thegenealogygirl


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The Mixed Up Case of the Two James Youngs & Janet Robertsons in Renfrewshire, Scotland

which James Young-01

In May of 2014, I had a happy breakthrough moment when I added another generation to my tree on my Young line in Scotland.  It was a major victory that had just been waiting there for me.  That discovery led to additional discoveries when I found parents for both James Young and Janet Robertson.  In just a few short weeks I had added two full generations and plenty of descendants.  It was exciting!

My excitement quickly came to a halt.

You see, I like to participate in building the Family Tree in FamilySearch.org.  So once I have researched a family well, I go into FamilySearch and try to update, source, add, merge, or whatever is needed, to help that Tree be as correct as possible.

When I went into the tree to add or attach James Young & Janet Robertson’s parents, I was faced with the most convoluted mess I’d come across yet.

This was my James & Janet with some of their children:

Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 2.18.49 PM

Everything looked pretty good.  Some facts, sources, children, and grandchildren were (and still are) missing, but otherwise, this was all correct.

But then a troubling duplicate reared it’s head when I went looking for James Young and Janet Ferguson, James’ parents.  I found this:

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 7.46.36 PMScreen Shot 2017-06-12 at 7.46.02 PM

So what is the trouble exactly?  Oh goodness, where do I begin…

This James Young has the same birth and death dates and places as my James Young.  He also has parents with the same names as my James Young’s parents.  His wife also has the same name as my James Young’s wife.  His first two children listed have the same names, birth dates, and birth places as my James Young’s first two children.

But then.  There are problems.

The marriage date and place are different by two years and 1 parish.  This James Young’s wife Janet Robertson has a different birth date and place, and different parents from my Janet.  And, who are those last two children?  They don’t seem to belong to my James Young and Janet Robertson.

The more I tried to unravel this, the more confusing it was.  I started by looking at the marriage records for both couples.  I wondered if they were a duplicate couple who had banns read in a neighboring parish?  Had the record of the banns been indexed incorrectly?  It’s a pretty big stretch since the entire date is so drastically different, but I wasn’t going to rule it out.  Looking at all of the records – all four – made it quite clear that there were two couples.  One who married in Renfrew, Renfrewshire in 1823 and one who married in High Church, Paisley, Renfrewshire in 1821.

At this point I decided I needed to complete a surname study for both parishes.  For the next three years I slowly went through the microfilm records for these parishes every time I went to BYU to research.  I had a notebook.  Every event for someone with the surname of Young was recorded.  It was slow and tedious.  I didn’t have much time to give to it.  It felt like it would take forever.

But then!  Ohhhh, this is about to get good…

About six weeks ago, I started helping two different people with Scottish research.  I hadn’t been working on my Scottish lines recently.  I knew that the ScotlandsPeople website had been updated.  I’d gotten lots of emails about it.  I just hadn’t tried it out yet.  There were so many complaints about glitches at first, that I thought I would let the dust settle before I used it.  I had other parts of my tree to work on, so it was just fine.

As I helped these two different people discover the joys of Scottish research, it started an itch for me.  I wanted to work on part of my Scottish lines again.

One afternoon, about 4 weeks ago, I was zipping around my house getting stuff done.  I had the strongest impression that I should revisit one of my brick walls – Andrew Brown, my 4th great grandfather.  I dropped everything and gave it a look.  Over the next three days I completely demolished that brick wall and had the best time pushing my tree back several generations.  But that, is a story for another day.

As my Andrew Brown journey was winding down, I thought about my dusty notebook and my Young Surname Study.  It hadn’t gotten any attention for a few months.  ScotlandsPeople is so different now.  I thought I could probably complete the project from home now without having to buy too many records.  So I pulled out my notebook and got to work.

I am sooooo happy to say that on Tuesday, the 13th of June, 2017, I tackled the main goal of my Young Surname Study.  I had enough information to accurately separate the two James Young and Janet Robertsons and their children.  I carefully fixed everyone, sourced them, and made sure they are attached to the correct family members.  That Tuesday was a long and wonderful day.

Without going into too many confusing details, this is what I discovered.

The James Young who was attached to my James Young’s parents is a different man.  He did in fact marry a Janet Robertson in 1821 in High Church, Paisley, Renfrewshire.  But after that, there is no trace of either of them.  No children, no death records, no census.  I don’t know where they went.

The first two children – James Young b. 1824 and Thomas Young b. 1828 were actually the children of my James and Janet and were duplicates.

The daughter, Jean Young, who did not belong to my James Young and Janet Robertson, did not belong to this James Young and Janet Robertson either.  She is the daughter of John Walker Young and Janet Robertson who were married in 1828 in Neilston, Renfrewshire.  Her complete name is actually Jean Anderson Young and this little darlin’ has two birth and baptism records in two different parishes.  Luckily for me, the father’s unusual occupation of (Calico) Printer in Grahamston was listed on both of her records, along with the detail that she was the couple’s 2nd child and 2nd daughter.

The last son listed, Robert Young, was not the child of my James and Janet or of this James and Janet either.  He was the son of a James Young and Janet Robertson who married in Paisley, High Church, Renfrewshire in 1831, four years before his birth in the exact same parish and ten years after the marriage of the couple he was attached to.

In the end, this meant that the convoluted James and Janet were left with no birth and death dates and places for James, no children, no parents for James, and still attached to the parents for Janet.  Parents that I did not research, so I can’t say for certain they are in fact her parents.

My James and Janet are now attached properly to their children and parents.  Well, aside from the few children I haven’t fully researched and added yet.

My surname study is not complete.  There are still plenty of family members I need to finish researching.  But these are my big takeaways from my progress so far:

First – Don’t be afraid of a mess in FamilySearch.  You can solve it!  Even if it takes three years.  No one messed with the mess because I left a very detailed note on both James Youngs explaining my research project.  If you want to work effectively in FamilySearch – communicate!  Leave notes, sources, and good explanations when you make changes or additions.

Second – A surname study is an AWESOME way to really get to know a parish and a family or set of families.  You get a good sense of how many people live there and how they are connected to each other.  It took my best guesses, and some surprise people and facts,  and turned them into concrete conclusions.

Third – There are A LOT of James Youngs in the county of Renfrew in Scotland.  ūüėČ

 

Have you ever completed a surname study?  Would a surname study help your research?

 


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Memorial Day Tribute – James Boles

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My marvelous middle child, Memorial Day 2014

Today is Memorial Day in America.  A day to honor those who died in service to our country.  A day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

For many, it has become the kick off to summer Рa day for barbecuing and playing outside.  I suppose that even those who fail to remember the price that was paid for their freedom, are still a tribute to the bravest among us.  The whole idea behind defending liberty is so that there can be a peaceful place for families to live and work and play together.  A place of freedom.  Freedom to remember or not.

Today, I choose to remember.

Earlier this year I discovered another family member who died during military service.

James Boles.

James wasn’t an American. ¬†He was born in Scotland. ¬†At the tender age of three, James left his homeland bound for South Africa with his siblings. ¬†He and his family were seeking a better life.

As a young, unmarried man, James drew up a will. ¬†In simple terms, he left everything to his parents. ¬†James was heading back to Europe. ¬†This time it wasn’t to improve his own life. ¬†It was to fight for the freedom of others in the Great War. ¬†James was part of the 4th South African Infantry.

On the 13th of April 1918, James was killed in action in Flanders.

Today, I honor and remember my cousin, James Boles.

James, thank you for your service.

 

James Boles Рmy 1st cousin, 4 times removed.  Born Р11 October 1887 in Dalserf, Lanark, Scotland to John Thompson Boles and Christina Montgomery.  Brother to: Agnes, James, Isabella, Christina, William, Helen, Elizabeth, John, Agnes, John, and Alice.  Died Р13 April 1918 in Flanders.

 

Rest in peace dear cousin.  I will think of you today as I post small flags on the graves of veterans close to home.

 

H - Memorial Day 2014

My Littlest Sweetheart, Memorial Day 2014

 

 


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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:

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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“.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Then I selected the Transvaal Estate Files.

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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.

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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.¬† ūüėȬ† 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¬Ę 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 Рdepending 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?