Adopting a New Approach

The 1881 census first told me that my second great grandfather, Alexander Gibson REID (also featured in my post, Dating Photographs) was adopted. I found it very interesting but soon realised that this created a problem for my research.

Alexander Gibson REID on a family outing circa 1928
see Dating Photographs post for more information

Finding Alex on the 1871 census confirmed the adoption and cemented the final stone in a very solid brick wall.  Unfortunately, it will probably take a minor miracle to break this one as there were no adoption records in the 1860s.  In fact, there were no scottish adoption records at all until 1930. This problem is not unique to Scotland either as many family historians have no doubt discovered.

REID family on the 1871 census

Both censuses state Alex was born in Dunoon, Argyllshire about 1863.  I have tried searching for birth records under that name but have got no results.  This indicates to me that Alexander may have been renamed by his adoptive family; which also indicates that he was probably adopted very young.  Possibly from a family member, possibly from the victim of a colliery accident, possibly this, possibly that… There could be so many other explanations – too many for me to list all the possibilities here.

In the hopes a miracle will be bestowed on me, I want to gather as many clues as I can by studying the adoptive family.  The key (or sledgehammer) may just lie in the family names or newspaper reports from the places they lived.

REID family on the 1861 census

Gibson REID had been a coal miner since he was at least 15 (source – 1841 & 1851 censuses) but by 1861, he was a colliery clerk in New Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire.  He lived with his wife, Agnes (nee GIBB) in Knightswood (now part of Glasgow but then still a rural area with small scale mining source).

Gibson was 35 years old, born in Crichton, Midlothian; Agnes was 36, born in Bothwell, Lanarkshire.  They were living in Knightswood Cottage with their children; Mary, Alexander, Janet, Robert & Isabella, who were aged between 1 & 13 years of age.  All the children were born in Bothwell, Lanarkshire except the youngest, Isabella, who was born in New Kilpatrick the previous year.

Death certificate of Gibson REID – 27 Jan 1872, New Kilpatrick, Dunbartonshire

A brief timeline of Gibson REID:
About 1826 – born in Crichton, Edinburgshire.
1841 – living in the HOGG household (William and Euphemia) with Robert, John & William REID (siblings?) & 50 year old, Agnes REID (mother Agnes listed on death certificate)

Sometime after 1841 – moved to Bothwell, married Agnes and had their first child, Mary in 1848.
Between 1851 and 1860 – became a colliery clerk and moved to New Kilpatrick.
Between 1863 and 1871 – adopted Alexander Gibson.
1871 still living at Knightswood Cottage.
1872 died of chronic bronchitis.Next Steps:
Search for male births (first name Alexander, blank surname) for familiar or possible mother names
Check Argyllshire newspapers for local tragedies
Check 1841 census for Agnes Gibb and her family found 4 possible matches – 1 most likely in Bothwell (sisters Catherine & Jean?)

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.

Desperately Seeking John – A Sad Conclusion

In case brother John DID refer to brother-in-law John, I decided to check for deaths before embarking on a costly census trawl.  There were a few likely entries but since John hadn’t appeared on any of the censuses, I chose one of the infant deaths first and sure enough there he was:

Poor little tyke only lived 12 days – cause unknown.
I think it’s safe to say that the John present at Alexander BUCHAN’s death is his sister Jessie’s (born 1860) husband.  They had married back in Peterhead and emigrated with Jessie’s parents and siblings.

Will or Testament?

I noticed this morning that the Scotlands People website has changed a bit (at least cosmetically) which in turn led me to notice the free wills and testaments search in the left bar.  So I started plugging away at some of my Scottish ancestors and came across a possible record for William MURRAY, dated 1839:

William MURRAY was the father of Margaret MURRAY (who married William GLAISTER in 1843).  It seems I had been unable to locate Margaret or her family in the 1841 census NOR find a record of the marriage of her parents when last researching the line and so left the family there for the time being.  Today, after consulting the new Family Search BETA and 1841 census transcriptions on a site called Graham Maxwell Ancestry, I was able to discover the marriage of William MURRAY to Janet BELL in the Kelso parish registers, 1817:


William Murray, Stocking-maker here & Janet Bell, Daughter of Alexr. Bell, Stocking-maker in Melrose, after the publication of the banns of marriage in the Church of Kelso, were married, at Melrose, on the eighth day of Decr. 1817 by the Revd. Mr. Thomson, Minister of Melrose, in presence of these witnesses Lieut. Lachlan Burn of the R.N. – Kelso & George Hart – Melrose

As the marriage obviously took place in Melrose, I decided to see if the Melrose records held any more information.  It’s quite amusing how little they actually held compared to the Kelso registers:


[1817, Nov 30] William Murray residing in the parish of Kelso and Janet Bell residing in this parish.

I’m pretty sure this is the family on the 1841 census:

The names and ages of the children are all correct (as found on the IGI) – only Margaret is missing (possibly working elsewhere). The only other concern is that William, who was recorded as a stocking maker at marriage is now a barber.  Not impossible by any means but a concern nonetheless.

So, back to the testaments – is this my guy?  Is the testament dated in 1839 because that William MURRAY had died OR was it drawn up before death?   If the 1839 date indicates the date of death, it is not my guy because he appears to be alive on the 1841 census.  I’m a tad confused.

UPDATE: The will bequeaths all to this man’s niece, Anne P. Murray or Montgomerie as the sole beneficiary so apparently NOT my William MURRAY. However, he was residing in Kelso at time of death so I feel he must be related somehow, even if distantly.

Next Steps:

  • Determine how this William Murray & Anne Murray/Montgomerie fit in my tree (if at all)


At the end of my last post, I mentioned that I had no idea that Alexander Ritchie BUCHAN had a brother called John.

I did a ‘parent search’ on for Alex’s parents, Charles and Jessie (nee RITCHIE) and up he popped! While checking the information, I noticed that his birth date was identical to brother William’s but perhaps this was confused with a christening date (children were sometimes baptised in ‘bunches’).

I managed to download the birth entry on Scotlands People and sure enough, John and William were twins!

Birth record of Charles & William BUCHAN, Peterhad 1868
Anyone else found twins in their families?  I think this was the first instance I’ve come across.