Christina Kenyon

I’ve talked about Christina’s first child before: Elizabeth Milligan Kenyon, however Christina herself seems to have lived an interesting life.

Born in 1844 in Whithorn, Wigtownshire, Scotland, Christina was the second child of parents James Kenyon and Elizabeth Hood. In 1851 she and her two younger siblings James (b. 1847) and Mary [Ann] (b. 1851) were living with their parents in Isle Row, Whithorn and all are described as agricultural labourers, including the baby!

By 1861 Christina was living at Upper Senwick Farm, Borgue in the neighbouring parish of Kirkcudbrightshire, the youngest of four servants.

Upper Senwick
Upper Senwick Farm, Borgue, Kirkcudbright

She is mistranscribed as Christina Kergan and apparently she (or her employer) did not know what parish in Wigtownshire she was born in. Additionally it was stated here that she was 14, but in reality she would have been nearer 16 in age by this stage. Another of the servants in this household is 19 year old Elizabeth Kergan [Kenyon] born in Kelton, Kirkcudbright (about 11 miles north-east of Borgue) who may be a cousin. Christina’s parents were living at the neighbouring  Clash Cottage in the same year.


On the 14th of October 1866 Christina gave birth to her daughter whom she named Elizabeth Milligan Kenyon, presumably in reference to the child’s father a Mr Milligan perhaps? Elizabeth was born in Gatehouse of Fleet and in 1871 was living there in Back Street with her Grandparents James and Elizabeth. Meanwhile, Christina was again working as a domestic servant this time at nearby Ruscoe Mains farm.

On the 19th of July 1872 Christina gave birth to her second illegitimate child James at Back Street, Gatehouse of Fleet. More than likely this address was her parents house.

Less than a year later Christina married James Brown in Workington, Cumberland in 1873 and they settled in the area. They settled in the area but appear to have had no children until the birth of a son John in 1880. In 1881 the couple were living at Schoose Farm Cottage in Workington with Christina’s illegitimate son James and daughter Elizabeth and their son John.

Another daughter, Grace Christina was born to James and Christina in 1882 in Workington but sadly Christina died there just 4 years later on the 27th of February 1886. She was only 40 years old. The youngest child Grace was living with her Aunt Grace (Christina’s sister) in 1891.

Ish… Updated

Breaking News!

My Dad’s Y-DNA results are in and although our surname is Little, not a single one of his 12 matches are Littles. They are all… wait for it… Bride or McBride. (Rather similar to Bryden I feel?)

My new working theory then is that James or his father, grandfather, great grandfather etc. was born (probably illegitimately) to a Bryden (or variant) father and a mother with the surname Little.

The search begins again…

My paternal 2 times Great Grandfather James Little was an inconsiderate so and so when it came to future family historians.

He may or may not have been born in Dumfriesshire anywhere between 1806 ish and 1812 ish. He may or may not have married his “wife” (H)ellen Carruthers also in Dumfriesshire in about 1830 ish. He may or may not have bothered to christen 8 out of 9 of his children. (James son of James Little of Garwald Water ch. 25 January 1834 in Eskdalemuir being the exception.)

They farmed at Snab, Kirkpatrick-Fleming, Dumfriesshire until about 1868 before moving south to farm Greenquarries near Rosley, Cumberland. He then had the audacity to die in England in 1889 thereby depriving me of the joy of a Scottish death certificate which would (hopefully) have shown his parents details.

Disgraceful behavior!

So who was he? Who were his parents? The simple answer is “Goodness only knows?” There are a number of possible baptisms so now I must try to rule each one in or out by tracing each James Little forwards.

Are there any clues? Well yes, possibly.

Three of his daughters married at the family home of Snab. On the 1st of February 1861 Mary Little married James Chisholm after Church of Scotland banns had been read. Janet Little married George Halliday on the 3rd of December 1867 and Jane Little married David Brown on the 16 Jane 1868 in United Presbyterian services.

So were James Little’s children christened in a non-conformist church (perhaps United Presbyterian) whose records no longer exist? or not at all? Did he marry in an alternate faith church too? Was he baptised in one?

Interestingly his daughter Jane LITTLE might just have been trying to help out her descendants in their researches. She is regularly recorded with the name Bryden, Brydon or Braydon as either a middle or surname in many official documents.

  • On her marriage (1868) certificate she is Jane Little Bryden and her father is James Little Bryden.
  • On 3 of her children’s birth certificates she is Jane Little Brown maiden surname Brydon.
  • On one she is Jane Brown, maiden surname Brydon Little.
  • Another has her as Jane Brown, maiden surname Little-Brydon.
  • Several of these children also refereed to her as some variant of these names on their own marriage certificates.
  • When Jane died in 1904 her son Ralph registered her name as Jane Braydon Brown and her father as James Little.
  • When her sister Janet died on the 12 February 1907 the same Ralph Brown (her nephew) gave her father’s name as James Bryden Little.

I am unaware of James Little using this name in any record himself so where did it come from? His mother’s maiden name? Or was he illegitimate and Brydon was his father’s name? Another piece of information seems to suggest that the latter may be nearer the mark. I have tested my father’s Y-DNA (James’ great-grandson) and all but two of his matches were with the surname Bride or McBride, non were matches with Littles! I think my own surname is wrong! This is a very recent development and I have not as yet delved into this much, but in my opinion Bride and Brydon are too similar to ignore.

There are no obvious matches for combinations of these names in the records, but I’m always looking…

Obscure Deaths

London 1665. The plague rages through the city, virulent and killing indiscriminately.

However, among  the reported 68,596 deaths from the plague were a large amount of more unusual causes of death as recorded by the parish clerks. Many of these sound rather gruesome whilst some just sound plain unfortunate.

For example:

One man was killed by a fall down the stairs at St Thomas Apostle Church. Whilst another was found dead in the street at St Bartholomew the Less.

5 were “distracted” – by what we’ll never know.

23 were “frighted” – frightened to death, presumably shock causing a heart attack.

397 (probably mostly children) succumbed to “Rising of the Lights” – The lungs were lighter in weight than the other organs and were often known as your “lights”. A cough which sounded like you might cough them up was referred to as rising of the lights. We now call this disease croup.

34 died of “Rupture” of what is not made clear.

6 lost their lives because of “Plannet” – Medical men at the time believed that the alignments of the planets had a significant effect on one’s health. Those who had been affected adversely by some astronomical misfortune were said to be planet-struck. In fact they were more likely to have suffered a stroke or heart attack.

And lastly 46 were “Kild by severall Accidents” – this just seems unfair!


Data from Bills of Mortality 1665 extracted in Brend, W. A. (1908) Bills of Mortality.  Transactions of the Medico-Legal Society.

Surviving Steerage – part two

This is a continuation of part one of this story.

Isabella’s return journey across the Atlantic was only 5 years after her outward voyage and there would have been little sign of the improvements in steerage conditions that were to come over the next decade with the introduction of ever larger and grander vessels. The Mongolian (built in 1890) was around the same age as the Majestic though slightly smaller and had accommodation for 1000 passengers in steerage. Isabella must have been relieved to reach the bleak wide open space of the North Westmorland fells and her family.

Her sons George and William were quickly enrolled in local schools and in 1901 Isabella and her sons were living in the hamlet of Wickersgill, Shap just a few houses away from her Mother Mary and several of her siblings. At some stage before 1907 Isabella and children were reunited with George when he returned from Canada because on the 26th September 1907 George, Isabella and their three children boarded the R.M.S. Cedric at Liverpool.

Cedric 2
R.M.S Cedric. c. 1902

The ship docked in New York on the 5th of October. Because the family had already lived in Canada they were considered non-immigrant aliens, their entry through Ellis Island would have been much quicker. With the ROSS family free to continue onward towards their intended destination of Ladysmith, British Columbia.

The R.M.S. Cedric was a much larger and newer ship than the ROSS family had travelled on previously. Built in 1902 she could accommodate 2352 passengers, the vast majority of these (2352) in 3rd class which had by now become the more common term for steerage.

3rd class berth
White Star Line, 3rd Class, 6 Berth Stateroom c. 1909

On the Cedric the mass dormitories of the older ships had been replaced by 8, 6 or 4 berth staterooms with space for baggage.

The air was circulated by means of spaces above the cabin partitions but still one of the main complaints was the quality of the stale air and most passengers took full advantage of the open deck allotted to them.

cedric dining room
R.M.S.  Cedric 3rd Class Dining Saloon

Separate dining, smoking and lounge rooms were provided on the Cedric for the 3rd Class passengers. The general intention appears to have been a reproduction of the facilities offered to the 1st and 2nd Class patrons albeit on a far simpler and more modest scale.

cedric lounge
R.M.S. Cedric 3rd Class Lounge
cedric smoking
R.M.S. Cedric 3rd Class Smoking Room

Founded in 1898 by James Dunsmuir as a miners’ commuter town, Ladysmith had grown by 1907 into a small but thriving city. With piped water to each building, a telephone exchange and by 1910 electric lighting, Ladysmith was certainly not an isolated community.

Ladysmith 1901
1901 Plan of the town of Ladysmith, B.C.
Ladysmith 1st ave
1st Avenue, Ladysmith. c. 1904

Over the following 30 years George played a full part in the Ladysmith community, serving as a school trustee, playing for the town football team, Alderman of the City and serving as President of the Ladysmith Aerie of the Fraternal Order of Eagles for a number of years until 1927. A charitable society raising money for various good causes, the Eagles Club also served as a social and recreational organisation for its members. Isabella was also active in the community with the Women’s Institute, playing an important role in the establishment of Ladysmith’s public library.

Ross & Ross
Advertisement for George Oliver Ross’ shop in Ladysmith. 1920

In 1910 an article appeared in the local newspaper The Ladysmith Chronicle extolling the virtues of George ROSS’s tailors business. By at least 1911 he had a shop on 1st Avenue and following a hiatus during the war  he had a shop on Gateacre Street by at least 1920.

Conditions aboard the late 19th and early 20th century ocean liners varied enormously. However, in general steerage accommodations were at best simple and at their worst squalid and Isabella ROSS was far from unique in travelling alone with children. The reasons why Isabella and the children returned to England and remained there for almost a decade as well as the whereabouts of George during this time are unclear, but eventually the Ross family successfully integrated into a new community far away from home.

Surviving Steerage – part one

On the 30th of August 1893, 32 year old Isabella ROSS (nee DEWHURST) boarded the S.S. Majestic at Liverpool to embark on an 8 day voyage before travelling across country to join her husband and a new life for their family in Wellington, Vancouver Island, British Columbia (B.C.) Canada. With her on that late summer morning were her two infant children. This was to be the first of three transatlantic crossings that Isabella and her young children would make over the next 14 years.

Isabella Dewhurst was born in Lancaster, England on the 31st of May 1861, the first of 12 children of railway goods guard Christopher Dewhurst and his second wife Mary (Lucas). Her sister Margaret Anne b.1873 featured in this earlier post: There and Back (and there) Again: A Dearborn Tale. By 1871, Shap born Christopher had been promoted to engine driver at the Shap Granite Works, Westmorland and had relocated his growing family – including 9 year old Isabella – to the nearby village of Tebay, Westmorland.

In 1879 aged 18, Isabella gave birth to an illegitimate daughter – Mary Elizabeth and after spending time as a general servant at a private boarding school in Lancaster, she married George Oliver ROSS on the 5 August 1889 in Irvine, Ayrshire. Described as a dressmaker from Carlisle, Cumberland, her husband George, a 22 year old tailor from Riccarton, Ayrshire, was 5 years her junior. Their son George Lucas ROSS was born on the 6th May 1890 in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire and William Malcolm ROSS on the 20th of November 1891 in Shap.

In early March 1893 George ROSS journeyed from Glasgow to New York aboard the S.S. Circassia, bound for a place called Sheldon. (Note was not made in the record of the State.) He travelled 2nd Class arriving in New York on the 20th of March and in August Isabella and their two boys followed him across the Atlantic. George’s brother William Oliver ROSS, a coal miner, had already emigrated to Vancouver around 5 years earlier in 1888-1890.

S.S. Circassia

Whilst few transatlantic crossings in the late 19th century could be described as luxurious, George’s journey in a 2nd class cabin aboard a ship designed for 1100 but carrying only 222 passengers would have been considerably more comfortable than Isabella’s cramped, noisy steerage accommodation on the S.S. Majestic.

Built in 1890 for the White Star Line, the S.S. Majestic had a capacity of almost 1500 passengers across 3 decks. Isabella and her sons George and William were accommodated in the lone female traveller’s Steerage quarters. With 1417 souls aboard, Isabella was far from the only lone woman with small children to manage. The ships manifest lists at least 20 other women, mostly described as “wife” but without accompanying husbands, in Steerage.

S.S. Majestic

Unlike her fellow 1st class passengers who boarded at Liverpool via a landing stage to the upper decks, Isabella’s first glimpse of the Majestic would have been a sheer cliff face of black bulwark as the paddle tender slowly crawled towards the hull. Following a medical inspection the gang-plank was lowered and a slow procession began to board. Clutching her children and their six bags close to her, fearful of losing her only possessions amongst the crush of the other 900 steerage passengers, Isabella began her journey to a new life. H. Phelps Whitmarsh describes his experience of embarkation in 1898 thus:

“Evidently the doctor was in no hurry; for we stood crowded together, in the heat of that summer day, two mortal hours, waiting his pleasure. Poor mothers! Poor babies! Tired, hot, and hungry (for no dinner had been served), the little ones cried incessantly, while the women complained in a high key, and twelve nationalities of men swore.”  Whitmarsh, H. Phelps. Steerage Class – Conditions in 1898 – A First-Hand Account.

According to the ship’s manifest, Isabella and her children were heading for Vancouver [Island?], to join George who had begun to establish himself as a tailor in the mining community of Wellington. Packed into the lower decks of the ship, steerage passengers had next to no privacy or comfort. To escape the constant throbbing of the engines those lucky enough to be in possession of a blanket spent as much time as possible on deck, the freezing Atlantic air being preferable to the smell of spoiling food and human confinement below. The classes of passengers were strictly segregated and the steerage section operated as an entirely isolated community.

After over a week at sea, the S.S. Majestic finally arrived in New York. The mostly immigrant steerage passengers were held back, sometimes spending an extra night on board whilst the 1st and 2nd class passengers disembarked and were admitted to America. Only then, carried on barges, were the steerage passengers transferred to nearby Ellis Island to begin the process of immigration.

Ellis Island
Early 20th century immigrants await processing in the Great Hall at Ellis Island

3 or 4 ships, with anything up to 5000 passengers, were processed by Ellis Island each day. Isabella and her children would have passed a further medical examination with the threat of deportation if they failed. America was only interested in admitting healthy persons who could become useful members of society, qualities which Canada, the ROSS’s final destination, also desired. Having passed the immigration board’s questions, Isabella and her sons were free to buy tickets to Vancouver Island and continue their long journey coast to coast across North America and the Canadian border to rejoin George.

ladysmith mapWellington, Vancouver Island was a coal mining town which grew around the Wellington Pits. By the turn of the 20th Century the coal seam was exhausted, the owner James Dunsmuir moved his entire production to the newly sunk Extension mines and Wellington became a ghost town. Many of the workers and their attendant merchants and suppliers moved their lives and their houses to Dunsmuir’s brand new commuter town – Ladysmith. As owner of the local railroad, Dunsmuir made trains available to transport the existing Wellington buildings and gave free plots of land in Ladysmith to his miners for housing.

George and Isabella’s daughter Myrtle Marie Dewhurst ROSS had been born in Northfield, B.C. (now a suburb of Nanaimo about 22 miles north of Ladysmith) on the 27th of May 1894. George’s trade as a tailor would have been hit hard by the closure of the Wellington pits. The decline of the town may have been a contributing factor in Isabella’s decision to return home to England in the spring of 1898. Isabella and her three children, George aged 8, William 6 and Myrtle 5, travelled aboard the S.S. Mongolian arriving in Liverpool on the 25th of March 1898. Another possible factor was the illness of her father Christopher who subsequently died on the 29th of September in Shap.

S.S. Mongolian

Part two to follow…




Jane Stephenson – A Victorian Single Mother of Six

Jane was born in 1832 in the tiny village of Bolton, Westmorland (now Cumbria) to Hugh Stephenson and his wife Jane (nee Bell). She was christened on the 9th of March that year in the parish church of All Saints.

All Saints Bolton Westmorland
All Saints, Bolton, Westmorland

Although her parents had married almost six years earlier in the same church on the 29th of May 1826, it seems Jane was their only child. She was still living in Bolton, Westmorland with her Father and Mother on the 1841 Census aged 9 years.

Despite extensive searching I have been unable to locate Jane in the 1851 census. She was not with her parents who were still living in Bolton. Her father Hugh was described as a riddle maker (a maker of sieves for grain.) He died of a hemorrhage on the 28th of April 1856 in the nearby village of Crackenthorpe, Westmorland.

It would seem likely that Jane, who would by now be aged 19, would have been earning her own living perhaps in domestic service or otherwise.

Jane gave birth to her first child William who was christened on the 28th of January 1852 at All Saints, Bolton and her daughter Elizabeth was christened on the 27th of July 1856 at St Michael’s Appleby, Westmorland (the county town about 4 miles away).

By 1861 29 year old Jane and her 67 year old widowed mother Jane were living in Albert Street in the market town of Penrith across the county border in Cumberland (also now Cumbria). Both were described as washerwomen and Jane stated that she was still unmarried despite the presence in the household of her two children.

Sandgate Methodist
Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Penrith. 2013. Copyright GW Oxley

The children were joined that same year by a brother James and in 1865 by a sister Mary Ann Reay who was christened in the Wesleyan Chapel just around the corner at the top of Sandgate, Penrith on the 13th of September 1865. (She is recorded as the alleged daughter of Robert Reay.)

In 1871 Jane was 39 years old and a charwoman living at nearby 20 Brook Street, Penrith with her three youngest children and her mother. She was still a single woman supporting her family and there were two more mouths to feed when her sons Joseph and John Alfred were born about 1872 and 1876 respectively. Both boys’ baptisms were recorded in the Wesleyan circuit records, noted as illegitimate, but unfortunately with no father’s name recorded for either of them .

Jane’s mother died at Brook Street, Penrith on the 12th of June 1872 aged 77 from cerebral softening, this may indicate she had suffered a stroke or hemorrhage. Her death was registered not by her daughter but by a neighbour, Frances Kirkbride (1871 census – 8 Brook Street) . Jane senior was buried in Penrith cemetery.

The younger Jane, by now 48 years old, was recorded as a Seamstress and dressmaker in the 1881 census of Penrith. She lived at 4 Thompson’s Yard with her youngest children: James (19) a Clogger; Mary A[nn] (15) a Domestic Servant; Joseph (8) and John A[lfred] (5) who were both described as scholars.

By 1891 Jane claimed to be only 56! (losing or gaining a few years across the censuses was fairly common because people may not actually have been sure of their true age). She had moved to Narrow Yard, Burrowgate, Penrith with her two youngest children. Joseph (18) was now working as a french polisher and John Alfred (15) as an errand boy.

In 1901 a 68 year old Jane and her family were living at Lynn Court, just off Albert Street, Penrith. In the household were her children; Mary Ann (34) a shirt seamstress; Joseph (28) a french polisher and John A[lfred] (25) an upholsterer. Jane also had two Granddaughters with her – Edith J[ane] Ousby (17) a shirt sewing machinist and Florence Ousby (8), these two girls were children of her own daughter Elizabeth who had married Joseph Ousby in 1878, but who died on the 3rd September 1899 aged just 41 whilst suffering from tuberculosis.

The 1911 census shows us Jane aged 77, a housekeeper at home at 42 Albert Street, Penrith. Her daughter Mary [Ann] (44) was described as a cook, domestic. Jane’s son John [Alfred] (33) was still working as an upholsterer and her granddaughter Rosa Ousby (24) was a dressmaker. Rosa was another of Elizabeth’s children.

Penrith Cemetery
Penrith Cemetery, Beacon Edge, Penrith

Jane Stephenson died aged 91 on the 20th of February 1924 at 42 Albert Street from senile decay. Her death was registered by her son John Alfred who wrongly records that she was the daughter of Michael Stephenson. (Michael was in fact her Uncle, the brother of her late father Hugh.) She was buried in the unconsecrated section of Penrith Cemetery, most likely because she was of a non-conformist (Wesleyan) faith rather than Church of England.

Elizabeth Milligan Kenyon

I’m still ploughing through my shaky leaf hints but predictably for me I couldn’t let my 2x Great Grandmother Elizabeth Milligan Kenyon go. So here are some details about her.

Elizabeth was born on the 14th of October 1866 to single mother Christina in the delightfully named Gatehouse of Fleet, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. The small town is split between two parishes Girthon and Anworth. In 1871 she was recorded as Elizabeth Milligan and was living with her maternal grandparents James and Elizabeth Kenyon in Back Street, Girthon.

In 1873 her mother Christina married labourer James Brown in West Cumberland and in the 1881 census Elizabeth is shown living with them at Schoose Farm Cottage, Workington, Cumberland.

Schoose Farm
Schoose Farm, Workington. Copyright: Tom Routledge


In 1883 she had a son, Angus Milligan Kenyon and on the 31 of May 1886 Elizabeth married John Wilson in Workington. On her marriage certificate she claimed her father was Robert Milligan Kenyon. There may be some truth in this. Perhaps he was Robert Milligan? But I doubt he was a Kenyon.

Elizabeth and John went on to have 12 children between 1887 and 1909. I haven’t obtained all these children’s birth certificates because I am not made of money,

Mary Jane Wilson
Mary Jane Wilson (1889-1956)

but I do have that for the second child Mary Jane b.1889 because she was my Great Grandmother. When she registered the birth of her daughter, it seems Elizabeth got confused by the question “mother’s maiden name” and the registrar wrote that she was formerly Elizabeth Brown. This was of course the surname of her mother Christina following her marriage to James Brown. Mary Jane Wilson Birth CertPerhaps Elizabeth thought her maiden name was Brown, James was her step-father after all or perhaps she didn’t understand the term maiden name. Who knows what went wrong. What I do know is that before I knew who Elizabeth actually was, this little piece of dodgy information sent me off on a wild goose chase for non existent Wilson-Brown marriages. Only some major detective work led me to the real Elizabeth and that was largely down to her having been born in such an interestingly named place.

In 1891 Elizabeth, John and their growing family lived at 24 Turnpike Side, Workington and in 1901 & 1911 at 19 Mountain View, Workington.

19 Mountain View
19 Mountain View, Workington

In 1911 Mary Jane’s future husband the newly widowed Henry Moore is living at number 23 with his six month old baby Lillian, however Mary Jane was not at home on census night.

Elizabeth and John were still living at 19 Mountain View almost 30 years later when the 1939 Register was taken. Elizabeth’s date of birth is confirmed as above and their second youngest child Allan is listed with them as an unemployed labourer.

I have not confirmed Elizabeth’s death yet, but I have identified a likely record in the 3rd quarter of 1940, Cockermouth registration district. The certificate is on its way…



The Ten Sons of Robert Turnbull

“Farewell dear wife and children ten,

I was your guardian from childhood to men,

Now when you on this grass do tread,

I warn for you all to take heed,

To be kind to her that was my pride,

Till she is laid down by my side”

Gravestone of Robert Turnbull d. 1859 Kirklinton Churchyard, Cumbria.

About 10 or 11 years ago when I was first starting my family history life choice, I made contact with a fellow Turnbull researcher who sent me a wonderful essay about the 12 sons and no daughters of Robert Turnbull (1795-1859) and his wife Mary Robson (1788-1869).

William b.1810; Thomas b.1811; Robert b.1813; John b.1815; Robert b.1817; Joseph b.1819; Robert b.1822; Walter b.1822; George b.1824; James b.1826; Adam b.1828 and Samuel b.1832.

Later I found the gravestone of Robert and his family in Kirklinton churchyard with two lovely verses on the back. That got me started but there’s so much to do still… So with grateful thanks to Dennis here’s what I know so far.


The first son William was born in 1810 in Nether Denton, Cumberland. Family lore (not proven) says that he eloped to Gretna Green aged 24 to marry Sarah Graham. They had 5 boys and 5 girls whilst living variously at the neighbouring Moss Cottage, Moss House and Swang Cottage, all in Hethersgill. He worked all his life as a farm labourer and was still keeping cows in the months before his death on the 25th of May 1891.


Son number 2 Thomas was born just a year later in 1811 un Uppertown, Kirklinton. He never married, living and working on his aunt Jane Smith (his mother’s sister’s) farm Underheugh, Waterhead from at least 1841-1871.

Birdoswald Farm, Waterhead, Cumbria

By 1881 he was farming on his own account at the nearby Birdoswald Farm. Originally Birdoswald was a typical borders bastle house with living quarters on the first floor and animal accommodation at ground level. Heavily extended in the 19th century it is now a listed building and the headquarters of the archaeological dig at Birdoswald Roman Fort next door. There is a detailed description of the building here: Birdoswald Farm Thomas died on the 9th of March 1893 aged 83.


The third son Robert was born in 1813 but died aged just 2 on the 14th of March 1846 he is commemorated first on the family gravestone at Kirklinton with his own epitaph on the back:

“My parents dear and friends who murn,

Cease to lament for one that’s gone,

Tho years were few my comfort is,

For short’s the way that leads to bliss.

Large is the debt that lingers out the clay,

They that go soonest have the least to pay.”

Gravestone of Robert Turnbull d. 1859 Kirklinton Churchyard, Cumbria.


John was the fourth son, (and my 3x Great-Grandfather) born in 1815 at Kirklinton. He married Isabella Graham in 1842 with whom he had 7 children before her early death in 1855 from tuberculosis. Shortly afterward Isabella’s unmarried sister Eazet moved in to Henry’s Hill Farm to help him look after the children. By 1861 their relationship had developed and the first of their three sons was born. Unable to marry because of ecclesiastical law (to marry your dead spouse’s sibling was not permitted until 1907 for men and 1921 for women (see further details here: Marriage laws)) John and Eazet co-habited for the remainder of their lives, seemingly with the tacit approval of the vicar, because they played an active part in parish life. John serving for many years as a churchwarden and parish councillor whilst farming Waingate Head next door to his father’s farm Brekonhill Rigg.

Upper Greenquarries
Greenquarries, Rosley, Cumbria

Between 1865 and 1871 they moved to farm at Greenquarries in Rosley on the otherside of Carlisle near Wigton. John died on the 26th of April 1885 and Eazet on the 21st of November 1888. They are buried in Carlisle Cemetery rather than Rosley churchyard. There is no headstone.



The fifth son born in 1817 was also named Robert in memory of his sibling, sadly he too died young aged just six months.


Joseph, son number six was born in 1819 and married Margaret Stott from Otterburn, Yorkshire in Blackburn, Lancashire in 1849. They had four daughters before she died in 1864. In 1861 Joseph was an Alderman and a linen and wollen draper. In 1871 he was living with his second “wife” Stella Stott, also from Otterburn (surely Margaret’s sister or cousin maybe?) and he is described as a master draper. Their three children were all baptised at the Mount Street United Presbyterian Church in Blackburn.

When Joseph died in 1879 his will was proved by Stella Stott otherwise Turnbull spinster implying they were never married.Joseph Turnbull


The next son was another Robert. Born on the 9 July 1821, he was not christened until he was 2 and a half years old in 1823 on the same day as his baby brother Walter. Little is known about this Robert but it is presumed he did survive into adult hood as his fathers epitaph refers to his sons as ten men.


8th was Walter born in 1822. He was a joiner and carpenter who married Jane Hodgson in 1846. They had three boys and four girls and settled in Burtholme, Lanercost, Cumberland.


The 9th son was George born about 1823. He worked on the family farm at Breckonhill Rigg until his 1870 marriage to widow Elizabeth Lee. He died at Scalesceugh farm on the 5th of February 1876 and was buried at Kirklinton with his parents.


James was the 10th son. He was born around January 1826. In 1861 he was at home with his widowed mother at Breckonhill Rigg working the farm. He married Jane Armstrong in 1871 and together they had two daughters Mary Eleanor and Susannah Hope and a son Robert James Armstrong. Jane was considerably younger than James, The age gap ranges across the censuses between 17 and 21 years. James died in 1900 aged 74.


Son number 11 was Adam. Born in Kirklinton in 1828 he also became a draper like his brother Joseph. He never married and lived in Blackburn with his brothers Joseph and Samuel. He died in 1867 aged just 39.


Lastly we have Samuel, the 12th son who was born in 1832 when his mother was 43. He worked in Blackburn as a draper with his brothers and in 1861 he married Isabella Selly. Samuel died in 1883 and Isabella in 1889 leaving 7 orphaned children. The youngest two children were sent to the New Orphan Houses near Bristol, otherwise known as Muller Homes. Henry Theodore and Annie Ellen were both living in Muller House No.1 in 1891.

New Orphan House No1
No.1 New Orphan House, Ashley Down, Gloucestershire

Despite the death of his parents Samuel’s youngest son Henry Theodore prospered in later life with a successful bakery business. He travelled the world as a missionary and built non profit houses for soldiers returning from the 1st World War.


So there we have them, the 12 sons of Robert and Mary Turnbull.

“At Breckonhill Rigg in the parish of Kirklinton in the 74th year of his age, Robert Turnbull, farmer who resided in this district during the whole of his life. He was respected by everyone who knew him. His remains were followed to the grave by his widow and ten sons and a great number of other relatives, also by his landlord (Joseph Dacre esq Kirklinton Hall) and nearly all the yeomanry, farmers and a large circle of friends. The funeral ceremony was performed by the Rev. George Bell, rector.”

Carlisle Patriot August 13th 1859.  Death of Robert Turnbull 3 August 1859

Shaky Leaves

So today I’ve begun the arduous and long overdue task of trawling through my “shaky leaf” hints at This post is not intended as a critique of the feature, just my own personal thoughts.

I have mixed feelings about these hints generally. In my opinion there is no substitute for searching the available records yourself and making an informed decision based on this research. However, in many cases these hints can lead you to records you might not have thought to consider and thereby send you off on a whole new research adventure. To the practiced eye they can be a useful shortcut to records you would have searched for anyway, but its easy to see how less experienced family historians could be led astray, ending up with entirely the wrong family on their tree because Ancestry’s algorithm does not “think” like we do.

In my case I usually consider and accept or reject the hints that are suggested as I’m working on a particular person or family, but Ancestry is always working in the background looking for hints on the other couple of thousand ancestors in my trees. So today I am faced with 1483 hints to sort through and so far the results have been as expected. A fair few confirmations and sources for dates already entered from parish register searches conducted many moons ago (before Ancestry had such records). Plus a gem of a photo, shared (and verified to me) by a distant cousin, of my 2x Great-Grandmother Elizabeth Milligan Kenyon.

The only thing is that I keep getting sidetracked as I learn something new. I now have a long list of ancestors to research that I’d left hanging on their family tree branches, neglected and (temporarily) forgotten.

There and Back (and there) Again: A Dearborn Tale.

So I was wondering what to write about next when I stumbled across Margaret Anne Dewhurst, the sister of Isabella who I wrote about last week. I had done very little research on her and have therefore spent most of the morning following her and her children’s travels back and forth across the Atlantic.

Born on the 19th of April 1873 in Shap, Westmorland, Margaret was the 8th (of 11) child of Christopher Dewhurst and his wife Mary (nee Lucas). She married Isaac Tyson in 1893 and they had 4 children together before his untimely death in 1911. Isaac was killed following a mining accident whilst working at the Waberthwaite Granite Quarry in south west Cumberland, when on the 28th of December 1910 he was struck by a falling piece of frozen rock. He fought for life for another 22 days before finally succumbing to his injuries on the 19th of January. Margaret was left a widow at just 38 with 4 children to raise the youngest just 4.

A little more than 10 years later Margaret (now living in Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire) and her three youngest children embarked on a new life in America. On the 19th of February 1921 She and the three youngest children Mary Eleanor, George and Margaret boarded the RMS Carmania. Their brother James stayed in England for a little while longer, but he and his new wife Jessie travelled out soon after their wedding in 1923.

RMS Carmania

From the Carmania’s manifest it appears that Margaret and the children initially intended to settle in Boston however James declared that his mother was living at 1840 East Venago Street, Philadelphia when he arrived in 1923. By 1930 Mary Eleanor had married Stanley Young and moved to 7302 Maple Street, Dearborn, Michigan. Her mother Margaret and brother George were living with them at the time of the census that year. The youngest child Margaret married Lawrence Lupold in 1925 and George married Netia B Nicholson in 1929.

At some point in 1934 Margaret returned to England because in September 1934 she can be found with her daughter in law Jessie aboard the Duchess of Richmond which docked in Quebec on the 21st.

Duchess of Richmond
Duchess of Richmond

When crossing the border in to the Michigan on the 22nd, she stated that she had previously resided in America from Feb 1921 to the 22 June 1934. (I have tried and so far failed to find a record of Margaret leaving for the UK around that date.) She seems to have been visiting her daughter (Mary) Eleanor who’s address was given in Barrow-in-Furness and was returning to her son James who was living at 6212 Calhoun Avenue, Dearborn. She was described as 5′ 2″ with brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion.

Sadly Margaret died just a few months later on the 17th December 1934 from heart disease at her son James’ home and was buried at the Grand Lawn Cemetery in Detroit.

Grand Lawn Cemetery
Grand Lawn Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan