Friday, 26 September 2014

How to add a Cumnock soldier to every man remembered

Thank you for volunteering to transfer our research to the British Legion's Every Man Remembered site.

Kay will allocate you a few soldiers' names from . You select some of the information from the blog and add it to the Story Section finishing with "Researched and remembered by Cumnock History Group"


Go to

Register to use the site with an email address and password (remember these!)

 Choose "Commerorate someone I know"

Search for the soldier in the data base. The regimental number may be the best way of locating him if it is a common name.  It should match the information on the CWGC site which will be in my original post.

Choose a short Commemoration. eg Lest we forget

Then go to Stories. Select some of the most relevant information from the Cumnock site. You can cut and paste.

Finish with "Researched and remembered by Cumnock History Group"

Check carefully and edit if necessary before you Publish.

Add a poppy for him to Cumnock. Give a reason - he was born here or he lived here or his family came from here.

Centenary of a Mine Disaster in New Zealand

On the 12th September 1914 an explosion ripped through the Ralph Mine in Huntly, New Zealand. 43 miners lost their lives and many were horribly injured. I t was the second worst mining disaster in New Zealand.

One of the men who died was James Holden. He married Elizabeth Bennie in New Zealand in 1886. They were both from the Irvine, Kilwinning area.  James's sister Janet Holden had previously married Elizabeth's brother Boyd Bennie.

Both couples had gone to Greta, New South Wales in Australia in the 1890s but returned to New Zealand. Boyd qualified as  a mine inspector in 1905.

This centenary has been marked in Huntly, New Zealand

Read more here

Family tree

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Francis Sievwright, army surgeon

Francis Sievwright, army surgeon ca 1798-1872

First of all, I have no reason to believe he is related to "my" Sievwrights, but since I have researched this family I thought I would share my research. Maybe someone else will find it useful.

Since there is an older Francis Sievwright and a Colin Sievwright, surgeon,  in my tree I thought it was possible that this man was related.

1798 born in Edinburgh - no parents on his death certificate
1824 25 March at Trinity College, Edinburgh marriage of Francis Sievwright Esq. 59th Regiment to Mary Henderson  dau of Wm Henderson Esq. ( and Barbara Rutherford from Mary's death cert)

Mary Henderson b 16 Jan 1799 Edinburgh
died 9 Aug 1867 Edinburgh

1  William Edward Paget Suvwright
christening:            04 Jun 1825            Cawnpore,​ Bengal,​ India
parents:            Francis Suvwright,​ Mary
burial:            02 Aug 1825            Cawnpore,​ Bengal,​ India
parents:            F. Seivewright
Death reported in the Edinburgh Magazine:

Death on 1 Aug 1825 at Cawnpore William Edward Paget infant son of Francis Sievwright Esq. Assistant Surgeon 59th Regiment of Foot
2  Francis Seivewright
birth:            27 Apr 1826            Cawnpore,​ Bengal,​ India
christening:            04 Jun 1826            India
death: abt Dec 1845
had a son Francis who died after the Battle of Ferozshah - 21st-22nd December 1845. Lieutenant Francis Sievwright - 9th Foot - died of wounds, 3rd January 1846. Aged 21. Son of Assistant-Surgeon Francis Sievwright (59th Foot)

3 Andrew Sievwright - no record other than his gravestone.

4  Charles Edward Whitefield Sievwright

--> as Lievwrightbirth 21 Apr 1830 Cawnpore, Bengal 
chr: 1 Aug 1830 
died 1867

5  Mary Rozalie Sievwright
--> Mary Royaline Sieveright -->
15 Apr 1835 Meerut, Bengal
chr: 7 Jun 1835
married John Birkmyre Wingate
--> on 11 Dec 1860 in Glasgowdied 1901

6 male child born 
--> 05 Apr 1841 in Edinburgh died same day father Francis Sievwright. Think this is Theodore

 Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh, photographed by
 stone 73982

William Sievwright


Francis Sievwright2018261846brother of William Sievwright
Andrew Sievwright3618261862brother of William Sievwright
Theodore Sievwright

1841brother of William Sievwright

 and stone 73980

Charles E W Sievwright3718301867

Mary Henderson6817991867

Francis Sievwright7717951872

Mary Rosalie Wingate6618351901

Career from various magazines published online

1818 assistant surgeon in India

1819 writes a report on smallpox in India (doc in Glasgow university archives)

1827 Francis Sievwright of 59th Regiment to 11 Dragoons

1844 31 years service

1851 census Scotland
5 Rutland Place, Edinburgh
no Francis but wife Mary age 50
and their 2 surviving children both born E Indies, British subjects
Mary R Sievwright 15
Charles 20 clerk in HM Exchequer

1861 census Scotland
Milton Shore Victoria Terrace, Dunoon and Kilmun, Argyll
Francis Sievwright age 63 born Edinburgh army medical officer
Mary Sievwright wife 56

Francis died in the Royal Edinburgh Asylum, Morningside, of exhaustion due to a large carbuncle. The informant was an attendant who unfortunately misstated his wife and did not know his parents.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Thorburn ancestors

I've got a bit further in tracing the ancestry of James Thorburn who married Margaret Ramage.

From a previous post you will see that some family trees have his parents William and Mary emigrating to the USA about 1869.

They were married in 1855 in Galston, Ayrshire, Scotland. This is very fortunate. 1855 was the first year of statutory registration in Scotland and the records that year give more info than in subsequent years.

James Thorburn signed with his mark showing that he couldn’t read or write.

He was a 20 year old coal miner living in Church Lane Galston. Additional information is his date and place of birth.  He states he was born and registered on 6 Sep 1835 in the parish of Ayr.  I take this with a slight pinch of salt since I can find no record of him.
His parents are recorded as William Thorburn and Mary Thorburn maiden name Mary Bingham. I was a bit surprised at this as elsewhere  his mother was Begbie  or Bigby (a name which continues down through the generations) and Biggar.  Given that James was illiterate, you have to imagine him saying the name and the official, who was recording the information, interpreting what he heard.

I have found 2 sisters Mary and Jane/Jean recorded in Ayr to William Thorburn and Mary Jane Biggar so have another "wildcard" search on scotlandspeople for births tho*b* with parents William and Mary and there is one on 6 Sep 1835 the same date  as on the marriage certificate, but for William Thorburn to  William Thorburn and Mary Jane Biggar. I got the cert just to see with my own eyes. It definitely says William not James. Did the clerk get muddled up (wouldn’t be the first time) or did they name him William after his father, but called him James? I wondered if he was a twin but I think they would both have been recorded in the one record.  Anyway, it is the right record as the date matches. And proves that his mother was Mary (Jane) Biggar.

There is a marriage in January 1833 of a William Thorburn to Jean Bigger in Ayr.  I had previously discounted that, but Jane=Jean in Scotland and she is also recorded as Mary Jane.  I think this is their marriage.

I found a parish burial record for Mary Biggar wife of William Thorburn labourer was buried in Ayr in May 1837.  She was 23 years old and died of "fever".

On James's death certificate of 1907 he is recorded as James Bigby Thorburn son of William Thorburn and Margaret (!) Bigby.  This information was provided by his son Robert.

It is clear that the family believed Bibgy/Begbie to be the name of his mother. The name appears as a middle name in at least 7 descendants.

In her short lifetime however her name is recorded as Mary Biggar or Mary Jane Biggar or Jean Biggar and Mary Bingham.

Widowed William went on to marry Janet Stewart in Kilwinning in 1837. She must have died between 1851 and 1855 and William  moved his family to Loudoun (Galston) and stayed for a while with his brother Robert.  William drowned in the river Irvine at Loudoun in January 1870.

His son James Thorburn and wife Margaret Ramage followed their son Robert to Douglas in Lanarkshire after 1901.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Phillips from Cornwall to Ayrshire

Thomas Phillips, a lead miner born about 1819  in St Mewan, and his wife Mary Harvey had 3 children. The parents appear to have died before the 1861 census as the children are living with relations; James and Thomas with their uncle Stephen Phillips and family in Menheniot and Ellen Jane is with her aunt Caroline Martin, maiden surname Phillips, and her grandmother Catherine Phillips in Liskeard.

link to the above tree

James Phillips married Catherine Bunney in Redruth in 1866 and by the birth of second child William they are in Loudoun near Galston in Ayrshire, In the 1881 census they are back in St Stephen in Brannel but it seems to have been only a short stay as son John was born in 1880 in Galston and son James in 1882.

I can't place Ellen Jane Phillips in the 1871 census but she married Cornishman Arthur Burley in Loudoun in July 1872. In the 1890s they moved from Loudoun parish to Cumnock. Arthur died in 1915 in Galston and Ellen in 1927 in nearby Newmilns.

Thomas Henry Phillips married Louisa Trudgian in 1870 in Loudoun and was living next door to his brother James in Loudoun Rows in 1871. They were back to St Stephen in Brannel by 1879 and stayed in Cornwall.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

How to spot mistakes in online trees

I have been researching the Thorburn family in Ayrshire starting with James Thorburn b 1835 Ayr and wife Margaret Ramage

James and Margaret

James's parents were William Thorburn and Mary Begbie and the Begbie name is continued down through the generations.

However it was hard to find his parents William and Mary again.  Son James with wife and family are in Galston, Ayrshire in the 1861 census.

Someone using the search facility on ancestry found a William Thorburn and wife Mary in Delhi Township in Ingham County in Michigan, USA. He and wife Mary had gone out about 1879 to join other members of his family who had been there since 1860s.

Previously to that, they had been in Leshamagow and the censuses reveal that Mary was born about 1831 in Cambusnethan Lanarkshire  - too young to be Mary Begbie, the mother of James b 1835. This William Thorburn was born in Douglas, Lanarkshire in 1813 so this Mary is a second wife. More digging revealed an earlier wife Ann Sandilands whom  he married in 1842 in Douglas, Lanarkshire. I am still happy to go along with that.

However I am looking for James b Ayr in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. The only ones I can find are

1841 in Kilwinning
at Doura House
Wm Thorburn 25 coal cutter born Scotland not Ayrshire
Janet 15 b Ayrshire
James 5 b Ayrshire
Margaret 3 months b Ayrshire

The 1841 census does not give relationships.

in 1851 there is a family at Holmes Colliery which is near Galston (where James and Margaret are in 1861 census)
This clearly ties in with the family in the 1841 census
And, interestingly, it gives William's place of birth as Stranraer in Wigtownshire, nowhere near Lesmahagow in Lanarkshire.

I have a look for possible births for William Thorburn about 1814 in Stranraer. Wouldn't you know it, there are 2.

By now I'm pretty sure that "our" William is not the one in Michigan.

I found a marriage to Janet Stewart in Kilwinning in 1841
I found a likely burial for Mary Begbie in Ayr in 1837 although she is down as Mary Biggar wife of William Thorburn labourer. Biggar could have been Begbie misheard.

I look for William, Janet, Margaret Wm jnr and Daniel in 1861. Daniel seems a good name to search on, being a less common name.

I find him at Loudoun Kirk (near Galston) in the house of an uncle Robert.
Robert Thorburn     35 coal miner b Ayr
Elizabeth Thorburn     32
Mary Thorburn     5
Sarah Thorburn     10 Mo
William Thorburn     46 coal miner  b Stranraer
Daniel Thorburn     16 coal miner b Kilwinning

Finding that William had a brother Robert allows me to find the right family in Stranraer.

Robert Thorburn and Mary Milwrick /Millrick

I found a death certificate for William. It appears he fell into the river Irvine at Galston in the evening of January 4th 1870 and his body was found near Dundonald on the 29th January. No relatives' names are on the certificate but he is 55.  Other online trees have him dying in 1890 in Michigan.

One person gets it wrong and everybody else takes it as gospel and copies it without any further thought. It is well worth checking out the censuses and the other family members.

So unless I can get further back and establish a link to the Lesmahagow/Michigan Thorburns they are different families.

The Michigan Thorburns

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Cast the net wide

Some people have a tree with only their direct line and births marriages and deaths. This is OK as far as it goes. 

It really helps to have the brothers and sisters as well.

And a good way to track the family is through the censuses. If you can see the same names appearing in the right order with matching birthplaces in the censuses, you know you have the right family. This is particularly helpful for common surnames.

If you can't find a birth record for your ancestor, you may find one for a sibling and that way you can establish the parents' names.

Cumnock Connections tree

As a member of Cumnock History group, I have created an online tree, called Cumnock Connections,  where anyone with an ancestor who was in Cumnock can add their line to the tree and see how we all link up.

This is how to do it.

First you need to get a invitation by email from me, so I need your email. Email me at kaymcmeekin[at]

Follow the link in the email you get back from  tribalpages. You will need to create your own account with an email and a password.  (Remember your password!)

Once you have done that, you get a choice to create a new website or go to Cumnock Connections.

Don't start a new tree as no-one else will be able to see it. Go to Cumnock Connections tree. and click on the link.

This takes you to the home page. It has a blue background.

 Click on edit (below the ct in the word Connections) and it asks you to log in again.
Then the background turns to cream when you are in admin/editing mode.

Remember to check the person you are adding isn't already on the site.

If the person is on the tree, you will see three icons to the left of his/her name. Click on the middle one to edit. ( a notepad and pen symbol) Add your name in the Notes - a Connects to

Click save at the bottom.

Remember not to add yourself, or anyone else living. If you add someone born after 1900 and don't give a date of death, it will assume they are alive. Be sure to click the "No" button beside Alive? under the name.

Census information, if you have it, should be entered in the Notes section of the head of the household

Generally it is pretty straightforward and I like the layout of the tribal pages tree.

There is a video tutorial here

On Facebook I have a group called Cumnock Family History to discuss the tree.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Tips for entering on an online tree

More tips for beginners

5  Always use a married woman's maiden name when adding her to your tree. If you don't know it, leave blank, or write unknown.

6 Always put a date of birth even if it is a guess eg 25 years younger than the child

This saves (or helps save) the application eg ancestry giving you false "hints" or ridiculous returns in searches.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Skeletons in the cupboard

More tips for new family researchers.

There are  plenty "skeletons" in my tree!

Tip no 3

Be prepared for some skeletons in the cupboard. It may turn out your great granny wasn't actually married to your great grandad.

Divorce was expensive and ordinary folk just moved on.

There were plenty illegitimate births before the days of contraception.
Often the child was brought up by the mother's parents and sometimes as a child not a grandchild. The birth certificate gives the game away. It was, and is, illegal to give false information to the Registrar.

You are not responsible for the actions of your ancestors.

Tip no 4

Don't be too quick to judge your ancestors. Times were different. Widows and widowers left with children often remarried quite soon. This was a matter of necessity for financial support for the widows and childcare for the widowers. I spotted a comment on a forum along the lines of "his wife died and he remarried with indecent haste"

Another one I hear often is "they had a hard life". Certainly they did, compared to us but this doesn't necessarily mean they were unhappy.