52 Ancestors 2014, ancestor story

Ancestor Story – John Boles, the disappearing man – 52 Ancestors

©Norman McNamee, photo of the cemetery surrounding the Manse of Dalserf, photo used with permission. Dalserf, Lanark, Scotland – I wish I could pop over and read those headstones! Maybe I would find some family members.

John Boles is my 3rd great granduncle.  He is the younger brother of my 3rd great grandmother Catherine Boles.  I really enjoy researching the Boles family.  I feel quite a connection to them.  John in particular fascinates me because he, his wife, and his seven children seemingly disappeared into thin, Scottish, air.

Here’s the skinny on John:

  • Born about 1852 in Carluke, Lanark, Scotland.
  • 1861 found John living as a young scholar in Carluke.
  • By 1871 he was a miner, still living with his family in Carluke.
  • 20 Feburary 1874 John married Christina Montgomery in Carluke.
  • Between 1874 and 1889, John and Christina had ten children.  Three of those children died before 1890.  All births and deaths occurred in Dalserf up until 1887, from 1888 to 1890 the births and deaths occurred in Holytown.
  • 1881 found John, Christina and five children living in Dalserf, John was a coal miner.
  • The last trace I have of this family is found in their son John’s death record.  John died 18 February 1890 in Holytown.  His cause of death was whooping cough, he was four and a half years old.

And then poof!  The ENTIRE family disappears just like that.

I have tried tracing them each individually.  I have searched in Scotland, Australia, and Canada specifically.  I have searched generally in ancestry and familysearch hoping to pick them up somewhere, anywhere in the world.  No luck.  At.  All.

John and his family are a mystery to me.  Did they get tired of life?  Tired of mining, tired of their children dying?  Did they decide it was time for a change?  Time to strike out into the world and leave Scotland behind?

I don’t know.  I hope I figure it out.  Maybe one of John’s descendants will see this and email me.  I hope so!


Records I have for John:

  • 1861 Census
  • 1871 Census
  • 1874 Marriage Record
  • 1881 Census

Records I can’t find for John:

  • Birth record in the Scottish OPR
  • 1891 Census
  • 1901 Census
  • 1911 Census
  • Death Record

Here’s the scoop on John’s family:

  • John Boles, born about 1852 in Carluke, Lanark, Scotland
  • Christina Montgomery, born about 1855 in Carluke, parents – William Montgomery, Agnes Smellie
    • Agnes Boles, born 9 April 1874 in Dalserf, died 24 July 1888 in Holytown
    • James Boles, born 2 August 1875 in Dalserf, died 23 March 1876 in Dalserf
    • Isabella Boles, born 26 December 1876 in Dalserf
    • Christina Boles, born 1 October 1878 in Dalserf
    • William Montgomery Boles, born 24 July 1880 in Dalserf (How sad that his older sister Agnes died on his 8th birthday!)
    • Helen Boles, born 8 May 1882 in Dalserf
    • Elizabeth Boles, born 19 January 1884 in Dalserf
    • John Boles, born 26 October 1885 in Dalserf, died 18 February 1890 in Holytown
    • James Boles, born 11 October 1887 in Dalserf
    • Agnes Smellie Boles, born 4 July 1889, Holytown


Image found here.

15 thoughts on “Ancestor Story – John Boles, the disappearing man – 52 Ancestors”

  1. Good grief, how frustrating. So nothing after 1890 in Holytown. Don’t you wish you could transport over there and start poking around in records? Or cemeteries, like you mentioned. It could take only one clue to break it open. Best of luck in your search!

    1. Yes, nothing after 1890. Weird right? No marriages for the kids, no deaths for anyone, no census just completely gone. I can’t find passenger lists out of the UK. A tricky family for sure!

  2. I have a great uncle in my family tree named John Boles, but he was an Irish Boles (his ancestors arrived in Ireland in the 1700s). If I ever come across anything relevant to your search, I will let you know.

    1. That would be great! I don’t know the origins of my Boles family. I suspect they are not from Scotland originally but they dead end two generations before John, no idea where his grandpa came from. There is a family rumor I heard recently that the Boles are descended from French Kings. I have no evidence that is true but who know?

  3. It’s strange how some people just vanish from the records. Hopefully you’ll get some leads that will help you solve this genealogical mystery.

  4. Hello, John Boles is our shared ancestor. I was in Scotland, and did not go to the cemetery in Holytown, because I had heard that most of the gravestones are unreadable. I did however talk to someone from that area, who also had ancestors who were miners. His ancestor was black-listed probably for something quite trivial and changed his name to Brown. A common name like Brown allowed him to find work in other mines. Perhaps, this is what happened to John Boles.

    1. Hi Sheila, how was your trip? Any great finds? I actually got an email from a stranger about this post. They found John’s children – they all immigrated to South Africa together. Can’t find John and Christina yet but at least I know where the kiddos went. I’ll write a post about it soon.

      1. The trip was wonderful, I met a second cousin through an Ancestry enquiry and we spent two days going around the places my maternal side, the Fyfe side lived . I learned so much. I didn’t really learn anything about the Boles family, maybe that is another trip!

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