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.
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.
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.
The next marker we have is this amazing photo I uncovered on the Find a Grave Memorial site for Jean’s headstone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This all gets a bit confusing reading it like this so I have a copy of the family tree view from Ancestry.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
This one below is from 1829-1830.
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.
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.
The Dundee Directory listing above is from 1845, the year James dies. The one below is for his wife the year after, 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 Newspapers.com
And here is his burial record from Ancestry.com.au 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.
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:
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?
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?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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. (https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usbiography/m/georgemonck.html)
120 years later James and Family are living and working in the building next to it.
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.
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.
Figure 20:Courtesy of Dundee City Archives on Flickr
And the following extraordinary pictures are from it’s demolition in the mid 1960’s.
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.
Figure 22: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.
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.
Note James’s name on the top dial. James Robertson Dundee.
Figure 29:Courtesy of 1stdibs.com
“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.” (1stdibs.com)
“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” (antiques-atlas.com)
This one sold for US$3050.00
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.