Tuesday 15 October 2013

Pieces of Evidence Connecting My Family to Scotland – Part 1 – The Anderson Connection

When I went looking for my ancestors in Scotland, I ran into a number of new and interesting experiences.
From other family members, I knew that my 2nd great-grandfather, Robert Anderson, had been born in Scotland and died in North Dakota, U.S.A. The primary information for his birth date comes from his death certificate which states he was born on January 6, 1832 in Scotland. On that document, his parents were recorded Gilbert Anderson and Margaret Maitland, both of Scotland.
1912 Death Certificate for Robert Anderson, born in Scotland January 6, 1832
Robert’s life was also recorded in a book titled, Compendium of History & Biography of North Dakota, published in 1900, in which was stated the same information as to his birth date, country of birth and parents’ names. In that piece his birth place was given as Glasgow. Whether that is true or not cannot yet be demonstrated as no birth or baptism record has yet been found.
Robert and his family had moved to the US around 1880. The biography also summarized the migration history of the family. Gilbert and Margaret first came to Ontario, Canada, around 1832. They farmed first in Lanark County and later in Huron County, until their deaths. Gilbert was a weaver in Scotland before he immigrated and plied that trade to some extent in Canada as well. His occupation was important in the search for his family in Scotland. They had six children before they left Scotland and six after they settled in Canada. That helped narrow down the time of their immigration.

There are a number of censuses that show the families of both Gilbert and Robert, in both Canada and the US, between 1842 and 1910; so it has been relatively easy to find them on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Well, sometimes! Not all of the records are preserved and some are not yet transcribed. A researcher in Lanark County found Gilbert Anderson, as head of the household, on the 1842 census, in Lanark Township. Nine people were in the household of which six had been born in Scotland and three in Canada. That fit the family very well. We even got a location for the farm. Gilbert was also identified on an extract from the 1850 Canada census, then living in Stanley Township, in Huron County. He died in Huron County, Ontario and his death record indicates he was born in Stirlingshire, Scotland. So I had one line of evidence as to the origin of the family.

1871 Ontario death record - Gilbert Anderson
showing he was born in Stirlingshire, Scotland
It was not so easy to identify the family in Scottish records, though. Tracing people from the Old to the New World always presents challenges. Not everyone can be found on a passenger manifest, particularly for those who came to Canada prior to the mid-1800s. And often, when they are listed, their names are spelled wrong, adding to the uncertainty!

Gilbert and Margaret were obviously here in 1834 when their daughter, Grace, was born. With Robert’s birth place given as Scotland, their emigration is narrowed down to 1832-33. The obituary of John Anderson, one of Gilbert’s sons, records that he arrived in Canada “when he was but 3 years of age” which would make the year 1832. This was the same year that Robert was born. The obituary also stated that John was born in “Kirktulloch, Dumbartonshire, Scotland” which we interpreted was actually Kirkintilloch in Dunbartonshire. Close enough!

Portion of obituary for John Anderson,
published in Huron Expository January 24, 1902

I looked at the old IGI listings for the Anderson family as well. I got several names off the old list. It is not quite the same any more but you can still search IGI on FamilySearch. A search for children of Gilbert Anderson and Margaret Maitland brings up 23 hits. Many are duplicate entries submitted by different individuals. And few appear to be from extracts from actual registers.

I then decided to look for information on ScotlandsPeople, the prime website for BMD, census and other historical records in Scotland, concentrating on the Kirkintilloch area. Only one baptism showed up in Kirkintilloch birth registers. I expanded my search to nearby parishes and found two more in Campsie parish. I also found the marriage of Gilbert and Margaret in Campsie. But no more children! It makes you wonder where the contributors to FamilySearch got their information about births of the Anderson Children. I believe much of the information comes from obituaries and publications and not from actual parish registers; so there is reason to question the accuracy of the data.

Finding Gilbert’s birth record posed a specific problem. I had his marriage to Margaret Maitland in 1820. The entry said they were both from Campsie parish so that gave me a place to look for their births. Many published family trees, and not a few family history write-ups show his parents as John Anderson and Margaret Wilson but, again, there is no entry in any parish record that shows these people. I spent quite a few credits looking for a family with these people. Finally, in a broad search for any child with a surname Anderson in Campsie parish, I found him. Except he was baptized as Gabriel, not Gilbert! And his parents were James Anderson and Janet Finlay, not John and Margaret! James Anderson was also a weaver, adding substance to the idea that James was Gilbert’s father. It appears Gilbert/Gabriel learned his trade from his father.

Once I had the parents’ names, I quickly found all of Gilbert’s siblings. Many of these names matched people named in some of the published stories so I believed I had the right person. Interestingly a sister, Grace, was baptized as Grisil. I learned that not every English name translates directly to old parish records.


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