thegenealogygirl


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Unraveling the John Boles Mystery – Conclusion

BOLES, John Thompson & Christina, headstone

John Thompson Boles & Christina Montgomery Boles headstone, Stellawood Cemetery, Durban, Kwazulu-Natal.  Photograph by Maureen Kruger for the Gravestones in South Africa project on the eGGSA website.

John Boles is my 3rd great granduncle.  The disappearance of his entire family from Scotland in 1890 has been a mystery to me for several years.  With the discovery of the existence of his possible estate file, and the microfilm containing that file, I ordered the film from BYU and looked forward to learning new details that might finally answer my two big questions:

When did John Boles leave Scotland for South Africa?

and

Why did John Boles move his entire family of 9 to South Africa?

 

After ordering the microfilm containing his possible estate file, life got busy and I didn’t make it over to BYU to view the file before RootsTech.  So, I decided to look up the file while in Salt Lake City at the FHL.

To my utter delight, I found both John’s 27 page file and Christina’s 2 page file very quickly and made several discoveries.  The important first discovery was that they contained information that confirmed these estate files were about my John and Christina Boles.

MONTGOMERY, Christina, 1927 Estate File

Christina Montgomery Boles’ death notice.

The biggest discovery was that John and Christina had two children after they settled in South Africa – Alice and John.  They are listed as children numbered 10 and 11 on Christina’s death notice.  Child number 12, Isabella Miller, belongs in position 3.

I also learned that John owned land, several pieces of very nice land.

durban-bay-map

1930 map of Durban Harbour, from the collection of Allan Jackson.  Used with permission.

At the time of his death in 1935, John owned land that was part of the Farm Sea View.  This development is found west of Durban Bay just north of the sizable Clairmont Estate.

In addition to the land, John owned shares in several different mines.

He also had quite a list of movable property, nice furnishings, a piano, and many other possessions acquired during the years he lived in South Africa.

John and Christina’s estate files did not enlighten me on when they came to South Africa, but they did open my eyes as to why they came.

In Scotland, John was a coal miner.  This was not a life that afforded opportunity.  He would never own land.  His daily existence was hard and his earnings were meager.  His children would work from a young age and live a similar life.

In studying the estate files of John, Christina, and their children, I discovered that the entire family experienced a much better life, financially, in South Africa than they ever would have experienced in Scotland.  They helped manage mines and stores.  They owned land and homes and movable property of value, as well as shares in several mines.

This knowledge is bittersweet for me.  They went from being the poor workers to managing the poor workers.  My understanding of South African history and apartheid is limited, but it’s broad enough to know that my Boles family benefited from this cruel system.  I am happy that they were able to experience more comfort and safety in their new life but I am also saddened to know that it came at the expense of others.  History is complicated.

When they came is still a bit of a mystery.  I reviewed the documents I currently hold for this family and have this timeline:

  • 4 July 1889, Agnes Smellie Boles is born in Holytown, Lanark, Scotland and her father John is the informant.
  • 18 February 1890, John Boles dies in Holytown, Lanark, Scotland.  The informant is not his father John Boles, but his uncle Alexander Boles.  It is possible that John has already left Scotland for South Africa at this point.
  • 5 November 1890, the 7 living Boles children travel to Natal, South Africa aboard the Methven Castle, traveling with Chas M Boles.  A recently found record indicates that their father John Boles, residing in Dundee, was the surety name for the children.

John left Scotland sometime after 4 July 1889 and before 5 November 1890.  While I haven’t found an immigration record for John or his wife Christina, I know that neither of them traveled to South Africa with the children.  Did they come together?

My original goal in learning more about John Boles was to hopefully learn more about his parents, my 4th great grandparents.  Unfortunately, learning the end of John Boles’ life did not add new information about his parents.  I did learn more about John, Christina, and their children.  I do feel a sense of closure for their family, but as is the case with most research, I now have more questions than when I started.  Fortunately the questions are not essential to my research so I will be able to put them away and move on to other members of the Boles family.

It was a fitting end to find an image of John and Christina’s headstone pictured at the top of this post.

This research journey from Scotland to South Africa that John and Christina took me on deserves two follow-up posts – one about FamilySearch records and one about South African records found in various places online.

Happy Thursday, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery today!

 


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Unraveling the John Boles Mystery – Part Two

duban-bay-image

Durban to The Drakensberg” by John Hone, 1988, photo of Durban, Natal, South Africa

John Boles is my 3rd great granduncle.  He is the younger brother of my 3rd great grandmother Catherine Boles.  John, his wife Christina, and his 7 living children who were all born in Scotland, just up and disappeared in 1890.

In 2014, a serendipitous connection with a kind stranger from Scotland, led me to an immigration record for all 7 Boles children traveling to Natal, South Africa without their parents.

Then there were the 3 marriage records for Elizabeth, Christina, & Helen Boles.  All 3 marriages took place in Natal, South Africa.  Helen’s 1906 marriage record stated that she had the permission of her parents to marry.

This was the first clue that indicated John & Christina Montgomery Boles might have also gone to South Africa.

I scoured FamilySearch and Ancestry looking for any record collection that might help me build on what I knew but I couldn’t find anything.  The collections were sparse and had very limited time frames.  I did some basic googling with no great results so I did what we all do at times, I set the John & Christina Boles family aside.

Fast forward to sometime last year, when I revisited this part of my tree.  I was committed to adding something to this story.  So I dove into some google searching to see what record collections exist for Natal, South Africa.  The National Archives for South Africa led me to a bunch of potentially helpful records.  The only problem was that they look like this:

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-1-33-10-pmscreen-shot-2017-03-01-at-1-33-25-pm

I wasn’t entirely sure where I could go next based on this data.  So I went to my good friend, the FamilySearch wiki.  But.  I went to it through google.  The wiki itself has a terrible search algorithm so it’s best to use google as your entry point.  I found myself on a page entitled “South Africa Natal Death Notices“.

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-1-40-37-pm

Close to the bottom of that screenshot you can see the section “Microfilmed records at the Family History Library”.  This link takes you to a catalog entry on FamilySearch.org for microfilms containing Estate Files for Pietermartizburg (Natal).  The collection includes 419 microfilm reels organized by year and file number.

This discovery got me pretty excited so I searched the National Archives of SA website as thoroughly as I could to identify as many potential estate files for John, Christina, their children, and the 3 sons-in-law that I knew of.  I had quite a list.  I compared it to the FS Catalog entry to identify microfilm numbers.  My list of microfilms was growing.

My big question was this – What exactly will I find in those Estate Files?

 

When I go to BYU for research, I can order two microfilms from the FHL in Salt Lake City for free, every two weeks.  No more.  I was trying to decide how much of my precious research time to dedicate to this family.  Which films should I order?

While pondering on this set of questions, I discovered that there is a 5 year window of estate records available on FamilySearch in a browse only collection for Transvaal.  I checked this against my list and discovered one candidate: William Wise, husband of Christina Boles.

Hooray!  This meant I could view an estate file from home to get a sense of what this record type, for this location might tell me.  This was just what I wanted.

Because finding this particular record took several steps, I will outline those steps in detail.

The first step was finding William’s file number on the National Archives of SA website.

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-2-05-54-pm

I was looking for file number 3681 in the year 1959.

It was time to take that information over to FamilySearch.  I went to the main “Search” menu on FamilySearch and got myself to the South Africa landing page that looks like this.

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-2-04-17-pm

Then I scrolled down to the bottom to find the browse collections.  These are collections that only have images with no index.  You search them like a digital microfilm.

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-2-04-25-pm

Then I selected the Transvaal Estate Files.

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-2-04-38-pm

From here, I clicked on “Browse through 191,580 images“.

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Then I selected the appropriate year of 1959.

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That led me to a screen filled with file number ranges.  My file number was further down the page so I scrolled down.

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I am looking for file number 3681 which falls into the very last number range of 3660-3736.  I clicked that range.

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Now I am essentially looking at digital microfilm.  You can see that first image has a large stamped code of “3660/59”.  I am looking for 3681 which is only 21 files later.  I left this page on the “thumbnail” view and scrolled down until I could see the first page of file 3681.

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-2-08-49-pm

There is my file on the third row, far left.  I can now click on the thumbnail to view the first image of my file.  Then I click the little arrow in the black menu bar to arrow through the file.  What I discovered was a 5 page estate file.  Page one is the cover sheet.  Page two is the death notice.  Pages three and four are William and Christina’s will.  Page five is “Acceptance as Trust of Executor”.

Just to give you a little taste, here is the death notice for William.

wise-william-1959-estate-file-2

From this record I learned so much new information!  I added a birthplace in Scotland of Trenent, age at death in years and months (which helped me narrow down a time frame for birth), address at time of death, date and place of death, and the names of William and Christina’s 3 children (including their daughter’s married last name).

Finding this file got me really excited to see John and Christina’s Estate Files.  I moved those microfilm right to the top of my BYU list.  On my next visit I ordered both microfilm and hoped for the best!

Was I finally going to learn when and why John Boles went to South Africa?

 

…to be continued…


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Using Scotlands People

This is the at home version of my Scotlands People class broken up into four parts.  I really need to clean up my computer…  Here is the handout:

Scotlands People Class Handout

The handout covers a few things I don’t mention but it follows essentially the same outline so would serve as a good note-taking guide as you watch.

A few things – I am WAY more entertaining when I have a live class in front of me.  Sorry.  😉  This took quite a bit of time so please, share it.  The more people that can benefit from it the better.

If you have questions as you watch, jot them down and ask, I will happily answer.

And last, remember to get your free Scotlands People credits before the offer expires on April 30th.

Happy Scottish researching!

 

 


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Free Scotlands People Credits

scotlands-people

As I was finishing preparations for my class on Sunday I did a quick google search for free credits.  It used to be that if you signed up for this particular newsletter you got 10 free credits.  I wanted to include that info so class members could try a little searching for free.

Well!

There is an active code for 20 free credits that is good through April 30th.  Just enter “scotland” in the voucher code box.

I gave it a try and it worked.  No extra steps or tricks.  No newsletter signups.  Just type in the code and 20 credits show up.

If you’ve been wanting to try Scotlands People, now is your chance to try it out for free!

I’ve been considering reteaching my class as a video to post here.  Any interest in that?  I spend so much time prepping and then usually only teach a class once or twice.  It would be nice to put all that prep to broader use.  So if you are interested, speak up!

Happy Monday.


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Scotlands People

scotlands-people

I’ve been preparing for a class I’m teaching this coming Sunday on Scotlands People.  I LOVE this website.  I’ve been using it for about ten years and have become quite adept at extracting information with minimal waste of credits.

If you are unfamiliar with Scotlands People here is the quick scoop on the website.  It is not free, but it’s not expensive either.  You purchase credits 30 at a time for £7.  I’m an American so my cost is worked out based on the exchange rate at the time of purchase – usually about $10-11.  Once you have credits you are ready to go to work.

There are several different record sets.  You choose your record set and then put in some search terms.  The website will spit back a number telling you how many results match your terms.  I massage my terms and filters until my results are manageable.  The more you know about a person to start, the better you can tailor your search terms.

Once you like your terms and the results they bring up, you purchase a list of results for 1 credit or about 37¢ per page.  If your results are on multiple pages you only pay for one page at a time.  The list of results tells you a very limited amount of info.  From there if you see a record that looks like the one you want, you purchase it for 5 credits or about $1.85.  If you are really accurate you might get a record for about $2.22.  Not bad!

Bonus – depending on how you set up your search terms, sometimes your list will include records for other family members.  For instance my Boles family is awesome to research.  There are so few of them I can search by last name only, no gender, a parish, and a year range and pick up a whole bunch of siblings in a list of birth records.

Scotlands People is one of my very favorite websites!  I love that every record is on there and I don’t have to wait for a trip to an archive or library, and I don’t have to wait for someone to look up my document and mail/email it to me.  I find what I need and get the image immediately.

I’m excited for Sunday night!

 

Have you ever used Scotlands People?  If so, what tips do you have?


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Who is Maggie Douglas? Part Four – Conclusion

The Hesperian - the ship that Maggie Douglas, Catherine, Catherine, Mary, Alexander, & George Young sailed on from Scotland to America in 1910.  Image found here.

The Hesperian – the ship that Maggie Douglas, Catherine, Catherine, Mary, Alexander, & George Young sailed on from Scotland to America in 1910. Image found here.

You can catch up on my search for Maggie Douglas in parts one, two, and three.

 

I felt so tantalizingly close!

I knew Maggie was somehow connected to the Douglas family.  One strong possibility was that Maggie had married one of the sons of Alexander Marshall Douglas and Margaret Young.  With this in mind I started researching each of those boys.  I purchased their birth records first to get a precise birth date and full name.  Then with this information I looked for death records for the boys knowing that the death records would list their spouses.

Slowly I was building the details of this family when I found this death record.

Alexander Marshall Douglas, deathSo what does this record tell me?

Alexander Marshall Douglas, son of Alexander Marshall Douglas and Margaret Young, brother of Barclay Douglas who lived on Dock Street in Yoker, died 2 February 1910.  His cause of death was a comminuted fracture of the skull.  He died in Western Infirmary in Glasgow and his usual residence was 19 Trafalgar Street in Dalmuir.  He was 31 and a Journeyman Ship Plater at the time of his death.  But the big deal, the cause for excitement, is that he was married to a Margaret Tait!

Margaret Tait just might be my Maggie Douglas!

My next step was to get Alexander and Margaret’s marriage record to compare her age to my Maggie Douglas.

Alexander and Maggie, MarriageHot dog!  Margaret was 20 at the time of her marriage in 1905 giving her an approximate birth year of 1885.  Based on the travel document that started it all, Maggie Douglas has an approximate birth year of 1884.  An excellently close match.

The last fact I could confirm was Maggie Douglas’ place of birth.  On the travel document she listed her birthplace as Clydebank, Scotland.  The record I needed to confirm that Margaret Leckie McPherson Dempster and Maggie Douglas were the same person was Margaret Leckie McPherson Dempster’s birth record.

It was pretty easy to find with that big old name.  Margaret was in fact born in Clydebank.  She was the illegitimate daughter of Robina Dempster and Archibald McPherson.

I found Maggie!

 

Maggie was born to unmarried farm servants.  At the age of 20 she was working as a Machinist in Yoker when she married Alexander Marshall Douglas.  She was married for 4 1/2 years before she was widowed.  Her husband died in February of 1910 and in October of 1910 she left Scotland for America.  She traveled with my great grandmother Mary Brown Young, Mary’s mother Catherine and other siblings.  Maggie was traveling to her cousin James Young in Montana.  James is actually the 1st cousin, once removed of Maggie’s husband.  James is my 2nd great grandfather.  Maggie’s husband Alexander is my 1st cousin 5 times removed.

So why all the fuss about Maggie?

She’s not one of my ancestors.  She’s not even one of my relatives.  She married into my family.  Why does she matter?

She matters because I could feel her story.  I didn’t know what that story was but I could feel it.

Here was a young woman who left the country of her birth bound for America in 1910.  She traveled with my great grandmother who was 7 years old.  Can’t you just see Maggie holding Mary’s little hand, helping her board the ship?  Can’t you just see the little lot of them – Maggie, Catherine and the children – saying goodbye to their homeland, standing on the deck of a large ship watching the shore fade into the mist?  I can see them.  Maggie was part of Mary & Catherine’s story.  Maggie helped my ancestors make it to America.  Maggie matters to my story.

Since beginning my series on Maggie Douglas, a cousin of mine read my first post and sent me an email with the following details:

“When I was showing Mary [my great grandmother] one of the photos of the my grandmother [my 2nd great grandmother Catherine] and family, there was a lady dressed in a kilt.  I had asked Mary Costello about her
and Mary said that was probably Maggie Douglas.  She said that “she was always around”.  She said the kilt (uniform) was her dad’s and that Maggie was wearing it.  She said that Maggie moved to southern Idaho.

Attached is the back of a postcard from Maggie to my grandmother.  Notice the post mark of Idaho and the date of 1914.  I know my dad was interested in contacting Maggie as well and it seems to me that Hamer was mentioned.”

And here is the post card:

Maggie Douglas postcardIt is addressed to my 2nd great grandmother Katie Young, 812 South Jackson St, Butte.  The postmark is 1914 in Idaho.  The card reads:

“Dear Katie,  I have not time to write you  I am so busy  tell all the folks I was asking for them  having nice weather  hoping to see you soon  Alex & Walter send their…”

Oh boy!  Alex & Walter?  I’m thinking Maggie may have remarried and had a child.  I may have figured out who Maggie Douglas is, how she fits into my tree, when and where she was born and a rough idea of why she traveled with my family to America, but I don’t know the end of her story.

Maybe my cousin can dig up a few more clues for me from the family archive.  Maybe the names Alex & Walter and Idaho will be enough for me to find an ending.

I have more research to do!

Maggie’s story definitely has more.

But for now I am so delighted that I finally know the answer to the question Who is Maggie Douglas?

 

 

Thank you to pastsmith who prompted me to write this series with her question:  “Have you ever had to start midstream, so to speak, in research?

 


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Who is Maggie Douglas? Part Three

Aerial view of Yoker - with Dock Street visible.  Image from Googlemaps.

Aerial view of Yoker – with Dock Street visible.  Image from Googlemaps.

Maggie Douglas first appeared on a travel record for my great grandmother.  She claimed to be the cousin of my 2nd great grandfather.  That record began a research journey that has been both fascinating and frustrating.

In part one, I wrote about the travel record and the details I learned about Maggie.  In part two I shared the search strategies I tried based on the information I had from the travel record.  Sadly I found nothing and had to walk away from the Maggie Douglas puzzle.  Today’s portion of the story is full of unexpected discoveries that bring me right to the brink of finding Maggie Douglas.

 

Time had passed.  I wasn’t thinking about or working on figuring out who Maggie Douglas was.  She had slipped to the back of the research files.  Her puzzle had become silent in my mind.

And then, last Mother’s Day I enjoyed some quiet research time – heavenly.  Even better were the results of that time.  I stumbled across a mess in Family Tree on familysearch.org.  A mess created by someone else.  A mess that prompted me to fully source my, at that time, current end of line individual – James Young.  In sourcing and sorting out the tangle, I ended up searching once again for his death record and I found it.  This added another generation to my tree, another James Young and his wife Janet Robertson – my 5th great grandparents.

After pushing back a generation I did what I always do, I worked on searching for their descendants.  I have identified 8 children.  So far I have found spouses for 4 of those children, children for 3 of them, and spouses for several of those children.  Among the children of James Young and Janet Robertson is a daughter named Margaret Young.

Margaret was born in 1845 in Renfrew, Renfrew, Scotland.  In 1869, she married Alexander Marshall Douglas in Renfrew.  The name Douglas caused a little niggle in the back of my mind.  A niggle that wasn’t enough to bring to mind why that name mattered but a niggle none-the-less.  I spent several days working on learning about Alexander and Margaret.  Slowly I identified their children – 9 in all.  I discovered that Alexander died at the age of 41 leaving behind Margaret and several living children.  She lived 7 more years.  At the time of her death none of her children were married.

I focused my research on their oldest son Barclay Douglas because of his less common name.  I found a 1915 marriage record to a Mary Cameron Muir.  Again with the niggling, Muir – not a name in my direct line anywhere but I have a few Muirs that married into my tree, I wondered if that was what I was thinking of…?  I didn’t know so I returned my attention to Barclay.  I found him on the 1901 Scottish census as the head of household with 4 of his siblings and a housekeeper.  In 1911 I found him living with his younger brother William in the household of David & Isabella Muir.

There was that Muir name again.  I wondered if David was brother to Mary Cameron Muir, Barclay’s future wife.  After several records I was able to prove that David and Mary were in fact siblings.  The proving also established that David’s wife Isabella was Barclay’s sister.  A brother and sister from my Douglas family had married a brother and sister from a Muir family.

I went back to the 1911 census and studied it more carefully to see if I could identify any other siblings living on that street.  First thing I checked was the name of the street – Dock Street, in Yoker.

And then all of those nigglings came crashing together.  Douglas, Muir, Dock Street, Yoker.  Maggie Douglas?  Oh yeah, Maggie Douglas!

I started clicking like a mad woman opening up all sorts of tabs so I could compare documents and facts.  I suddenly wondered if Maggie Douglas was the youngest child of Alexander Marshall Douglas and Margaret Young.  Alexander and Margaret had a daughter named Margaret Young Douglas born 1877, died 1878.  Maybe they had one more child at the end that they named Margaret?  Maybe she was so young when her mother died she didn’t stay with her older siblings?  I scoured the 1901 census looking for a Maggie/Margaret Douglas that matched the facts I had about Maggie Douglas from the travel record.  No good matches!

And then after a feverish 45 minutes or so I more carefully reviewed that travel document again and saw that it said Maggie Douglas was married.  Married?!  Darn it, I missed something important again?  Married.  Douglas?  Not her maiden name?  I knew Maggie was somehow tied to this family.  The Douglas family, the Muir family, and the Young family.  But I didn’t yet know how.  I was so close.  So incredibly close.

Who is Maggie Douglas?

 

to be continued…