The Talisman continued…

Continuing on from the last post with the Chalmers line of the family, that is my 5x Great Grandmother Jean and her Father, James, (the Butler from Glamis Castle). Here is a copy of Jean’s birth record, 8th January 1760. It confirms James’s name and who my 6x Great Grandmother was, Jean Reid. I think.

Jean Chalmers Baptism Registration

Of course at this stage there is no way to be certain of any of this, it’s like a jigsaw trying to piece it together and the more marker’s you can find the closer to that certainty you get. I could be wrong on any of these and I’m very happy to hear if someone else has different information.

Take for example, Jean above, I have a couple of markers that are guiding me to that certainty. First off her death registration below.

Jean Chalmers Death Registration

There is gold on this one. First off the names are correct, forget the Jane for the moment, easily mixed up with Jean. Next, the fact that it states that she is the Widow of the late Thomas Nicoll and on top of that, Blockmaker at Dundee. All details that fit with our story. Thomas’s burial details below confirm that he died in 1841.

Thomas Nicoll Burial Registration

The next marker we have is this amazing photo I uncovered on the Find a Grave Memorial site for Jean’s headstone.

Photo courtesy of Mentiplay

The actual inscription reads:

“Erected by George Wallace Shipmaster Peth and Janet Nicoll _( his) Spouse in memory of their __ children who __(died) in infancy also their Son William aged 18 who died at Copenhagen July 30th 1841 Also her Mother Jean Chalmers aged 87 who died July 30th 1847. The Above named Janet Nicoll died 30th August 1880 aged 84.

If you look at the fourth line of text from the bottom, boom! locks us in. “…also her Mother Jean Chalmers aged 87 who died July 30th 1847.” Same name and date as our burial record. Also George Wallace Shipmaster of Perth was married to Jean’s Daughter Janet Nicoll, her death date matches and they had a William who died at 18 in Copenhagen. (Side note, just me speculating: George and Sarah name their first born Son, George Wallace Nicoll, my Great Great Grandfather. I wonder if he is named for George’s Uncle? It appears that one of George’s Brother’s carries his Uncle by marriages name as well. John Spink Nicoll. More about the Spink’s to come.)

I know the link to the baptismal record for Jean is still a little tenuous but the date still fits perfectly now locked in with the death, burial and headstone info. The other markers I have looked at are that Nethermill, which is mentioned as the place that Jean is from in the baptismal record is not far from Glamis Castle where James is Butler to Earl of Kinghorne and Strathmore.,+Forfar+DD8+1RW,+UK/Nethermill+Wood,+Blairgowrie,+UK/@56.5870646,-3.0981411,11.75z/data=!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x488665e37b3ac8fd:0xb35b0d4f6d0d1cf8!2m2!1d-2.998516!2d56.608576!1m5!1m1!1s0x48866bcdb3960457:0xbe9a413dff7e8b0f!2m2!1d-3.1505963!2d56.5698253

Also there is James’s own baptism record, from 21st Nov 1730. Not only does it confirm the names of my 7x Great Grandparents, John Chalmers and Jean Fairweather but also gives the area they are from as Guthrie.

James Chalmers Baptism Registration,+Forfar+DD8+1RW,+UK/Guthrie+Castle,+Guthrie,+Forfar+DD8+2TP,+UK/@56.6187595,-2.9194919,11.5z/data=!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x488665e37b3ac8fd:0xb35b0d4f6d0d1cf8!2m2!1d-2.998516!2d56.608576!1m5!1m1!1s0x4886896d14fa08af:0xd7695489691baa0e!2m2!1d-2.7136766!2d56.6439355

Again, in the same region as where James will eventually work. The fly in the ointment to this same area theory, the only marriage registration details I can find for James and Jean Reid is in Deskford, 100 miles away from the Glamis area. Not to say people didn’t move around then but 100 miles to get married? I’m taking it as a win till I find out I’m wrong.

Last tenuous marker, Jean my 5x Great Nan, just to remind you, (because I know I’m bloody confused) Daughter of James the Butler and Jean Reid above, names one of her children William Reid Nicoll. A custom I have seen many times in my research where one of the children carries the maiden name of the mother.

William Reid Nicoll Birth & Baptism Registration

Damn, do I love the internet! In the time since I typed the above, look what I found below, I’ll tell you and then you look. Janet Nicoll’s birth record this is Jean and Thomas’s Daughter who’s husband was George Wallace all noted on the headstone above. Checkout who she is named for in the 3rd column.

Janet Nicoll Birth & Baptism Registration

That’s right, there is the Reid confirmed. “Janet Reid Gr Mother” refers to Jean’s Grandmother, who was Janet Symson married to John Reid, parents of Jean Reid who married James Chalmers the Butler. So the link to Jean Chalmers baptismal record is no longer tenuous. How cool is that.

Now I know we left George’s manuscript back in the last post but we are following up on the information he provided and we will get back to it in moment but I’m on a roll and thought we might as well follow this line while we can.

The registration details below are for the marriage Banns announcement for John Chalmers and Jean Fairweather for marriage. 29th April 1725 This is James the Butler’s Parents, my other 7x Great Grandparents.

Jean Fairweather & John Chalmers Marriage Banns

This one below is the baptism record for Jean Fairweather my 7x Great Grandmother above. This also confirms my 8x Great Grandfather’s name, James Fairweather but interestingly not the name of Jean’s Mother. To put that into a bit of perspective, that is 81 years before Captain Cook and the First Fleet invade the Great Southern continent.

Jean Fairweather Baptism Registration

Now I can’t be 100% sure on any of this, you’ll note there are no professions noted here or “daughter’s of”. Having said that I think this might be the marriage banns and marriage notice for James Fairweather above with a Katherine Bath. Other Ancestry accounts have this combination together and I can’t find any other combination of names at this time and it fits with the dates. Contracted to marry 9th August 1695. These words were written 325 years ago. That is mind blowing.

James Fairweather & Kathren Bath Marriage Banns

This all gets a bit confusing reading it like this so I have a copy of the  family tree view from for James Nicoll, George Robertson’s Father so you can see how they all fit in. It is interesting to note that John Chalmers (1703) too has parents names loaded from other ancestry trees but I have not been able to confirm these details as yet.

So now back to the manuscript as I promised, to the Robertson side of the family, this is George’s Mothers side of the Family. I have shared numerous times how much I’m into the research side of things well the Robertson’s delivered and big time.

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll

Here is a copy of Margaret’s birth & baptism record, this is George’s Mother mentioned above. Born 1st July 1796, Baptised 3rd July 1796. She was named after her Mother and James’s Sister, Margaret.

Margaret Robertson Baptism Registration

Next is the copy of James and Margaret’s marriage record below. 28th January 1787. Margaret’s Parents and George’s Grandparents. It is great because it confirms Margaret’s Father’s name. George Ogilvie, my 6x Great Grandfather.

Margaret Ogilvie & James Robertson Marriage Banns
Margaret Ogilvie Baptism Registration

And this record above, I’m pretty sure that this is Margaret’s baptism record from the 15th August 1762. Again can’t find this combination of names and dates anywhere else. Note again that it confirms Margaret’s Mothers name, Christian Lieshman. My 6x Great Grandmother.

Christian Leishman Baptism Registration

And here we are almost 280 years ago this time, with Christian’s baptism record from the 18th March 1739 with her parents names noted. Alexander Leishman (Sailor at Newtown) and Janet Reid.

Here is a copy of the family tree from this side to make it a bit easier. Note that Parents for Christian appear in the tree from other ancestry members, these are awaiting confirmation as well.

Now to James Robertson, Watch and Clock Maker. George’s Grandfather and my 5x Great Grandfather.

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll

The picture below is of the west end of High Street. The Street to the right that the tram lines are curving into is Reform St and the corner of the block that Campbell Close is on. You can see in the center, that High Street is split into two by the block with the Bovril sign on it. The right side of Hight Street continues on as Overgate and the left as Nethergate. The building with the Bovril sign on it is where James Robertson operates his watch and clock making business, the premises George mentioned above.

High Street, Dundee looking West
Figure 1: Courtesy of Dundee City Archives
James Robertson DD Listing 1809

This entry above is the earliest I can find for James Robertson in The Dundee Directory from 1809 it has no street number listed. The entry below is from 1818, which shows 35 as the premises but the actual number is 44 High Street in later directories. It maybe that the numbering changed. I have seen records of this on many other streets where the numbering has changed but nothing specifically relating to 44 High Street.

James Robertson DD Listing 1818

This one below is from 1829-1830.

James Robertson DD 1829

This one from the 1842-1843 directory. The “late” refers to the fact that James has ceased working as a watchmaker. James doesn’t pass away until 27th Sept 1845.

It took many hours of looking at different sites of old photos of Dundee and then this  gem just appeared . It’s a little blurry but you can just make out the 44 on the wall.

44 High Street Dundee site of James Robertson’s Shop
Figure 2: Courtesy of Photopolis

What a find, I know, I say that a lot but how amazing to see where they actually lived and worked. You’ll note on the top ridge above the windows “watchmaker and jeweller”. There is no way to verify that this was there when James was, this banner refers to a company called “Whytocks” another famous watchmaker about 50 years after James. There is no date on the photo above but it looks to be around the 1890’s- 1900’s.

James Robertson DD 1845

The Dundee Directory listing above is from 1845, the year James dies. The one below is for his wife the year after, 1846.

Mrs Robertson DD 1846

I found James’s death notice, I’m pretty sure the Mrs Thomas Nicoll above is James’s Grandson’s Wife, so this would be his Great Grandson’s birth notice above his death notice, birth and death on the same day.

Figure 3:Courtesy of

And here is his burial record from It’s such a shame that it doesn’t say “…son of ..” but at least it has “Watchmaker” listed. Like I mentioned previously it is these little details that confirm the information.


The second column above here lists James’s birth place as Brechin. This is interesting as Brechin is in Angus County some 47 miles from Perth where George states James is from. See below.

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll

I was unable to find any birth records for James Robertson registered in Perth or Perthshire for the time period that we are after. Now that we know he was 88 in 1845 this puts his birth in 1757. The only entry I could find that fits was this one below:

James Robertson Baptism Registration

Interesting to note, that it’s a bloody long time ago, no Father’s name listed, my 5x Great Grandmother’s name confirmed, Margaret Robertson and place of birth given, Muirside of Quarry Hill. Does this mean that James was illegitimate?

Figure 4: Courtesy of Canmore National Record of the Historic Environment

I can’t find a reference to Quarry Hill unfortunately but still a lot of information lining up. The listing above is for a Farm known as Muirside on the Aldbar estate. It is 2.9 miles away from Brechin. The picture below is the old Chapel in Aldbar. This particular one was rebuilt in the 1850’s from the rubble of a previous chapel that stood there from the 13th Century. Is this the site of James baptism?

Figure 4a: Courtesy of Garyth Jardine

Changing focus here to James’s profession, I did find a reference to a book listing the watchmakers of Scotland compiled in the early 20th century:

Figure 5:Courtesy of

I found a possible reference for James and a possible apprenticeship date. He would have been 13 in 1770.

Next is the listing for the only James Robertson in Dundee and the dates fit with our James.

This listing above could be for James’s Father, my 5x Great Grandfather, the dates fit again and there is no other watchmaker listed for this time and the Perth reference fits with George noting that his Father and Grandfather were “…natives of Perth…”. I have not come across any other official listing that confirms his Father’s name or that of his Great Grandfather “…who fitted the music bells of the town churches…” so at this stage I’m just going to say it’s Patrick and welcome him to the family tree. Now back to 44 High Street Dundee. I have found some great pictures of the building.

First off, here is a map to show exactly how close George was to his Grandfather, 44 High St is marked in yellow in the centre and Campbell Close is marked in yellow on the right of Reform and High Street.

Dundee City 1846
Figure 9:Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

The following picture is from an Engraving on steel by Joseph Swan, from Glasgow, depicting the street in 1836. Remember, this is the picture I am using for the headero of this blog.

This is exactly our time period, this is George his Parents and James and his family’s world. James is conducting his watchmaking business from that building just to the right of center, next to the building on its right with the small tower attached to it’s right side. The old Church Steeple sits just behind it with the flag on top. The building on the left side of the picture with the spire on it is the old Town House and if Joseph had of continued his engraving on the right hand side, the next building to come into view would be the building with Campbell Close in it.

High Street West, Dundee City 1836
Figure 10:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr
High Street West, Dundee City
Figure 11:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr

There are the stairs on the left hand side of the building going up to 44 High St. There is the building with the small tower attached to it’s right side. You can just make out the wrought iron railing on the top. This building was occupied by General George Monck after the siege of Dundee which began on the 1st of September 1651 and saw up to a fifth of the population murdered by Monk’s forces.

44 High Street Dundee
Figure 11a: Courtesy of Leisure and Culture Dundee

Monk was Oliver Cromwell’s military Governor of Scotland and was there to quell the Royalist Resistance that wanted to restore the throne to  Charles the  2nd. After Cromwell’s death Monck became Commander in Chief of all British Forces and basically took control of London and suggested that Parliament should invite Charles the 2nd (who was in hiding in Holland) to resume the throne. Monck was there to greet the King when he arrived home. (

120 years later James and Family are living and working in the building next to it.

44 High Street Dundee
Figure 12: Courtesy of Leisure and Culture Dundee
High Street West, Dundee
Figure 13:Courtesy of Leisure and Culture Dundee
High Street West End, Dundee
Figure 14: Courtesy of Leisure and Culture Dundee

Houdini was in Dundee in 1909, 60 or so years after James was there. But to know that James, George and presumably the rest of the Family walked up and down those stairs on a daily basis for decades is pretty amazing.

High Street West End, Dundee
Figure 15: Courtesy of Leisure and Culture Dundee
High Street West, Dundee
Figure 16:Courtesy of Donna Nicoll, Pinterest, Scottish and Proud
44 High Street West, Dundee
Figure 17:Courtesy of Leisure and Culture Dundee
High Street West, Reform Street, Overgate and Nethergate
Figure 18:Courtesy of Bygone Dundee
High Street West, Dundee
Figure 19:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr

Here it is, the building still standing in the 1950’s, 100 years after James time and there is General Monck’s building 300 years after his occupation.

High Street West, Dundee

Figure 20:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr

And the following extraordinary pictures are from it’s demolition in the mid 1960’s.

High Street West, Dundee
Figure 21:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr

There are the stairs going up to the entrance where the blurry 44 was on the wall in one of the earlier pictures. Right through those windows is where my family’s lives played out.

High Street West, Dundee
Figure 22:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr

Figure 22:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr   

High Street West, Dundee
Figure 23:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr
High Street West, Dundee
Figure 24:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr

Figure 24:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr

And here is the exact spot in the 1970’s with the new Overgate centre built on it.

Figure 25:Courtesy of Google Maps.

This is the site in May 2017. Note that the building on Reform Street corner is still there but Littlewoods is gone. The Overgate shopping centre over the top of the street that branched off to the right has been extended. This is the same vantage point as the etching from 1836, just a little further down the street in front of Reform Street rather then from near Campbell’s Close.

I know this is a little out of order but  this gives a great description of the property and what James owned from what is basically the probate notice from 1859.

And to finish on, this is, I think nearly as good as a photo of James. Some of his work that still survives to this day.

Figure 26: Courtesy of

Note James’s name on the top dial. James Robertson Dundee.

Figure 27: Courtesy of
Figure 28: Courtesy of
Figure 29:Courtesy of

Figure 29:Courtesy of

“Tall red chinoiserie grandfather 8-day clock by James Robertson, Dundee, dated 1785. Gilded finials, dial painted with an angel cartouche and roses in the corners. Chimes on the hour, has date and second hands. Keeps good time.” (

Figure 30:Courtesy of
Figure 31: Courtesy of
 Figure 32:Courtesy of

A late 18th century waxed pine Scottish longcase clock, of simple appearance. The hood has a traditional swan neck pediment, break arch door with turned side columns , it has turned and reeded side pilasters to the trunk and a wavy top door . The dial is a “first period” plain white enamel and raised gilt dial with the name of the maker within the arch, James Robertson of Dundee. Below the dial centre is a small date window and a subsidiary seconds dial above the centre. The 8 day movement strikes the hours on a bell. James Robertson is listed as a maker in Dundee in 1785. (Scotland, c. 1790)A” (

Figure 33:Courtesy of

This one sold for US$3050.00

Figure 34:Courtesy of

I know I can’t be 100% certain that they are James’s work but I can find no other James Robertson Watchmaker listed in Dundee at the time, which is a good thing. Happy to be corrected if this is not the case but until then, these clocks were made by my 5x Great Grandfather.

Will catch you on the next post when we continue on exploring George Robertson Nicoll’s life and adventures.

The Nicoll Talisman

Just to remind you, in case you are just joining us here, I’m speaking of my 3x Great Grandfather’s manuscript I discovered at the National Library of Australia.

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll.

I don’t know how to describe it without sounding so trite but holding the manuscript, it is a magical experience, that is the definition of a Talisman so I will stick with that.

I’m not sure it would have the same power if I wasn’t directly linked to the Author. This is my clan and his words are my family history. George inspired me to start this blog, I can only hope that some GGG Grandchildren of mine stumble upon this blog 150 years from now and have the same experience as me with George’s manuscript. I know it will be a digital experience rather than a physical one but hopefully that will ensure that it survives and hopefully jam packing it with photos and documents will make up for the lack of a tactile experience.

I just had a thought, imagine if this post is them finding out about the manuscript, your welcome GGG Grandkids. It will be 300 years old by your time, check it out at the National library, if is still standing. (Hey it is the age of Climate Change, Pack Ice dying and Trump potentially getting a 2nd term, just saying.)

To say that I am loving George’s manuscript and the level of detail he has packed into it, is a bit of an understatement. I’m dishing it out to myself in small amounts to make it last as long as possible. Reading what I have so far has really whetted my interest in George’s world and to really discover as much as I can about him and the family. So, I started digging around online and wait till you see what I have come up with.

I’m just going to jump straight in from the beginning and see what I can find digitally to go with George’s words and build upon the amazing context he has already set out. I’m seeing this like one of those renovation shows where the couple are renovating a Grade 2 listed ruin and the new extension has to sit along side the ancient structure and enhance it, that is my hope here anyway.

Below is a copy of George’s opening paragraph from the manuscript.

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll.

Below is a copy of his birth and baptism record from Scotland’s People website confirming these details. The third column interestingly records in this case, who George was named after.

Well, I paid for this one, so it’s courtesy of me, via the Scotland’s People website.

Now look what I found, Campbell’s Close in the High Street is still standing.

Figure 1: Courtesy of Douglas MacKenzie/Alamy stock photo.

“The sadly neglected Campbell’s Close on the High Street in Dundee is a typical Scottish “close”, 1.2 metres wide at the entrance, is a passageway giving access to entrances of several buildings. It features a decorative iron gateway.” (

High Street, Dundee, showing Campbell’s Close entrance on the right under the awning with the 77 on it.
Figure 2: Courtesy Google Maps 2017

This following map is from 1857 confirming the actual position as in the photo above.

Figure 3: Courtesy National Library Scotland

The following photo shows the position in a 3D view. How lucky are we in 2019, 3D? Thanks Google.

Figure 4: Courtesy Google Maps 2017

To plot it correctly, it’s the 5th building from the left hand corner of this row of buildings above. The corner curved building being 1. I confirmed on the Scottish Heritage site called Canmore that the building was built in the early 1800’s obviously sometime before Sept 1824 when George was born. The building immediately to the left of it with the raised yellow chimney in the center of the facade is actually dated from the 1400’s. It is the Dundee Backpackers at the moment.

I had the great fortune of finding this amazing site that has lots of historic photos of Dundee uploaded to it called, Photopolis. After lots of scrolling came across these gems.

High Street, Dundee
Figure 5: Courtesy Photopolis.

I can’t find a specific date for this photo, but I’m guesstimating it is in the 1890’s sometime. Campbell’s Close is the entrance way just to the left of the J in J.P Smith sign. Interesting note, you can just make out the writing on the top rim of the building it says, “The Garden”, this is reputed to be Dundee’s first full vegetarian restaurant. (I would credit this info but I can’t remember or find where I read this, flying by the seat of my pants people!)

High Street, Dundee, showing Campbell’s Close entrance under the & between Wilson and Co.
Figure 6: Courtesy Photopolis.

This photo is from 1896.

High Street, Dundee, showing Campbell’s Close entrance to the left of the J .P. Smith banner.
Figure 7: Courtesy Photopolis.
High Street, Dundee, showing Campbell’s Close entrance to the left of the Kidd & Wallace banner.
Figure 8: Courtesy Photopolis.

Again, no specific date on this but I wonder if it is early 1890’s, J P Smith and Sons have not expanded into the Kidd and Wallace premises as they are in the previous photos.

Figure 9: Courtesy Google Maps 2010

I think this shot is a great one for comparison with the one above in the 1890’s.

Hoping I’ve been successful in showing, how a handful of photos and a couple of maps gives so much depth and colour to George’s first 2 sentences. As an old Irish Friend of mine likes to say, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”, 2 sentences. At 300 odd pages of Manuscript hope you are all in for the long haul? Well what a great way to spend the next couple of years, for me anyhow.

Next section of the manuscript:

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll.
Dundee Directories listing for 1809.
Figure 10: Courtesy of National Library of Scotland

1809! The age of these records and the fact that they are so readily available is phenomenal. The Fifh-market as you can see from the map below runs off the Green market. From my reading it is also known as Shore Terrace. All the listings in the Dundee Directory that I have been able to find place the Nicoll businesses around this area, Green market, East Shore and King William 4th Dock.

Dundee City Docks and Markets 1846,
Figure 11: Courtesy of National Library of Scotland
Figure 12: Courtesy Photopolis.

Fish Market runs out to the right at the bottom of this picture. The alleyway between the two buildings at the back of the square is Crichton Street and leads up to High Street and then across to the left hand side of the road and Campbell’s Close.

The photo below is looking in the opposite direction from the photo above, towards the Earl Grey dock, to the left you can just make out the Victoria Arch, (which is facing the Fish Market) built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s visit on the 11th September 1844 (George’s 20th Birthday) and on the other side of this is the King William 4th Dock.

Figure 13: Courtesy of Dundee City Archives.

This photo above from another fantastic site, Dundee City Archives on Flickr.

Figure 14: Courtesy Photopolis.

This photo above is from the edge of the Earl Grey Dock (shown in in the previous photo) looking up the Green market and Shore Terrace/ Fish Market going to the right.

Photo below is the other end of the Shore Terrace/Fish Market at the corner of Castle Street. The left of this picture joins the right of the previous photo.

Figure 14: Courtesy Photopolis.
Figure 15: Courtesy Photopolis.

And here we are back at the Green market end, somewhere down that alley to the right of this picture which is Shore Terrace/Fish Market is Thomas Nicoll’s workshop and then James Nicoll.

After all that just found a photo of the whole area.

Figure 15: Courtesy Photopolis.

Of course, we have to keep in mind that the photos are probably around the 1890’s – early 1900’s, so 50 to 70 years after James and Thomas’s time, so there could have been any other number of structures or buildings in the area that they were housed in. But it still gives us a pretty good idea of where they were living and working.

Dundee Directories listing for 1819.

James is mid 20’s in 1819 and obviously out in his own workshop.

Dundee Directories listing for 1822.
Pigot & Co listing from 1837

Looking at the above listing you can see the entry for James, George’s Father, block, mas and pump maker at King William’s dock. I wonder if the George listed above him is our George as he was aged 14 at that time and 14 is listed at the end of his line. James is in his early 40’s now and Thomas, his father is now 80.

Dundee Directories listing for 1846.

Note that the James R, iron merchant, listed under James in the 1846 listing above could be George Robertson’s elder Brother, James Robertson as he was in the iron trade at this stage. James is mid 50’s now and Thomas, his Father has been dead for 5 years.

Heading back to the manuscript now.

The Life and Adventures of Mr George Robertson Nicoll.

Here is a copy of Margaret and James’s marriage record from 5th June 1817. I love these original source documents that lock in so many details, blockmaker and watchmaker so we can be certain we have the correct information.

I paid for this one as well, so it’s courtesy of me and again via the Scotland’s People website.

Here is a copy of James’s birth details below. This was an amazing find as it confirms not only James’s birth details but also confirms the names of George’s Grandparents and his Great Grandfather on his Dad’s Mum side of the Family.This was just fantastic.

As above in last.

When you read the next section of the manuscript below you will also see why the info above is so important to us.

George, doesn’t actually refer to his “…Grandmother Nicoll” by name, so we now know that she was Jean Chalmers and her Father who was Butler to the Earl of Strathmore, was, James Chalmers, who George’s Father was named for. Isn’t that just brilliant. (That’s rhetorical by the way.)

And here is Glamis Castle. The ancestral home of the Queen Mother (Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons) and the work place of my 6x Great Grandfather, James Chalmers.

Figure 16: Courtesy The Castles of Scotland.
Figure 17: Courtesy The Castles of Scotland.
Figure 18: Courtesy The Castles of Scotland.
Figure 19: Courtesy Shahbaz Majeed

What a place to live and work and now I have a direct link to this ancient place on the other side of the globe to me. All because George wrote those few lines in his manuscript.

The Earl in 1890 when George was writing the above, was:

Claude [Lyon-Bowes later Bowes-Lyon], 13th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

Which would make his Grandfather:

Thomas [Bowes later Lyon-Bowes], 11th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne,

This is the Earl that “Grandmother Nicoll”, (Jean Chalmers) Father, (James Chalmers) was butler to. The problem with this is that Thomas didn’t become Earl until 1820 when James was 90 years of age, if still alive. (I haven’t been able to confirm a death date for James as yet) So I suspect that James was working for the 10th Earl, Thomas’s elder Brother and perhaps his Father the 9th Earl.

Figure 20 Courtesy Insiders Scotland Guide

Pictured above: John Bowes, 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne (17 July 1737 – 7 March 1776)

This fine looking gentleman below, his Son.

Figure 21 Courtesy Glamis Castle

Pictured above: John Bowes, 10th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne (14 April 1769 – 3 July 1820)

I emailed the Archivist at Glamis Castle (Ingrid) to inquire if they had any details on James and his service. Ingrid very kindly confirmed that I had the Earl’s correct but unfortunately the names of staff were rarely recorded individually in the Factor Accounts (Wages Book).

She did go through the information that she had as she said being butler meant there was a greater chance of James being mentioned but again no luck. Apparently, there is a big hole in the Factor Accounts, for 1785-1863. Still great to now have the name of my ancestor confirmed.

Figure 22 Courtesy of Glamis Castle

I found this wonderful picture in the Castle’s online archives of this staff wedding party in front of the castle entrance. It’s roughly 100 years after Jame’s time so imagine them in Georgian clothing instead of Victorian.

David Allan’s “The Highland Wedding” 1780
Figure 23 Courtesy of Wikimedia

This portrait below was painted around the same time that James was working at the Castle and depicts the style of clothing he might have been wearing at that time.

Young Man in a Fawn Coat, c.1772-3, by Tilly Kettle.
Figure 24 Courtesy of Tate Museum

On another interesting note, James was 15 when the second Jacobite rebellion started in 1745. The final attempt by “Bonnie Prince Charles” to reinstate his Father and the Stuart line to the throne of England and Scotland. And James was living right in the path of the advancing and retreating Jacobite’s and English troops. Imagine the manuscript he would have written.

I find it fascinating that those 5 lines from the manuscript about the castle and George’s Grandmother and Great Grandfather has enabled me to find so much information about them and the time that they were living in. Talk about context.

I know there are no photos of them but to see how they most likely would have been dressed and to read about the times that they were living in and to actually see the places that James and presumably Jean were at, just brings them to life for me.

Road Trip -Final Stage (part 2)

I know, this trip has been going on for months but I promise this is the final, final installment.

Still in Albury Pioneer Cemetery, thought we had no one else buried there and then I jumped online and did a search on the cemetery site before we left and found these members of the family.

Albury Pioneer Cemetery

This is the final resting place of Helen Elizabeth Macvean, nee Griffith. She is my 4x Great Grand Aunt by marriage.

I knew nothing about Helen until I found her in the cemetery search. It did take us a while to count out exactly where her grave was, Xander and Calan found her and it wasn’t just a headstone but a full body stone monolith rising from out of the dirt with that beautiful wrought iron border crowning it.

Albury Pioneer Cemetery

As you can see from the inscription above she was married to Dr Peter Macvean who was my 3x Great Grandfather, John Hugh Macvean’s Brother. (the Macvean who brought us out to Australia.)

Photo courtesy of Sally McPhee (Cousin)

They were married on the 3rd of July 1867 at Mount Pleasant Wedderburn. Peter was 38 and Helen 25 years of age.

Completely random find on my part, this is a picture of Mount Pleasant in Wedderburn from the State Library of Victoria and I’m pretty sure it is the residence of Elizabeth’s Uncle, Henry Hunter mentioned above.

Courtesy of State Library of Victoria,

Below is a copy of Helen’s Birth and Baptismal records. This is what I love about this whole process of researching you start with nothing and then with a bit of digging around, a whole lot of luck, a picture starts to emerge out of the mist of a person with a real life story.

You’ll note the Slave and Free People heading, that’s right, Helen was born, 17th Sept, 1840 on a Slavers Sugar Plantation on St Croix, in what was known at the time as the Danish West Indies.

Courtesy of

From what I can gather from Census records of the time, Helen’s Father was a Planter on his Brother, David’s plantation estate called Two Williams Estate.

Courtesy of

If you refer back to the Marriage notice above you will see that it states that her Father is from the Whim Plantation in St Croix, Wow, throw that into Google and a truckload of stuff comes up. The house Helen was born in still stands and is now a museum.

Great House Whim Plantation
Interior of Great House Whim Estate, (photo courtesy of Simona Sacri)

The information below, about Helen and her Family comes from the Landmark website on the history of St Croix and reads like a precis of some 19th Century novel. Helen’s Father wasn’t just working for his Brother as the earlier census document indicated.

An evil sadistic slaver for a Father, fleeing the slavery rebellion and the only home she had known, traveling to Ireland from the West Indies and having to come to terms with a life in a country so different from her own. I wonder if Helen ever spoke about her early life, or was it just to painful and full of shame? This is only the tip that I have uncovered but what a story.

I found this obituary for Helen and after reading it I can only imagine what a strong woman she must have been. Having survived the ordeals of her early childhood she then makes the long arduous journey to Australia when she was just 22 with her Aunt, Elizabeth Hunter, to begin a new life in the Colonies.

She marries Peter 5 years later then spends the next 30 years being a Surgeon and Stock Owners Wife in the central west of Victoria and Melbourne. Becomes a Widow at the age of 55 and then spends the next 17 years living in Albury. There is so much in there that is unknown. Would love to find a manuscript that Helen wrote about her life.

Unfortunately I can’t find a photo of Helen but I did come across a picture of the home she was living in when she passed away. It’s not the same as an actual image of her but it gives an anchor for her in the story, seeing somewhere where she would have been. You can almost see her coming out the front door.

Vaucluse on the left and Pembroke House on the right

The final two members of the family we found resting in Albury were, William Hill Macvean and his Wife, Edith Nellie Macvean, nee Hill. William is my 2x Great Grand Uncle, and Brother to my Great Grandfather Alexander Ballantyne Smith Macvean.

Albury Pioneer Cemetery
William Hill Macvean,
Photo Courtesy of Sally McPhee (Cousin)
Albury Pioneer Cemetery
Edith & William Macvean
Photo Courtesy of Sally McPhee (Cousin)

Unfortunately there is next to nothing on Trove in relation to William or Edith. William’s birth notice.|||l-year=1892|||l-category=Family+Notices#

His death notices. Interesting to note that the Tuesday and Thursday listings are for different parts of the Family, I wonder if that was coordinated as neither is duplicated in print on the same day.|||l-category=Family+Notices|||l-year=1956|||l-category=Family+Notices|||l-year=1956

Little bit of luck, just found Williams war record from WW1.

He fought in Egypt and France, where he was wounded in action three times. In one of the incidences he sustained a serious shrapnel wound to his right thigh and abdomen. He suffered with scabies and trench fever and was hospitalised a number of times as a result. William also had a number of AWOL’s on his record which resulted in about 2 weeks confinement and multiple days of forfeited pay.

He and Nellie obviously meet in the UK, his war record had a copy of an extract of info from the original marriage registration details.

William enlisted with the AIF on the 21st July 1915. He was initially in the 29th Battalion and was then transferred to the the 39th on the 30th June 1917. He embarked Australia 18th February 1916 and ultimately survived his time in the war but he would not see Australia again until 19th December 1919, when the Ormonde made its first stop in Fremantle, almost 4 years later.

When William did arrive it was into Port Melbourne.|||l-month=12|||l-decade=191|||sortby=dateAsc|||l-state=Victoria#

When he disembarked, he was not alone.|||l-month=12|||l-decade=191|||sortby=dateAsc|||l-state=Victoria

Apart from those history laden names in the top of the article, William disembarked on to New Pier at 10am on Boxing Day 1919 with Nellie and their 8 month old Daughter, Jessie Edith Macvean.

I can only imagine how excited the family must have been for his return, take a look at this gossip section listing I found from the Herald.|||l-year=1919|||l-month=12#

Again, what a ride and only the tip of the ice berg in terms of their story. Unfortunately (as is becoming the norm on this journey if it is a female member of the family I’m tracing), there is no further mentions of Nellie that I can find. I know she passes in 1982 but there are no death or funeral notices on Trove for that period yet and Nellie doesn’t come up in The Ryerson Index. (Funeral and Death database)

As all four of Jessie and William’s children have passed on as well, I’m really hoping that one of their Grandchildren, if there are any, reaches out somewhere down the track. I would love to know more of their story but it maybe that it is already lost to time like so many others.