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Ancestry Research
Funny Bones


Families can be funny. Family history or genealogy as it is more seriously known, can be even funnier. The basic starting point to ancestry research is to look into birth, marriage, death and census records as these hold lots of interesting detail on our forebears but a wide variety of other, often lesser used records can be found. Take the Victorian—style social security system where you really had to be certified ill to receive any financial assistance at all: it was not acceptable to state yourself as merely ‘unemployed’; you wouldn’t get a penny until you were up the creek but the old records recalling these situations can be both heartbreaking and amusing. From an 1868 ‘application for relief’ we find 29—year—old Dinah Callander Havlin of 35 King Street, Calton, Glasgow ‘back land, 2 up, door on left’ applying for assistance on account of her ‘husband Bernard Havlin, a Clock Agent, born 9 miles from Londonderry, deserted her on Saturday last, son of John Havlin, a Coachman and Nancy O’Laughlin, both dead’. It then lists her 4 children aged between 1 and 8 years with a note ‘none at school’. Additionally we find that Dinah’s ‘father was employed with Mr. Alex Wilson, Millowner. . .father was insane and in an asylum’. Dinah and husband Bernard's various residences are then listed for the past ten years. One month later we are told ‘her husband has returned and she is now off the roll’ and 12 years later, added onto the same original page Bernard Havlin, now 45, ‘re—applies... .certified injured leg, Dr. Smellie he is married, a hawker, earns 8 to 12 shillings a week, got his leg broken by a fall, having slipped on an orange skin at the New Year, he has been in the Royal Infirmary for 11 weeks and came home a fortnight ago...’ We can follow up on these details in many ways search for the family in old census records, look at hospital records etc.

In England and Wales it became law to register births, marriages and deaths in 1837 and nowadays we find all of these at The Family Records Centre, 1 Myddelton Street, London EC1R 1UW where the census records are also kept. At New Register House in Princes Street, Edinburgh EH1 3YT we find the equivalent records for Scotland with the slight difference that it was not until 1855 that it became law there to register events.

Before compulsory registration, there are still many baptisms, marriages and burials registered and these church—created parish records are, for England/Wales, held at local county record offices whereas for Scotland all are gathered under the one roof at New Register House.

Beyond this we can use Wills, inheritance records, land records, sources to do with ancestors’ specific occupations, old maps and old photographs of streets etc., found in archive collections, to illustrate your record finds.

A typical procedure for working back in time could involve a death of an ancestor as a start in 1934 on February 2, died David McAllister, for example ‘Tobacco Spinner, married to Annie Cassidy, died at 2 Glebe Street, Glasgow, age 64, son of Thomas McAllister, Shoemaker and Betsy McAllister m.s. (maiden surname) Low (both deceased), died from acute nephritis, registered by his son, David McAllister, 59 Stirling Road, Glasgow.’ David’s birth is then found in 1870 ‘on January 5th, 1.30 am at 8 McPherson Street, Glasgow’ and the 1871 census record shows the family at that address: ‘Thomas McAllister, head of house, married, age 41, Shoemaker, born—Glasgow; wife Elizabeth age 40 and children Jean 10, Thomas 6 and David 1, all born Glasgow’. Ten years later we find ‘285 Argyle Street, Glasgow: Elizabeth Low McAllister, head of house, widowed, Charwoman, age 48, born Dundee; daughter Jane, unmarried, 19, Tobacco Stripper, Thomas, 16, a Reedmaker and 11 year old David, a Scholar (at school)’ Their father, Thomas, had died in 1876 and we find his baptism in 1829: ‘James McAllister, Shoemaker, Calton & Jean Carrick had a lawful son, their 12th child, born 25 July 1829 baptized 16 August named Thomas. George Glen & William Black, witnesses’.


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