What's in a name revisited

I have stressed several times about making mistaken assumptions because of identical names without adequate checking. And here is an interesting case in point. The husband of my great great grandfather’s sister, Susan Raitt, was married to Alexander Croal, a master mariner (read more about him under Arbroath Mariners, Raitt Anecdotes and Raitt Wrecks). I thought I would try and find out a little more about the Croals and in the course of my search I came across the name of Alexina Raitt Wilkie Croall who had died in Arbroath in 1990 aged about 62 (thus born about 1928) and was buried in Inverkeilor. With names like that she had to be one of mine surely – even though Susan Raitt and Alexander Croal had no offspring so far as I was aware. After all, Alexina was the name of my great grandfather’s daughter (probably named after her aunt Alexina Dunbar) and Wilkie was the surname of her grandmother! It looked promising – so who was she?  (By the way, I was not put off my Croal and Croall – after all we have Raitt and Rait! I also found some other master mariners named Croal, who might possibly be related to Alexander - and I have written this up on the Arbroath Mariners page.)

Alexina was in ScotlandsPeople, but because it was a recent death, then the extract could not be viewed online (though it could be ordered). It gave her  surname as Wilkie – thus presumably she married a Croall. Looking up Alexina Raitt Wilkie then, I saw that she was indeed born in 1928 – in Arbroath & St Vigeans – and had married George Roderick Croall in 1950 – but again the certificate had to be ordered. So the next task was to try and find some Croalls (with two ls) living in Arbroath – not much luck, but I did find one living in Melbourne, Australia who had been to school at Arbroath Academy. So I sent him a polite note enquiring whether he might be related and – what are the chances - he turned out to be Alexina’s son! Although not knowing too much about his family history, he felt that it was probably simply a coincidence that the names were the same and that he thought her middle name (Raitt) came from her mother’s side of the family and that her mother’s maiden name was Sim (another extraordinary coincidence since that name was the middle name of one of my Alexina Raitt’s brother’s wife’s sisters – my maternal grandmother’s sister!)

But with the subsequent crucial detail of Alexina’s parents names, then I have pieced together this family – and sadly, they are not connected to mine, at least for the recent past. Alexina Raitt Wilkie was the daughter of Cyril Wilkie and Agnes Sim (Agnes’s grandfather David Sim appears to have been a merchant seaman and pilot in the 1850s). Cyril was born in St Vigeans in 1901, the son of James Wilkie (born 1866 in Aberlemno) and Alexina Raitt (born 26 Sept 1868 in St Vigeans, dying Arbroath on 18 June 1928) who married in 1890 in St Vigeans. So, it would appear that Alexina was named after her grandmother – one being born and one dying in the same year.

Alexina Raitt, the elder, was the illegitimate daughter of Sarah Wood (chr 9 Oct 1841 in St Vigeans – daughter of Alexander Wood and Elizabeth Airth) and John Raitt. Sarah was a farm outworker at the time and John was a ploughman at Dunbarrow, Kirkden Parish, Angus. On the birth extract it gives the child’s name as Alexa and she was born at Willenyard, St Vigeans.

Since there appears to be no marriage record for the couple, it is assumed that John and Sarah did not marry. However, John is mentioned as her father on both Alexina’s marriage and death certificates – though he was a yarn bleacher by then. And clearly Alexina was registered under her father’s name as opposed to her mother’s. What is also interesting is that in both cases Sarah is given in the form Sarah Raitt, Mrs Wood – rather than simply Sarah Wood.

It would appear though that Sarah went on to marry someone else. She is living at home with her parents and daughter in 1871, but thereafter she does not appear in the censuses as either Sarah Wood or Sarah Raitt. However,  I found that a Sarah Wood died in 1913 aged 71 (thus born about 1842) and another surname for her was Skelton. In 1875 Sarah Wood married William Skelton,  born St Cyrus, Kincardineshire, and in the 1881 census they were living with three children in Kinnell, Angus. At the time of their marriage Sarah was still an out worker, at Gowan Bank, aged 33, and William was a ploughman at Mains of Colliston, aged 31. This is almost certainly the same Sarah.

In the 1861 census for North Willans Yard farmhouse, St Vigeans (landward) we find Sarah Wood, 19, farm outworker, born Aberlemno living at home with her parents Alexander, 53, farmer of 12 acres, born Arbroath; and Elizabeth, 51, born St Vigeans; and siblings Alexander, 27, labour quarryman, born St Vigeans; and James, 24, labour quarryman, born St Vigeans.

In the 1871 census, Alexina (named as Alexander Raitt), aged 2, is living at Willanyards, St Vigeans with her grandparents Alexander Wood, 64, agricultural labourer, born St Vigeans and Elizabeth, 63, born Barry, Angus; and their children: Alexander, 37, scholar; Sally, 29, field worker (and Alexina’s mother); and Peter, 25, agricultural labourer – all three unmarried and born St Vigeans.

In the 1881 census, Alexina Raitt, aged 12 and at school, is still living with her grandparents Alexander Wood, 74, retired farmer, born St Vigeans and his wife, Elizabeth, 71, born Barry, Angus, at 27 Colleston Inn, St Vigeans.

In the 1891 census for Gowanbank, St Vigeans, Alexina Raitt is now married as Alexina Wilkie, aged 22, living with her husband James Wilkie, aged 24, farm servant, born Aberlemno.

In the 1901 census for Woodville Fues, St Vigeans we find James Wilkie, 34, traction engine driver; his wife Alexina, 32; and children: Edward A. J., 9; Arthur, 7; William, 5; Alexina, 3; and Mary Ann, 1 – all born St Vigeans and the three boys at school.

In the 1911 census living at 12 Lochland St, Arbroath are James Wilkie, 44, still a traction engine driver; wife Alexina, 42; children: Edward, 19, railway porter; Arthur, 17, mill worker; William, 15, mill worker; Alexina, 13, scholar; Mary Ann, 11, scholar; Cyril, 8, scholar; Norman, 6, scholar, born Arbroath; and Randolph. 2, born Arbroath.  The parents had been married twenty years and had eight children all of whom were alive at the date of the census. And this is where we find Cyril, the father–to-be of Alexina Raitt Wilkie for the first time.

But what of John Raitt, Alexina’s father – who was he exactly?

In the 1861 census there is a John Raitt, aged 19, a ploughman living at Seafield (bothy), St Vigeans (landward) and born in Guthrie, Angus about 1842. I suspect this is him. Clearly, by the time Alexina was born in 1868  he had moved on to Dunbarrow in Kirkden, but in between he may have worked on the same farm as Sarah – likely her father’s. However, in later censuses, Guthrie is not given as a place of birth for John Raitts of about the same age - and, of course, there are several John Raitts in the same area in Angus. And in the earlier censuses there are only two possible John Raitts assuming that his age would have been pretty accurate for a young child. In 1851, for instance, one is my great grand uncle and the other is the much more likely John Raitt, age 12, an agricultural labourer, at Backmuir, Liff – but he was apparently born in the parish of Liff. This John Raitt is also in the 1841 census for Backmuir – the son of John Raitt and Margaret Kidd. But Liff, close to Dundee, is some way from St Vigeans.

Now, on 3 Dec 1869, a 27 year-old ploughman residing at East Mains of Guthrie in the parish of Guthrie named John Raitt, married Agnes Smith, aged 32, a  domestic servant, at her home in Arbroath, parish of St Vigeans in 1869. This is certainly the John Raitt in the 1861 census. On the marriage extract it notes his parents were John Raitt (a farmer, deceased) and Ann Fraser though I can’t find their marriage or yet identify her in any census.

In the 1871, John (26, agricultural labourer) and Agness Raitt (33) are living at East Mains Cottar House, Guthrie with two children: Agness, 8, born Kinnell; and newly born Elizabeth Duchars, born Guthrie. Interesting John’s place of birth is given as Carmyllie.

In 1881 the family is living at 9 Lunan St, Kirkden where John, 37, is bleacher, born Carmyllie; Agnes is 44; children are Elizabeth, 10, born Guthrie; William J., 8, born Kinnell; and John, 5, born Kinnell – all scholars.

In 1891 the family is still living in Lunan St, Kirkden where John, 47, is bleacher, born Carmyllie; Agnes is 53; children are William, 18, a bleacher, born Kinnell; and John, 15, a bleacher, born Kinnell; and Annie, 7, a scholar, born Kirkden.

The family seems to disappear from the censuses after 1891 – they may have emigrated somewhere but I can’t find them yet.

Of interest here is the fact that the last couple of censuses show John being born in 1844 – there was a John Raitt born then – but to David Raitt and Helen Whyte in St Vigeans. I cannot yet find the birth of a John Raitt to John Raitt and Ann Fraser – though the 1851 and 1861 censuses show there is a John and Ann Rait farming at Cononsyth, Carmyllie. However, the 1841 census reveals her to be Ann White rather than Ann Fraser.

But this little tale emphasizes the importance of double-checking everything, especially when it relates to earlier ancestors for whom there is a paucity of records and especially given the common use of first names, rather than just taking the first piece of information one comes across as correct. The truth, if we can ever find it, is much more complex!

Monday, 17 June 2013