Kissing Cousins?

I’m still reading Roy Buchan’s fabulous ‘From Peterhead to Passchendaele’ which has thrown up some more avenues of research but have been wondering about Jessie’s husband who was also a BUCHAN.   John’s parents, Arthur and Christian BUCHAN sounded familiar but the same names do keep cropping up in these fishing villages.  How closely related were they?

The first step was to download their marriage certificate to prove the parents of John.

Marriage of John BUCHAN and Jessie BUCHAN (8 Nov 1883 – 4 Port Henry Lane, Peterhead (bride’s home))

Then I located the family on the 1861 census. Christian was deceased and 2 of her sisters were living with Arthur – most likely helping with the 2 young children.

Arthur BUCHAN and his young sons, John and Arthur on the 1861 census at 21 West Row, St Combs

I suspected she died during childbirth but she actually died shortly before the census was taken of consumption and pneumonia.

Death of Christian BUCHAN  –  2 Mar 1861

I then looked to the transcribed 1851 census.  Christian and her sisters were there and again appeared in 1841 with their other siblings. Which I will soon look closer at as a study of the village of St Combs.

Roy lists other children of Arthur and Christian but mentions that he believes some are half brothers and sisters and therefore children of another union after Christian died.  Before I look further into the BUCHAN – BUCHAN connection, I’d like to find out more about this second union.

The One That Stayed Behind

I had mentioned in ‘Desperately Seeking John’ that there was one BUCHAN who didn’t emigrate to New Zealand on the Rimutaka with the rest of the family.  In Roy Buchan’s book ‘From Peterhead to Passchendaele’ he mentions that “there is thought to be at least one other who stayed behind.”.

Feeling inspired, I wanted to find out more about Charles BUCHAN (junior) – ‘the one that stayed behind’.  He had appeared on all the census records between 1871 and 1891 – odd that he didn’t go with them. I wondered why he had stayed and considered whether his descendants were still living in the Peterhead area?

I downloaded Charles’ birth certificate:

Birth Certificate of Charles BUCHAN
born 27 November 1865

After a search of marriages on the IGI, I was unable to find a likely match so I checked deaths.  I hoped this would give me the name of his wife if he had at all married.

Unfortunately, he hadn’t.

Poor Charles died at 26 years of age in 1892 – about a year and a half before the family moved to New Zealand.  He died from consumption of the lungs (phthisis pulmonaris). His father, Charles (b.1830), was present at his death and registered the event three days later.

Death Certificate of Charles BUCHAN
Died 30 July 1892

Now we know Charles had no option BUT to stay behind.

A Family of Lunatics!

I received the case notes for Wilson BUCHAN today. The contents were very interesting. Wilson’s case is sad but what strikes me from these notes is that the sense of family was very strong. It also strikes me that insanity very much runs in my family.

On the 17th June 1875, Wilson BUCHAN was admitted in the Royal Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum.

I can almost visualise Wilson – his description was more unique than that given for his sister Agnes. At age 60, he was a short man with a square, stooping figure. His eyes were black, his hair grey with a bald scalp and his complexion ruddy.

His history upon admission reads:

The present attack , supposed to be the first, has lasted for eight months during which time he has twice attempted suicide. There is a strong hereditary predisposition to insanity, his father committed suicide, his sister Mrs James Tait was in this Asylum two years ago, and his nephew James Third is at present a patient here.
According to the medical certificates, he distresses himself unreasonably about his wife’s death, will not engage in his ordinary occupation, imagines that the Police are to apprehend him for murder & stealing, talks of committing suicide and has been found with a rope round his neck.

On the 7th October 1876, Wilson was “Removed by his friends – Much Improved”.

I have become even more interested in these small fishing villages where everyone seems to be related and plan to do a bit more research on them.

Other facts I have managed to glean from these records:

  • Wilson’s wife died before June 1875 (this was unclear on his death record)
  • his father (& Agnes’) committed suicide
  • a sister Mrs James TAIT (also Agnes’ sister) was in the asylum two years ago,
  • a nephew, James THIRD presently in the Asylum
  • a son John Buchan (and his address – 91 Cairnbulg)
  • 3 daughters – Mrs Mary BUCHAN or Stephen; Mrs Robert STEPHEN; Christian BUCHAN

Next steps:
Work out his sister’s & daughter’s names by finding their marriages
Gain more information about the locality (map of houses)

image via flickr

Lunatic in the Family – Case Notes

I received my case notes from the archives yesterday which made for very interesting reading:

This is a case of senile insanity and patient is stated to have been more or less doted for twelve years. Her brother however is insane.
Medical certificates testify that for some time she has been very excitable, that she uses foul and obscene language and that she sometimes exposes her person. Further that she is sleepless, refuses food, and that she fancies people are going to kill her.
Not just any people though. One of the medical certificates state that she “suspects her friends and relatives are going to kill her. Fancies that they blame her for killing [her] daughter“. (I would like to find out which, if any, of her daughters died before her but I’m also aware that the daughter’s death could also have been imagined).
On her return to the asylum (after 6 months in the poorhouse wards), another doctor states that Agnes “Talks in an excited manner. Her memory is deficient. She fancies the other patients in the ward eat coals. She has delusions about her husband and family“.
Although poor Agnes’ case is quite tragic, I think its important to have sense of humour about these things and I find it amusing that she felt her fellow inmates ate coal, of all things. It seems I will never know exactly what her delusions were about her then deceased husband but these notes have given me a pretty good indication of her state of mind.


The case notes also give me a vague description of Agnes. She has a pale complexion, her hair is grey (not surprising for an 81 year old), and her figure is ‘stooping from age’.

Did she look like the fisherwoman in the photo on the left?

Among other information that I had already gleaned from other records, the sheriff petitions have given me 2 former addresses, the occupation of her son John, and the name of a brother who had also been declared insane.


Fortunately they give the name of this brother, Wilson BUCHAN who I was able to find christening, marriage and death records for. The death record mentions nothing of his insanity and as his wife is still alive, I assume he was being cared for at home. I have emailed the archivist to ask if she can offer any help finding out more.
One of my next steps in the previous post was to find out if any other family members lived at home in the 1881 census to care for Agnes. It looks as if that responsibility fell on her 48 year old daughter Jean (or Jane). I can only imagine that an already tough life as a Victorian fisherwoman was made tougher when she needed to care for her mentally ill mother.

Agnes, Arthur and Jane BUCHAN on the 1881 census.
Click to see larger image.

Lunatic in the Family Update

I received a quick and detailed email back from the archivist at the Grampian Archives, who searched the Asylum (& Poorhouse) records for me. The information she has given me from the admission registers, has enabled me to put some more pieces of Agnes’ life together.

Agnes was admitted into the Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum on Christmas Day (!) 1888. She was 81 and a recently widowed pauper. Her husband, Arthur had died in August earlier that year. According to the records, Agnes had suffered from her dementia for 12 years, having her first ‘attack’ when she was 69.

It seems as though the family were unable to care for Agnes after Arthur’s death and admitted her into the asylum.

Six months later, Agnes’ condition had not improved and she was transferred to the Lunatic wards of the Buchan Poorhouse. Her physical condition was described as ‘very weak’ and she was suffering from heart disease and bronchitis along with her ‘mental decay’. She was ‘sent back’ to the Lunatic Asylum another six months later as her condition had not improved. Her disorder was now recorded as “mania, senile” caused by age and heredity. She lived in the asylum for about 3 and a half years before dying in early May 1893. A post mortem examination was carried out and the cause of death recorded as senile decay. She was 85 years old.

opened January 1869

The archivist has very helpfully offered to send me copies of the petitions to the Sheriff for Mrs Buchan’s admission to the asylum. I am told these include statements by two doctors giving reasons for committing the patient to hospital and can sometimes also contain additional information about the patient’s background. She has also offered to send me the case notes.

I also want to thank ‘The Professional Descendant’ who gave very helpful advice on this issue in the comments section of the last post. If you are after more information on this, make sure you read her comments here.

Next steps:
* Check 1881 census for family members living there at the time, possibly caring for Agnes
* Obtain more information from the petitions and case notes