Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Even More About Using Old Maps

In previous posts I mentioned that I had found, or thought I found the location where my wife’s grandfather and great-grandmother lived in 1881 – John Street in Glasgow. A closer look – as summarized in my post of August 12, 2014 – which I should have done before, revealed that the John Street on which they resided was actually in the burgh of Govan, now a district of greater Glasgow. Govan was across the Clyde River from the City of Glasgow. I got carried away by the fact that Alexander Cooper’s first wife lived very close to John Street in 1881 and made the assumption (Never do that!) that Alexander also lived in the area and met her there.

Part of the problem in identifying a location is in finding the right aged map. In this case, there was only one John Street which seemed reasonable, the one in Glasgow City. The census records showed they were in Govan which I had not paid enough attention to. More recently I have searched for many of the old maps covering Govan in order to narrow down where the family lived and many pieces have come together nicely.

On the Library of Scotland website I found several vintage maps of Govan including – from 1882, 1896 and 1912 – that spanned the family’s history in the area. I compared the street names given on census, marriage and death records. The NLS website is a wonderful source of maps of Scotland. You can see many different maps, from the 1700s onward, over the same area. By clicking on the map group menu, you can observe the development of an area over the decades.

On a present-day map I used from Bing Maps, only a handful of the street names remain the same from the 19th century. Most of the buildings are now gone and have been replaced by new commercial and residential complexes. Some of the positions of the old roads appear to be the same but many do not continue through intersections that were present many decades ago. It is possible that the area was bombed during World War II but I have not yet found a map of the area that shows such devastation.

Street names where family members lived:
1882 & 1896
Present Day
Albert Street
Albert Street
Orkney Street
Fairfield Street
not labelled
not present
Greenhaugh Street
Greenhaugh Street
Robert Drive
Hamilton Street
Hamilton Street
Nethan Street
John Street
White Street
Harthill Street
Main Street
Main Street
Clydebrae Street
Roodspark Street
not labelled
not present
White Street
White Street
Golspie Street
1896 map of Govan area – Ordnance Survey 25 inch (image downloaded August 15, 2014 from National Library of Scotland
1912 map of Govan area from John G. Bartholomew’s Plan of Glasgow (image downloaded August 15, 2014 from National Library of Scotland
Present-day Govan area (image downloaded August 25, 2014 from Bing Maps

There are three major landmarks that I can identify to orient myself with respect to the old residential streets – Elder Park (on west side), St. Constantine’s (Govan) Parish Church and the Govan railway station. From that I can now recognize where the old addresses were located. Members of the family lived in the Govan area from at least 1866. Their names can be found on a number of different documents which, together, show how the family moved around in response to changes in their lives:

1.      1866 Marriage (May 18th) – Ann Couper and James Jackson married at the Govan Manse; James indicated as living at 6 Victoria Street, Govan; Ann shown living at 1 Ibrox Terrace, Ibroxholm, Govan (about six blocks southeast of Victoria Steet)’ Elizabeth Couper was a witness to the marriage
2.      1871 Census (April 2nd) – Elizabeth and Alexander Couper living with Elizabeth’s sister, Ann Jackson and her family at 22 Hamilton Street, Govan; John Blackburn, future husband of Elizabeth, living at same address, presumably in a multi-family apartment building
3.      1871 Marriage (April 4th) – Elizabeth Couper and John Blackburn married at 22 Hamilton Street, Govan; both shown to be living at 22 Hamilton Street, Govan
4.      1881 Census (April 3rd) – Elizabeth and Alexander Couper Blackburn living at 4 John Street, Govan
5.      1881 Census (April 3rd) – John Blackburn living at 7 Main Street, Govan
6.      1881 Census (April 3rd) – James and Ann Jackson family living at 91 Roodspark Street, Govan
7.      1885 Military Attestation Form – Alexander Cooper join Scottish Rifles; next of kin indicated as “John” who was living at 2 Albert Street, Govan
8.      1885 Death (November 5th) – John Blackburn died at Western Infirmary, Glasgow; usual residence indicated as 8 Greenhaugh Street, Govan
9.      1891 Census (April 5th) – Elizabeth Blackburn living at 18 White Street, Govan
10.  1891 Census (April 5th) – Ann Jackson family living at 25 Albert Street, Govan; she was a widow
11.  1892 Marriage (April 29th) – Elizabeth Blackburn and James Ross married at 30 Mason Street, Glasgow City; James indicated as living at 13 Fairfield Street, Govan; Elizabeth living at 16 White Street, Govan; after their marriage the couple moved to 30 Mason Street, James’ former residence; address shown as his usual residence on his death record in 1895; Elizabeth living there in 1901 according to the census
12.  1897 Death (November 20th) – Ann Jackson died at 25 Albert Street, Govan

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated. Census records are the property of The National Archives and published under their Open Government License. Census image was downloaded from Ancestry.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Look Next Door for Family Members

I recently had a request to look up the baptism of a Henrietta Agnes Carpenter recently. She had married William Eli Taylor in Cornwood parish, Devon, in 1919. The family researcher wanted to confirm the parents’ names which were on the entry in the church marriage register. That request was easy to answer as I have copies of all of the parish registers. As it turned out, Henrietta was also related to me – a 2nd cousin, twice removed. The information I was able to provide was new to this family historian and, it appeared, many others who were interested in the Taylor family.

Henrietta is shown on the 1901 and 1911 censuses living with her grandparents. That fact by itself raises the question of what happened to her parents. Well, her father, William Henry Carpenter, lived right next door, in the other side of a duplex residence. He was a widower, his wife and Henrietta’s mother, Agnes Fox (Ellis) Carpenter, having died in 1896, right after Henrietta’s birth. We think she died of complications arising from childbirth but have not confirmed that information with a death certificate.
Portion of 1901 England census – Cornwood,Parish, Devon – showing William Henry Carpenter in one side of duplex and daughter Henrietta in the other; census image owned by The National Archives downloaded September 20, 2008 from Ancestry.
William Henry, with his new wife, had moved into the side occupied for over thirty years by his grandparents sometime after 1881. He and Agnes were living there with their first two daughters in 1891. In 1901, as shown above, William Henry lived alone in his side of the residence. By 1911 he had a niece and nephew living with him, both adults. There seems to be little doubt that he was unable to care for a child after his wife’s death, leaving it to his parents to take over.

The house is interesting in itself. I wrote about it in a post on February 18, 2014. It was occupied by a member of the Carpenter family from at least 1841. My 3rd great grandparents, William and Mary Carpenter lived there from the time of the birth of their eighth child in 1833 until William’s death in 1877. By 1871, their fourth son, James, his wife, Elizabeth, two of their Children, William Henry and Elizabeth Saunders and a nephew, John Carpenter, the son of another of William and Mary’s sons, and had moved in to one side of the duplex. As I mentioned above, eventually William Henry and his wife moved into the other side of the duplex after the deaths of his grandparents.
Duplex in which Carpenter family lived – Corntown, Cornwood, parish, Devon; photo taken by Wayne Shepheard 2004 – insert photo by current owner, George Colton, taken in 1962.
Anyway, the point here is that children did always live with their parents because of the lack of space, the death of one of the parents or the convenience of having a relative right next door. If you are missing a child or a parent in your search sometimes it is wise to look next door or at least nearby where a sibling might reside. Sometimes they are close such as was the case for William Henry Carpenter and his daughter, Henrietta. Sometimes they are across town or on the other side of a parish. Usually and adult and their minor child won’t be far from each other, though.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated. Census records are the property of The National Archives and published under their Open Government License. Census image was downloaded from Ancestry.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Sometimes Those Family Stories Have a Grain of Truth

Parts of this post were originally published in an article titled Twists and Turns in Search of Elizabeth Cooper: A lesson in family research, in the October 2010 issue of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society and in the Summer issue of Cootin Kin, the quarterly journal of the Shetland Family History Society.

Many of the stories told by the family of my wife, Linda’s maternal grandfather, Alexander Cooper, proved not to be entirely accurate. But after unravelling his history we found that they all had just a grain of truth in them.

Alexander was born illegitimate. Yes, it’s true! It says so on his birth record. The name of his father was not recorded but on many documents completed later in his life he did state a few different men as being his father. It is probable that his children knew about his origin but it was never discussed. Growing up in the early part of the 20th century, these things were not mentioned.

A story has been told that, as a young man, he ran away from home and joined the army. It was said that he apparently did not get along with his father and took his mother’s maiden name instead.

On Alexander’s military attestation record, dated August 19, 1885, he indicated his father’s name was John (no surname), then of 2 Albert Street, Govan, Glasgow. His mother, Elizabeth, did marry a man named John Blackburn, a dockyard worker, but not until April 4, 1871, over four years after Alexander’s birth. John was living in the same apartment building as Elizabeth’s sister, Ann, and her family in 1871. There seems little doubt that is where Elizabeth and John met. The couple appears to have split up prior to April 1881 when the census for that year was taken. He was then living on Main Street in Govan, Glasgow, while Elizabeth and Alexander were on John Street, about six blocks away, both using the surname, Blackburn. Main Street was just off Albert Street. John Blackburn died in November 1885 and his death record shows he was then living on Greenbaugh Street in Govan, which location I have not yet found. [See Note below about a previous post.]

There may well have been a rocky relationship in the family which may have been the source of the story that he did not get along with his “father” but it begs the question of why Alexander chose to put his step-father’s name (we presume “John” was in reference to John Blackburn) on his attestation form rather than his mother’s. He did join the Scottish Rifles as Alexander Cooper. There was no formal adoption process in Britain in the late 19th century so Alexander would not necessarily have taken the name of his step-father in any case. That could have been the reason why he registered for military service using his mother’s maiden name.

To our knowledge Alexander never talked about his mother, or her family, whether that was due to a natural reticence about speaking about personal things or embarrassment about his birth status we can never know. Perhaps the use of his step-father’s name on his military service record is an indication that he did not get along with his mother, but remained on good terms with his step-father, and thus the true story of familial discord was not quite what was told later.

Alexander also told his children he was brought up in the Lossiemouth area, in northern Scotland. His first wife, Margaret Scott, who he married in 1890, was born in Lossiemouth, as were his two children by her. These facts may have contributed to the story of his own upbringing in that area or perhaps the children just got the story wrong in the retelling.

We did search for Alexander and his mother on records from the Lossiemouth area but did not find him. We even posted a message on Rootsweb’s Moray email list for any information about Elizabeth and/or Alexander Cooper and his participation in any area schools. A local researcher took a personal interest and looked at all of the school registration records between 1873 and 1880 but did not find anyone of that name. Out of curiosity she also looked at the 1881 Scotland census for anyone with just the first name of Alexander (a search criteria we had not thought of using alone), born within 2 years of 1868 in Shetland and came up with one interesting possibility, a Elizabeth Coupar Blackburn, aged 47 with a son Alexander Blackburn, aged 14, both born in Delting, Shetland and living in Govan. That was an interesting and valuable revelation which led us back to the Glasgow region to search further.

Interestingly, on both of his marriage records, Alexander lied about his background. On the first he put his mother’s name down as Elizabeth Cooper, nee Spence and his father as William Cooper. On the record of his second marriage, to Elizabeth Walker, Linda’s grandmother, he put down his mother’s name as Elizabeth Cooper, nee Lawrence and his father as William Cooper. The name William may have been borrowed from his great-grandfather, although William had died before Alexander was born. His grandmother’s maiden name of Laurenson was not far off the name Lawrence.

Elizabeth was not entirely truthful at times either. She never used her true age on any census record. On both of her marriage records, to John Blackburn, in 1871, and James Ross, in 1891, she gave the names of her parents as Andrew Couper/Cooper and Eliza, nee Marshall. We have good evidence from other documents, including her birth and death records, as well as the birth, marriage and death records of her sisters, that her parent’s names were Andrew Couper and Margaret Laurenson.

Stories passed down through generations are often prone to some embellishing, or even outright fabrication as family member may have sought to hide the most embarrassing events of their lives. But there may sometimes be a grain of truth to them, too, so that when the true facts are known one might understand why certain things were said.


Shepheard, Wayne. (2010). Finding Elizabeth Couper. Cootin Kin, number 75, pp. 6-15.

Shepheard, Wayne. (2010). Twists and Turns in Search of Elizabeth Cooper. Chinook, 31/1, pp. 16-22.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.