While trawling through the parish registers of St Combs, I came across a record for a Charles Gordon BUCHAN.  It was quite rare to come across a middle name in this family (as opposed to a tee name) and wondered if it was reference to the mother’s maiden name.

Baptism of Charles Gordon BUCHAN, 1785 – Lonmay parish registers

Alexander Buchan (Skipper) in Cairnglass had a son baptd named Charles Gordon. W[itnesses] John Strachan (*sley) & James Buchan.

It was the first time I’d come across ‘Cairnglass’ and found more about the place in the Ordnance Survey Books:

A superior farmsteading on the estate of Cairness. The property of Jas W Gordon Esqr.

I recall reading somewhere that tenant farmers sometimes named their children after land owners so it’s highly likely that Alexander Buchan of Cairnglass names his son in honour of the owner of his farm.  However, this seemed based on the valuation roll of 1869/70 – 85 years later – so proof would be needed that this property was in the Gordon family for some time.

A search for the Gordon name and Cairness brought up a page for Charles Gordon, 7th of Buthlaw and 1st of Cairness. He lived at the correct time and therefore lends credence to the idea Charles Gordon BUCHAN was named after him.  If anyone knows anything for or against this conclusion, I’d be very interested to hear about it.

Charles Gordon of Buthlaw, Lonmay and Cairness (1747–1797) by Henry Raeburn 1790 (c) The National Trust for Scotland, Fyvie Castle


Arthur and Martha… I mean, Mary

I mentioned in my previous post that I’d like to know more about Arthur BUCHAN’s next marriage as their children are mentioned in Roy Buchan’s book ‘From Peterhead to Passchendaele’.  He had married his first wife, Christian BUCHAN in 1857 who had died by the 1861 census.

Marriage of Arthur BUCHAN and Christian BUCHAN 1857

I located Arthur and his sons on the 1871 census who were now living with Arthur’s new wife, Mary and their new half siblings – Andrew, Mary and Elspet. 

Arthur & sons with new family on 1871 census

A search of the IGI located a marriage between Arthur and Mary BRUCE in 1864 which I then downloaded.  Strangely, Mary’s parents are not listed.

Marriage of Arthur BUCHAN and Mary BRUCE 1864

A further search of the IGI uncovered the births of their children, Isabella and Peter.  This Peter is ‘Uncle Peter’ who Roy refers to as “a shadowy figure who followed the family to New Zealand, arriving in about 1910”. Auntie Isa was also mentioned in letters written by Roy’s father and uncles during World War I. “a rotter who deserted his wife and children” (Buchan, R., From Peterhead to Passchendaele, 2003, p145).

I would say there’s a whole new story there.

Son of a Lunatic

I received another reply from the wonderful archivist at NHS Grampian archives. Apparently, Agnes’ brother Wilson was also admitted into the Aberdeen Royal Lunatic Asylum. Wilson was suicidal when he entered the asylum in June 1875. He was released under the authority of John BUCHAN in October 1876. He had either recovered from his ‘melancholia’ or was being cared for at home.

While I wait for the case notes to arrive, I’ve been looking into John BUCHAN as he seems to be playing a vital role in his families lives. I don’t know yet whether this John is Agnes’ son or another family member. There are 2 or 3 John Buchans of the right age in the Lonmay parish in 1881. One married to a Mary PIRIE and one to an Isabella. I downloaded the death record of the only appropriate Lonmay death record (between 1876 and 1930) – this John was married to Mary PIRIE and his mother is recorded as Nancy BUCHAN (father – Arthur).

Statutory Death Record of John Buchan, 1907

Click for larger image

At first glance, it seems the other John in the 1881 census is my man. HOWEVER, the names Nancy and Agnes do sound similar – could this be an error? The informant was the man’s son, who was 18 on the 1881 census and so very likely to know his grandmother well.

A quick google search reveals that Nancy seems to be a nickname for Agnes. This record is looking more likely to be a match. Hopefully, the case notes will give me a clue (at least to whether the John Buchan whom Wilson was released to was in fact Agnes’ son).

Then it dawned on me, dear readers, the case notes had also given son John’s occupation as ‘carter’. The same occupation is recorded on these records and so, in a village full of fisherman, I can be fairly confident this is my man.

1881 Census Record
John BUCHAN & family and FINDLAY servant
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Before I go, however, the census record and the name Mary PIRIE seemed very familiar to me. Then I noticed the name of their servant, Agnes FINDLAY – this was a direct ancestor!

I even blogged about this Agnes’ gravestone a few months ago. I had often wondered if this Agnes was related to her ’employer’ as her mother was a Buchan. It turns out young Agnes (Mad Agnes’ grandaughter) was living with her uncle. I will look into this situation more and report back. I LOVE genealogy!

If you’ve only just found this blog – this particular story starts here.

A Lunatic in the Family

A lot of us joke about having families full of them but occasionally you come across things that remind you how serious it can be.

For a while now I’ve known about my lunatic ancestor (one of them!) but today I’ve actually decided to try to find out more.

Agnes BUCHAN was born in Aberdeenshire in 1807. Agnes married Arthur BUCHAN (there were a LOT of Buchans in the area), a fisherman, about 1830 and lived in the small fishing community of Lonmay with her family until Arthur died in 1888. It was sometime after this that Agnes was admitted into the Royal Lunatic Asylum in Aberdeen. She appears there in the 1891 census living at Elmhill house (part of the asylum/hospital).

The new Elmhill House featured in The Illustrated London News in 1863

source: UrbexForums

In 1893, Agnes died at the asylum of senile decay. This seems like quite a broad term and would like to know the extent of her ‘lunacy’ and what the conditions may have been like for her. I searched SCAN (Scottish Archive Network) to find what kind of hospital records might be available and have sent an email to the archivist. Hopefully, I’ll be able to learn more about my troubled ancestor.