Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Family Secrets

I've been having much more luck following my wife's lines than my own. Her ancestors are primarily from England and Scotland. It also turns out some of the parts of England where she is from have better records than others. Dorset, in particular, has been a goldmine of records for the King family. (Helen has a boatload of glove making ancestors from that region.)

Scottish records are also very good, allowing me to track down her paternal grandmother's lineage. Mary Hay Murray, was born in 1902 in Fyvie near Aberdeen, to James and Helen Murray (nee Morrison). She was the youngest of 11 children, the eldest of whom was born in 1882. The family's ancestors appear to have lived in the Fyvie, Auchertless, and Inverurie areas around Aberdeen. 
Birth Certificate
Headstone in Auchterless
War Memorial in Inverurie
Evidence of the Morrison family may be found in Inverurie and Auchterless today.

While she was alive Helen's grandmother claimed she had been forced to come to Australia as a result of being done out of an inheritance from her wealthy and land-owning family. However, whenever one of the family would seek details in order to visit the scenes of her youth, she would become quite vague. She did not like being pressed for information. 

Using what I knew of her: her family name "Murray" and the general location from where the family originated (Aberdeen and Fyvie), I was able to locate images of census records that established details about her parents, siblings, and grandparents. I also came across a coroner's report on her father and found that he had committed suicide shortly after leaving the Aberdeen asylum. This was turning out to be an interesting family!

Aberdeen Asylum
I wrote to the archivist of the asylum who was generous enough to send me a copy of his file. It showed that he had been at the asylum a number of times. The diagnosis appears to have been a brain tumour located directly behind one eye that was causing his symptoms. These included being picked up by the local constabulary as he was raiding the clothesline of a neighbour's house. It also appears that each time he got out of the establishment and went home he'd get his wife pregnant. The asylum is still on the grounds of the Aberdeen hospital but it is fenced off as it is undergoing demolition/restoration.

River Don just outside Inverurie
Tragically, his wife died of "malignant disease of stomach, liver and right lung" that she had endured for 9 months, on 9 November 1912, leaving Mary in the care of her older siblings. Her father was released from the asylum in 1913. Upon learning of his wife's death he threw himself in the River Don, just outside the town of Inverurie, on 20 September 1913. I was able to locate the approximate location of his death based on the coroner's notes which stated he was found just down from a mill. The mill building is still standing but in terrible disrepair.

South Lodge of Fyvie Castle
Fyvie Castle
As for where Mary was born, her birth certificate records it as being South Lodge, Kinbroon, Fyvie. Now there are a couple of South Lodges that I can locate in the area. One is just outside the grounds of Fyvie castle and was used by one of the groundskeepers/tradesmen tending the castle. The birth certificate of Mary lists James' occupation as gardner's labourer: not exactly an occupation to warrant the lodge. The other is a stone building close to the Redhill area near Auctherless. I suspect it is the latter, but am happy to allow Mary her one connection to the gentry.
8 Keithhall Rd, Inverurie

Far from being the landed-gentry, the Murray family was living close to the edge of poverty and was now without its matriarch and patriarch. The 1911 census shows them living in 8 Keithhall Road, Inverurie. It was a multi-tenant building not far from the centre of town. The building still stands today and appears to continue to house multiple residents in two self-contained flats (apartments). I was able to take a picture of the building during our visit to the area in July, 2013.

Mary was then raised by her elder siblings. One can imagine angst and resentment on both sides. This tension probably led to Mary taking up a "bounty immigration" opportunity and leave for Sydney on the "Esperance Bay" on 28 August, 1923.

Esperance Bay Ship's Register

After arriving in Australia, her age seems to have dropped by a couple of years as what she reported to family and what is documented do not agree! Just another one of her family secrets. Nevertheless, she was to become the matriarch of her own clan: marrying Albert King in 1928, bearing four children, and living until 14 September, 1988.

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