52 Ancestors 2014, ancestor story

Ancestor Story – Helen Boles – 52 Ancestors

LanarkRoadCarlukeCarluke is the setting for parts of this tale.  Image found here.

On one of my very first visits to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City I found a record that started my journey of learning Helen Boles Muir’s fascinating story.  Helen is my 3rd great grand aunt.  I attribute many of my genealogical detective skills to her – her story forced me to gain some tricks in a hurry.

This is the story of Helen Boles.

Helen Boles is the daughter of James Thomson Boles & Isabella McLaren, my 4th great grandparents.  I first discovered Helen in the 1851 Census of Carluke, Lanark, Scotland.  She was 3 years old at the time of the census.

BOLES, James Thomson & Isabella McLaren, 1851 Census

Helen is not listed with her family on the 1861 Census.  When I discovered this, I wondered if she had died before 1861.  While searching for birth and death records in Carluke for any children of James & Isabella Boles, I came across this death record for Janet Boles.

BOLES, Janet, 1869 Death Record

Janet Boles is the illegitimate daughter of a Helen Boles.  The informant is a James Boles who is the father of Helen Boles.  When I found this record I thought it was very likely that this was my Helen but I needed to find more information.

The next record I found was the 1871 Census of Carluke, Lanark, Scotland.  The household members include James & Isabella, four of their children, and a grandson named James B. McLauchlan age 6.  The family is living at the same address that Janet Boles died at.  Maybe Janet is indeed the child of Helen.   But who is James B. McLauchlan?

James & Isabella Boles, 1871 Census

I was very curious about this James B. McLauchlan.  I went searching for a birth record.  What I found was a birth for a James Boles.

BOLES, James, 1865 Birth Record

James Boles is the illegitimate son of a Helen Boles.  I wondered if this could possibly be my Helen and the James B. McLauchlan of the 1871 Census.

Next I found the 1881 Census of Dalserf, Lanark, Scotland.  The household members include James & Isabella and their grandson listed as James Boles.  His age and birthplace match both the possible birth record and the 1871 Census.

James & Isabella Boles, 1881 Census

Let’s go back to Helen for a minute.  I began using the scotlandspeople website so I could search from home.  {Incidentally, this is my favorite website.}  I looked for a death record for Helen Boles.  I found this record {bottom entry}.

Helen Boles Muir, 1935 Death Record

Hot dog!  Helen lived to ripe old age of 87.  She had been married to a man named John Muir who died before she did and she must have had a child because the informant on her death record was James T. Boles, grandson.

This record sent me hunting for Helen’s marriage record.  Found it {second entry}.

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Helen was married to John Muir on 1 December 1882 in Dalserf, Lanark, Scotland.  She is listed as a Dairymaid with her usual residence at Ashgillhead in Dalserf.  This is the occupation listed on Janet’s birth record and the address of James & Isabella on the 1881 Census.

I decided to make a loose assumption that the James Boles from the birth record & census record, and the James B. McLauchlan from the other census record were all the same person and that he was the son of my Helen.  Assuming all of this, I went looking for a marriage record for James Boles and this is what I found.

James T Boles & Isabella Crow Macdonald, 1891 Marriage Record

James T. Boles married Isabella Crow Macdonald on 31 December 1891 in Dalziel, Lanark, Scotland.  He lists his father as James Thomson Boles, coachman, deceased and his mother as Helen Boles, maiden surname McLaren.  This path was getting rather twisty for me.  I know that illegitimacy was a big deal during this time period and something to be covered up.  Knowing this I looked at this record and wondered if James was hiding his illegitimacy in a few twisted truths by listing his maternal grandfather as his own father and his mother as his mother but with her mother’s maiden name – so that she would have one.

I wondered if James’ death record might clear anything up.  I found this.

James Thomson Boles, 1937 Death Record

James Thomson Boles died on 13 January 1937 in Dalserf, Lanark, Scotland.  The informant on the record is his son James who is living at the same address that Helen was living at when she died 2 years earlier.  On the record he lists no father and as mother Helen Boles, domestic servant, deceased.  When I read through this record I felt a tremendous sense of completion and connection.  Finally at his death his family was able to be honest about his parentage – at least the part that they knew.

I found several more records for Helen, John, & James.  The most important to this story being the 1861 Census of Culter, Lanark, Scotland.

Helen Boles, 1861 Census

Helen Boles is a domestic servant.  Among the other servants we find Mary & Agnes Muir.  Possibly sisters of Helen’s future husband John?

After assembling these and other records this is the timeline of Helen’s life:

  • Helen Boles
  • Born – 1 June 1847 in Cambusbarron, St. Ninians, Scotland.
  • Baptized – 27 June 1847 in Gargunnock, Stirling, Scotland.
  • 1851 Census – Resides with parents in Carluke, Lanark, Scotland.
  • 1861 Census – Domestic Servant for William & Marion Aitken in Culter, Lanark, Scotland at the age of 13.
  • 1865 – Helen gives birth to James Boles in Carluke, Lanark, Scotland.  Helen is an 18 year old Farm Servant at the time.  No father is listed on James’ birth record.  James is illegitimate.  We learn from this record that Helen is illiterate as she signs the record with an x as her mark.
  • 1868 – Helen gives birth to Janet Boles in Carluke, Lanark, Scotland.  Helen is a 21 year old Farm Servant at the time.  No father is listed on Janet’s birth record.  Janet is illegitimate.  She is likely named for Helen’s younger sister who was born and died ten years previously.  We learn from this record that Helen can now sign her name.
  • 1869 – Helen’s daughter Janet dies in Carluke, Lanark, Scotland at the age of 14 months.  Cause of death is listed as Epilepsy, 3 weeks.  The informant is Helen’s father James Boles.
  • 1871 Census – Cook for Thomas & Margaret Stodart in Walston, Lanark, Scotland.  Her son James is living with her parents in Carluke.
  • 1881 Census – Dairymaid at the Mauldslie Dairy, living as the head of household with another Dairymaid named Elizabeth Noble.  Her son James is living with her parents in Dalserf.
  • Married John Muir – 1882 in Dalserf, Lanark, Scotland at the age of 32.  John was 10 years her junior.  This is important to note as he could not have been the father of her two children.
  • 1891 – her son James married Isabella Crow Macdonald.
  • 1891 Census – Living in Lesmahagow with her husband with no occupation listed.  Her son James is living in Bothwell with his new wife.
  • 1901 Census – Living in Lesmahagow with her husband with no occupation listed.  Her son James is living in Dalziel with his wife and their four living children.
  • Widowed sometime between 1901 and 1935.  I have been unable to find John’s death record or an entry for John or Helen in the 1911 Census.
  • Died – 1935 at the age of 87 in Dalserf, Lanark, Scotland at the same address listed on several records of this time period for her grandchildren and her son James.  This leads me to believe that Helen may have lived with James and his family or one of his adult children after the death of her husband John.  Helen was the grandmother of 9, 6 were still living at the time of her death.



My heart goes out to Helen.  She began working outside her home as a servant by the tender age of 13.  She had two illegitimate children at a time when illegitimacy was a big deal.  She suffered the death of her infant daughter.  She eventually marries at the age of 32.  She has no more children that I can find.  By the end of her son’s life, the sting of his illegitimacy no longer prevents the informant from being truthful about his parentage.  Helen’s story had come full circle.

I have a very tender place in my heart for Helen and her life.  While researching her life and the lives of her descendants, I felt her influence many times.  I had a distinct feeling that she wanted her story told and told accurately.  When I had pieced everything together, I remember re-reading through all of the records.  As I read Janet’s death record and was reminded that Helen’s father James Thomson Boles was the informant of Janet’s death and that he had registered her death the very day she died, I had a clear image in my mind’s eye of a grandfather walking down the road, head down in sorrow.  By image I do not mean that I was able to imagine this happening.  For just the briefest of moments I saw a heartbroken grandfather walking to the registrars office.  This family is very real to me.  They have my heart.

Note: In order to streamline this story for the reader I left out many records that helped me reach my conclusions.  Also it is interesting to note that so far in my research, every individual with the surname of Boles from Lanark County in Scotland is related to this family.  With such an uncommon surname for this location, researching has been especially easy enjoyable.  Okay, both.