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Ancestry Research
A missing Walker found


This article was written for the January 2002 edition of the Family Tree Magazine by Gordon McPhail.

Scottish genealogy has a rich variety of sources and when an emigrant ancestor comes into the picture this becomes even more evident; basic research records are always of great value but lesser known and even rare documents come into use, from both the country of origin and the country in which the forebear settled.

One such case was the Walker family of Glasgow, Scotland. By use of the basic sources of births/baptisms, marriages/proclamation of banns, and deaths/burials, which in the pre-1855 period in Scotland were church based and created, it was known that Kennoway Walker, a weaver, and his wife Elizabeth Cross had several children. One of these, Walter, their eldest, was born in 1801 as recorded in the established Church of Scotland register of baptisms for Glasgow city:

5 June 1801. Kennoway Walker, Weaver and Elizabeth Cross, a is [lawful son] Walter. Witnesses: Robert Kyle, James Donaldson.

These pre-1855 registers are to be found for all Scottish parishes, over 900, in a single building at the General Register Office for Scotland, New Register House, Edinburgh. Many reference sections of local libraries hold microfilm copies for their area.

From 1 January 1855 it became compulsory to register a Scottish birth, marriage or death. Neither Walter Walker’s marriage nor death were recorded in Scotland, the first clue of a possible emigration. Lesser used, genealogically packed records now came into play; at Glasgow’s city archive, the burgh registers of sasines (titles to real estate) were searched, revealing a 15-page legal document with much legal verbiage from which was extracted the following ancestral data:

7 November 1832 Walker; heir of his grandmother: ... Walter Walker; presently Weaver in America, eldest lawful son born of the marriage of Kennoway Walker; presently in America and the deceased Elizabeth Cross ... one of the four daughters of the marriage between Agnes Stevenson, now deceased and Walter Cross, Shoemaker in Glasgow...

The history of the ownership of the real estate is more fully related within the sasine so that we learn that Walter Walker’s grandmother, Agnes Stevenson, came into her share of the property through her grandfather, extending the family tree by four generations from-Walter Walker:

...Registered Disposition dated the sixth day of June 1764 years granted by Hugh Fulton, late Deacon of the Wrights in Glasgow ... to Hugh and Agnes Stevenson, his grandchildren procreate betwixt Robert Stevenson, Maltman in Glasgow and Margaret Fulton, his daughter of a former marriage...

All of the above findings were used to great extent in searching the basic parish registers of baptisms etc, but returning the immediate attention to Walter Walker, in a much later real estate register of 1863 referring to other property which he had inherited with his siblings, he is described as of the village of Napanee in Canada. Some basic checking in an atlas/gazetteer revealed Napanee’s location in the county of Lennox and Addington, a few miles inland from northeastern shores of Lake Ontario. Original research in Canadian records now seemed possible, and as well as Walter’s date of death being found and the birth records of his children, obituaries for the family shed a more accurate light on the time and situation of emigration. In the Perth Courier (Ontario) on 25 January 1901 we find, from Walter’s wife’s obituary, that her father from Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland, had seen "times ... grown dark in Britain after its exhausting conflict with Napoleon?" He came with "a large company of Scotch emigrants who set out from Greenock to Canada in 1820 on the sailing ship Commerce and were seven weeks on the voyage to Montreal ... bound for the township of Lanark" where there were "primitive houses in the forests and like the others drew land and began the pioneer’s hard life. Farming under such conditions was uncongenial to the family and they moved to Utica, New York where deceased in 1833 was married to Mr Walter Walker, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, who had come to America also in the year 1820. In 1840, the two with a young family moved to Napanee, in Upper Canada?"

Yet the overall atmosphere from contemporary letters, would seem to have been joyful: "A narrative of the rise and progress of emigration from the counties of Lanark and Renfrew to the New Settlements in Upper Canada:" includes a letter from 1821 enthusing over:

The land ... pretty good ... never so happy ... not desire to return to Glasgow ... for we would have to pay a heavy rent and here we have none. In Glasgow I had to labor sixteen or seventeen hours a day and could earn about six or seven shillings a week. Here I can, by laboring about half that time, earn more than I had there / was confined to a damp shop but here I have fresh air. There after I had toiled until I could toil no more / would have the mortification of being a burden. But here, two or three years labor will give me more than will keep me in sickness as well as in health. There it is all dependence. Here it is a fair prospect of independence. [A Boag, to his sister.]


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