A Fellmonger in the Family

One of the many fantastic things about being involved in family research is the amount that you learn about your ancestor's history and social history in general. What began for me as a crossword like exercise in filling in the blanks has now become a full blown obsession. A wise friend who has been involved with tracing family histories for years warned me that once you start researching your family you will never finish. How right he was!

Recently I came across the census return for my 3rd Great grandfather Thomas William Stokoe. He is listed as being born in Blaydon, Durham, England. Thomas is listed as being 31 years old, living with his wife Jane (32) and children Mary, Dorothy and Sarah.

Thomas' occupation is fellmonger. After some research I discovered that a fellmonger is a dealer in sheepskins. The job seems to be fairly unpleasant as it involves removing the skin from the sheep soon after slaughter to prevent decay.

Family Photo Mystery

This photo was part of a collection that my Mum found of her family. The only thing that I know about it is that my maternal grandfather John Graham (born 1910) is on the back row, second from the left. He was born in Glasgow, and after a short spell living in Ireland when he was an infant, stayed in Govan and Pollock in Glasgow.

I do not know if this is Army, Navy or Airforce and whether he served in the Second World War. Any ideas or where I might find out more?

The Art of Palaeography

The Guardian today has an article entitled Writing off the UK's last palaeographer which reminded me that I was going to write a post on palaeography.

While researching the Scottish branch of my family tree it has been fairly easy, using the Scotland's People website to find copies of the extracts of birth, marriages and death and the Old Parochial Registers but the challenge is sometimes deciphering the handwriting.

Sometimes the names or words can be worked out from what is around and other times it requires a bit more knowledge of the Secretary Hand letters that were used in the 200 years ago.

An invaluable website to assist with this is Scottish Handwriting which provides:

Online tuition in palaeography for historians, genealogists and other researchers who have problems reading manuscript historical records written in Scotland in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
The emphasis of the website is on practical help to improve the palaeographical skills, rather than on the academic study of Scottish handwriting.

Sinking of the SS Daphne, 3rd July 1883

While researching my mother's family I came across an extract of a death certificate for my 2nd Great-Grandfather Robert McWhinnie, a journeyman joiner, who died on 3rd July 1883. The cause of death was listed as drowning. I also noticed that the other two individuals listed in the extract also drowned. Intrigued, I searched the Internet and found a report of the sinking of the SS Daphne as it was launched on the Clyde in which 124 people died.

On the 3rd July 1883 the Clyde shipyards suffered one of their worst disasters. The SS Daphne was a 460-ton steamer to be used on the Glasgow-Ireland run. The ship was launched from the shipbuilding yard of Messrs. Alexander Stephen and Sons at Linthouse, Govan. Within three minutes she had capsized with over 200 workers finishing the internal fittings still on board. 124 died as a result.

A joiner who survived named Kinnaird wrote: "I was busily engaged on the deck, and felt the vessel moving on the ways, and nothing occurred until she had taken the river. Then an extraordinary scene happened, and tremendous shouts arose from those on board. I felt the vessel toppling over to the right and in a moment every person on board was hurled into the water. The shrieks and cries were terrible. I, along with some others, scrambled on to the bottom of the vessel, which was turned upside, and retained a hold. In a few moments a man came round with a small boat, and asked me to jump into the water. I did so, and was rescued. There would be about twenty persons besides myself who clung to the bottom of the vessel, and also succeeded in getting into the boat. Round about I could see a large number of people struggling and shouting in the water. Prior to the accident there were so many men and boys on deck that it was difficult to move about. I believe that over two hundred people were in the vessel. I cannot possibly describe the heart-breaking scenes which I witnessed."

Such was the scale and tragedy of the disaster that there are two SS Daphne Memorials in Glasgow. One is located in Elder Park, Govan and the other on the other side of the Clyde in Victoria Park, Whiteinch, representing the loss to those communities involved.

My Scots Ancestors Blog Updates

Test post. Having twitterfeed issues!

The Scottish Way of Birth and Death

The Scottish Way of Birth and Death, is a history of civil registration in Scotland from its beginning in 1855 until the Second World War.  It shows how the basic tools of Scotland's 'vital statistics' - the registers of births, marriages and deaths, were produced.  This site describes some of the people responsible for Scotland's vital records, the difficulties they experienced, and some of the characteristics of the Scottish registration system.  Amongst other things, it looks at the problems of producing accurate death certificates, regular and 'irregular' marriages (including those at Gretna Green), divorce, compulsory smallpox vaccination, the compiling of the census, and the work of the General Register Office for Scotland in times of war.


Their Past Your Future Scotland

Their Past Your Future Scotland is a fantastic opportunity to ensure that the memories of war are never forgotten, enabling generations within communities to discover personal stories which have affected or involved their local area.

This is an ‘interim’ website which aims to help TPYF Scotland projects, namely in collecting reminiscences from veterans (both military and civilian) and illustrating them with digitised images.

The results from these oral history projects will form a series of some 300 on-line mini exhibitions or ‘vignettes’ – oral histories and associated illustrative exhibits from local and national collections. They may include diary extracts, newspaper articles, old photographs, archive film, all manner of old documents and paintings. Together they will create a vivid story of a person, event or place.


Family Photos Collage

Spent a bit of time this weekend going through and scanning some old family photographs from my Mum's family. These were all taken between 1895 and 1940 and show my maternal grandmother's family and some of my maternal grandfather.

I think all these photos were taken in and around Govan, Glasgow.


Surnames: Graham, McWhinnie, Cassidy, Reid



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