverton (date unknown) – Harriotte STILING lived here in 1841 

Before Harriotte STILING married George WREFORD, she was living in Tiverton with Thomas & Sarah LEAMAN.  As she was recorded in the 1841 census as a female servant (‘F.S.’), I presumed she was the LEAMAN’s live-in maid.  This may still be true but somehow suspected there was more to this relationship.

(I can’t remember exactly how this suspicion came about but I recently rediscovered a note on my ancestry ‘TO DO’ list to investigate the relationship.)

Harriotte STILING on 1841 census living with Thomas & Sarah LEAMAN

It turns out that Mrs LEAMAN was actually Harriotte’s sister, Sarah STILING who married the widower, Thomas LEAMAN, Esquire (!) in 1840.

1840 marriage record of Sarah STILING & Thomas Leaman, Esquire

My reasons for accepting this:

  1. John Stiling, yeoman is recorded as father (same as Harriotte’s marriage certificate in 1845)
  2. Edward & Charlotte STILING are witnesses at the marriage – her siblings’ names
  3. A Sarah Stiling was born to John & Grace of West Barton in Tiverton, yeoman (West Barton was Stiling residence for 60 years)
Sarah Stiling’s baptism 1815 – Bishop’s Transcripts

Sadly, the marriage was very short – Thomas died only 3 years later.  I was unable to find the couple on the 1851 census but instead came across a mention in The Gentleman’s Magazine that Thomas died June 15, 1843 and had also been the mayor of Tiverton!

The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol 20, p171

Strangely, I have not yet found any other information about this man, other than a note in the next volume of The Gentleman’s Magazine that his sister’s son would change his name as heir of Thomas’ apparent fortune:

The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol 21, p193

I had learnt via the works of Jane Austen that women usually didn’t inherit from their husbands – but it still seemed a little harsh for this young bride.  Sarah managed to get back on her feet with a later marriage to Richard BRANSCOMBE in 1849 and was visiting her mother and brother on the night of the 1871 census (retired farmer’s wife). It’s always nice to find evidence that families stayed in each other’s lives.

Next Steps: 

  • Find out more about Mayor Thomas Leaman and his premature death

Blind Leading the Blind

At the top of my ancestry ‘To Do’ list for many years now has been ‘Find out who Blind Wreford is’.

Today I’ve finally found out…

I’m not even sure where I first heard of Blind Wreford but I’ve kept an eye out for any mention of him.  Finally I found mention of him in obituary for another old wrestler, John Bolt.

 

He was full of anecdotes of “Blind Wreford,” a wealthy farmer of Cheriton, whodied in 1835 at a very advanced age, and who, notwithstanding his blindness, was a renowned wrestler, often followed the hounds without sustaining severe falls, and was an excellent judge of the weight and general qualities of cattle.”

 

According to this, he had been totally blind since he was 8. “He was a strongly limbed, well grown and powerful man, about 5 feet 10 in. in height, and was usually led into the ring by a boy, as a guide, and indulged with the privilege of taking hold of his antagonist by the collar…”

I’m really surprised that it’s been so hard to find mention of this guy as he really does seem quite extraordinary.