Challenge #52ancestors

My great-great grandfather has been quite a challenge to research.

Francis McGee appears in Edinburgh, likely as an Irish famine immigrant, in time to marry Helen Cassidy in 1848. Their lives are fairly typical for a poor Catholic couple living in the slums of Edinburgh. Children come along quickly, and the new addresses seem to be almost as frequent.


St. Mary’s {Roman Catholic} church, Edinburgh,
the church where Francis and Helen were married.

Helen was only 16 when they got married; she was an orphan, so the early marriage makes sense for her. She died at 32, having lived in just a room or two with her growing family. Francis is variously described in records as a costermonger, fishmonger and peddler, so money wasn’t plentiful.

Francis and Helen’s oldest daughter Margaret, in a poor relief application in Glasgow in the 1870s, says she lived in poverty in Edinburgh her whole whole childhood. The records bear this out ~ Helen and her surviving siblings are listed in Edinburgh’s poor relief records for 1862, before Helen died. The children were all farmed out to families in suburban-ish areas around Edinburgh. My great grandfather Peter, born in 1861, was placed with the Jamieson family in Loanhead. The Jamiesons adopted Peter, who moved with the rest of the family to Leith, where James Jamieson and his wife Margaret Guthrie had lived early in their marriage.

Margaret, aged 12, Helen, aged 7, Edward, aged 4, and Peter, aged 8 months,
in printed Edinburgh poor relief index, 1862

In 1871, Peter is listed as a boarder with the family of James Jamieson and Margaret Guthrie.
Linden Cottage 3, Lasswade, Edinburgh, Midlothian
James Jamieson 50 boot/shoemaker Leith
Margaret Jamieson 51 Earlston
Robert G Jamieson 27 boot/shoemaker
Margaret Jamieson 18 paper mill wkr
Peter McGhee 9 boarder, scholar
Sarah S Richard 4 granddaughter
Thomas Moffat 1 nursing

Peter McGee listed as boarded out with adoptive family,
Edinburgh poor relief records, 1864

In 1881, he’s with the same family as an adopted son.
Guthrie’s Land, Old Sugarhouse Close, Leith
James Jamieson 60 Leith boot/shoemaker
Margaret Jamieson 61 Earlston BER
Peter M Jamieson 20 Edinburgh adopted son sailmaker
Georgina D Jamieson 3 Loanhead adopted daughter
Robert Shepherd 40 boarder Greenock plater ship building yard
Janet Shepherd 37 boarder Leith
Hellen Newel 27 visitor Leith
Hellen Newel 1 visitor Glasgow

Peter McGee Jamieson, with his son John Ralston Jamieson, about 1918

I’ve found a death record for Francis, but I’m not sure how accurate the information is, given that the informant was his daughter Margaret, who was 12 when she was placed in foster care. Margaret says Francis’s father was named Bernard; no mother’s name is included.

I’ve found a couple possibilities for Francis on the 1871 and 1881 Scotland census returns but no one who is definitely him. For example, in 1881, there’s a lodger listed at 65 Grassmarket as Frank with no last name, occ. fish hawker, 57 b. IRE, that I’m guessing is highly likely to be him, but there’s no way to be sure.

The various records I’ve found on Francis give either Donegal or Fermanagh as the county in Ireland he was from. Without something more specific, it’s going to be a huge challenge to find any more on him, although I’m more than willing to head to Scotland or Ireland to pursue the search 😉

Another remaining mystery: In January 1855, Francis and Helen have a daughter named Helen, and Francis toddles off from Hastie’s Close, where they are living, to comply with the new registration law.

What caught my eye: the next line, child born same day as Helen and registered the same day, with the same witness to their father’s marks. It’s a James Callaghan, son of Thomas Callaghan and Mary McGhie, also resident in Hastie’s Close. Aha, I think….. Any chance Mary is related to Francis? If not, it is quite the coincidence.

James’s entry says his parents were married in 1844 in Dundee. Thomas, age 30 in 1855, was born in Co. Cavan, Ireland, while Mary was 38 and born in Donegal. James is her 4th child, with the previous three all deceased.

When I was in Scotland a couple years ago, I found their marriage record at the Catholic church in Dundee: 9 July 1844, witnessed by James Trainor and Mary Farrell.

Ancestry’s 1851 census lists a Thomas 26 and Maria Kallican 25 at 89 Murraygate, Beattie Close, on the 1851 census, with a son Thomas aged 1 that might well be them. Hurrah for census searches that don’t require a last name!

But I can’t find them in the death records or later census returns. I’ve tried lots of combinations of spellings/Soundex/wildcards with no luck. Looked through the US census and immigration records, just in case, on the off chance that they immigrated and I’d manage to find them amongst all the possible spellings.

And in my wilder moments , I wonder if James and Helen were actually twins, with Francis and Helen not able to handle them and letting his sister and her husband adopt one. And in the really wild moments, I figure maybe someday I’ll track down a direct male descendant of James to compare his DNA to the test my dad had done as a present for me.

Yes, the twin thing is waaaaaay, waaaaaay out there. But I’m sure you can see why I occurred to me, despite the am/pm difference – one family with 3 babies who’ve died, the other with (possible) twins and little to no income.

I think it is likely that there is some connection, even if my wild twin theory is wrong, as there seems to be some movement between Dundee and Edinburgh for both these families – plus there’s a surname that turns up in baptismal and marriage witnesses for both that is a bit less common – McPhilips.