Inglistoun, Inglistoun, wherefore art thou Inglistoun ?

While I still had some credit left on my account with Scotland’s People, the Scottish Government’s genealogy service, I thought I’d try and find the birth record for my great-great grandfather, who was rather unimaginatively named James Moncur.

I already knew that he was born in 1814 in Kinnettles which was part of the parish of Glamis.

Finding him was relatively straightforward, and his birth date was given as August 26 1814 in the old Kinnettles Kirk register:

james moncur kinettles

As always, these records pose more questions than answers. The record reads

James Moncur in Moſside of Inglistoun had a child by his wife baptised and called James

(the weird character is a long s or ſ which was still used in Scots orthography at the start of the nineteenth century)

So, most unhelpfully, it doesn’t give either the mother’s name or the name of the witnesses, but it does give the fermtoun he was living at – it doesn’t of course mean that he was the tenant, merely that he lived there.

So where was Mosside of Inglistoun?

Inglistoun – which in Middle Scots literally meant ‘English Settlement’, toun being cognate with the Anglo Saxon tun rather than what we now mean by town – usually became Ingliston in the mid nineteenth century when the early, often monoglot English speaking, surveyors for the Ordnance Survey wrote place names down as they thought they should be rather than how they were pronounced, and indeed, there’s an Ingliston between Balkeerie and Eassie not too far from Kinnettles

Ingliston Angus

But there’s two problems – Eassie has a church and you would have thought that the birth would have been registered there, rather than Kinettles.

What’s more there’s no Mosside of of Inglisto(u)n farm nearby.

The map dates from the 1860’s, so it’s not impossible that the farm could have disappeared in the intervening years.

However given that the birth was registered in Kinnettles it made more sense to look on the 1865 Ordnance survey map for Kinnettles, and there it was, a couple of kilometres north was a cluster of farms with the Ingliston element in the name

mosside of ingliston

including Mosside of Ingliston.

However, sometime between the 1860’s and today, the farm seems to have disappeared leaving no trace, though the cluster of Wester, Middle and Easter Ingliston still seems to be extant …

Screenshot 2021-01-12 150138

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Captain John Moncur

One thing that has puzzled me in recent years is why there are quite a few people in the Bahamas whose surname is Moncur.

Given that Moncur is a relatively unusual name, and the Bahamians with that surname are the (presumed) descendants of enslaved people, I was worried if my forebears had had an involvement in slavery.

The answer is probably not, they were simply too poor to be investors in sugar estates, and none of them seem to have had clerical jobs in the sugar trade, or indeed spent any time in the Caribbean.

But in the course of researching this I came across Captain John Moncur, who was a Royal Navy agent afloat in Caribbean in 1807 when the slave trade ended. (He also had an island off Tasmania named after him.)

(In 1807 it became illegal to trade in slaves in British Empire, but not to keep your existing slaves – slavery in all its forms became illegal in the British Empire on 01 August 1834),

As the British Navy had to do something with the captives they freed from slaving vessels, they settled them on various islands, including the Bahamas.

At the time I wondered if he had had something to do with the settlement of the captives, and that this was behind the prevalence of the surname on the Bahamas.

Well I don’t know, and I don’t even know if he is a relative.

But I thought I’d use my recently acquired MyHeritage subscription to do a little digging.

I didn’t find very much more than I didn’t already know, other than he had a wife, Katherine, who also seems to have left very little trace, and to confirm his date of birth.

So I tried something.

Knowing his birth date, I searched the Scottish Births register for boys named John Moncur born in 1743 (plus or minus a year).

There were exactly two births.

One was in the parish of Dunottar which then included the port of Stonehaven

Dunottar 177430202snip

The birth record is so brief as to be unhelpful as it doesn’t include where they were living or even more importantly the name of the mother.

The other was in Auchterhouse, which was the neighbouring parish to Glamis, where I know for definite some of my ancestors were living in Kinnettles in the early 1800’s

Auchterhouse 17430111snip

More usefully this entry gives the mother’s name as Agnes Andersen and that they were living in East Adamston, which is a fermtoun that is shown on the 1865 Ordnance survey map

east adamston

None of this of course means that either of these John Moncurs is a sibling of one of my ancestors, or indeed that either of them is Captain John Moncur – after all he could have been born elsewhere…

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And George was a liar …

A few years ago, we took advantage of a free day on Ancestry to research Judi’s grandfather. And then, having confirmed his record at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, we left it there.

However, I’ve just bought myself a subscription to MyHeritage for a year as a sort of Christmas present and given that the whole Covid thing is dragging on I reckon that I’ll need a hobby to divert me.

So, the first thing to do was import and fill out the family tree.

Now we didn’t have George’s birth certificate but we did have a copy of his army record from September 1914, which gives his supposed date of birth and his profession as an apprentice carpenter.

There’s only one thing wrong with all this – no George Henry Hill with the correct parental names was born in Victoria in 1894 (or 1893).

In fact, no person with the correct name and mother’s name was born until 1896.

And then I realised that for the first round of recruitment for the Australian Imperial Force, volunteers had to be nineteen or older and George was still eighteen.

So he’d simply added two years to his age, and no one checked, or if they did, they didn’t care.

To us, this would seem incredible, but of course then, it was quite normal. People simply didn’t have the documentation trail they have now, no drivers licences, passports, bank cards etc, etc.

And so George could simply say he was twenty. And as they never asked him for his birth certificate, he got away with it …

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Digitised diaries and class bias

Increasingly, when researching the past, we make use of digitised records, and increasingly, for the nineteenth century at least, there are a slew of  newly digitised diaries and journals.

But there’s a problem:

Most of the people who wrote and kept journals and diaries were middle class, and what they recorded and commented about were things of interest to the middle class.

This means that what we see of life we see through the lens of the middle classes.

Studies based on digitised newspaper articles have their own problems – the articles and reports tend to reflect the biases of the readers of the newspapers, with stories of drunken servants and rural misdoings always a good standby.

Yet we know there were skilled tradesmen, gardeners and the rest who kept workbooks and journals, yet, these have either not been digitised or have not survived,

There are exceptions of course. J has the workbook of Robert Warwick, who was her great ↑n grandfather, a market gardener and seedsman in Barnard Castle in 1820 or thereabouts, and while much of it is quite mundane we have records of the gentry who did not pay there bills (Christmas Bills indeed!), and other items that tell you about the nature of society at the time.

(We have arranged, when we can travel again, to donate it to the Royal Horticultural Society in England for digitisation.)

Now there must be others, but they seem to be rare.

And personally I think that’s a problem. When I look at my own family history, I can see that those who had farms and businesses would have records that would have told us much about life in rural Scotland over the nineteenth century, but the records have all gone, as has any chance of recording the oral history of the area …


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Reading Frankenstein …

Some time ago I wrote about Mary Shelley and Frankenstein. At the time I hadn’t actually read the book (tsk, tsk), but it was an interesting little exercise teasing out some of the linkages.

I am by no means a literary scholar, but when I came to read the book, I found it interesting to see these connections play out in the text. Some of it is clearly inspired by Mary’s life events, her time in Geneva, her journey down the Rhine with Shelley, and the connection with whaling which I guess was partly inspired by her time in Dundee, and some by hearing Coleridge recite the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

What I’d failed to appreciate was that at the time the novel was written – it was first published on New Year’s Day 1818 – arctic exploration was a hot topic and was covered extensively in the papers.

While Buchan’s Spitzbergen and Ross’s Greenland government sanctioned Royal Navy expeditions – where Ross first encountered the Inuit – did not take place until later in 1818, there had been several informal journeys of exploration by various whaling ships such as those by William Scoresby – who was later to play a life in the Brontë saga in his second career as the Vicar of Bradford – had already built up a body of knowledge about the Arctic.

I don’t know how much Mary Shelley knew of the preparations for these expeditions, but she would not only have heard stories about whaling and talk of the scientific discoveries in the Arctic.

The real surprise to me was the almost complete lack of references to galvanism – in fact her description of the assembly of the creature seems to owe more to early experiments in anatomy and physiology and the idea that life can be created, that and the reference to chemistry and ideas which may have come from hearing about Humphry Davy’s dream experiments …

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Christmas Bills


This year’s festive tweet was a little different, I’d come across the poem while researching something entirely different.

I’ve been working my way through Juliet Barker’s magisterial history of the Brontës, more as a way of understanding life in late Hanoverian England, and when I don’t understand something, I follow it up.

Now, much the early life of the Brontë siblings revolves around school, either as pupils or teachers, or as tutors to children of the gentry and that lead me to wonder exactly how common schools were, especially schools for girls, in the early part of the nineteenth century.

To do this I looked at the adverts for schools in English language newspapers in Welsh Newspapers Online between 1804 and 1843 – the dates are arbitrary, 1804 is the start of the collection, 1843 simply because it was after many of the Chartist riots of the late 1830’s and early 1840’s and society was much as it had been in the Regency.

There was no real railway network, meaning people would not travel long distances, and newspapers were still intensely local. (For example, when Charlotte Brontë travelled to Bridlington with her friend Ellen in 1839, the only part of the journey from Haworth that was done by rail was the journey from Leeds to York.)

Outside of the coal mining and iron working areas around Swansea, Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil, society was still conservative.

Newspapers would have been expensive, and each would have sold a few thousand copies at most. And they would have been targeted at the English speaking gentry, rather than the Welsh peasantry, who were probably mostly monoglot Welsh speakers.

So, to school adverts, especially schools for young ladies.

The sheer number of adverts makes it clear there was considerable competition for pupils, as in the advert from the Cambrian in 1841


The first thing to notice is the emphasis on the healthy aspect of the school’s location – the proprietors did not want their charges going sick for the simple reason that it would be bad for business. It’s also interesting that they mention sea bathing as an option.


Sea bathing was very much a thing in Regency Wales – a search for the term brings up innumerable adverts for both sea bathing establishments – essentially a hotel with a private beach and bathing machines, and houses for rent for the summer in locations such as Oystermouth and Tenby which emphasis their proximity to sea bathing beaches and resorts.

The other thing that come out from the adverts is the importance of quarter days – the days when rents and bills came due – hence ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’, Christmas being one of the quarter days, so as well as a time of celebration is was a time to settle that quarter’s bills, or indeed move to a new property.

The poem was Christmas Bills was lifted by the Glamorgan Monmouth and Brecon Gazette from the 1837 edition of the Comic Almanack, which was published between 1835 and 1843.

(A compilation version of the annual is available on Google Books and contributors include William Makepeace Thackeray, Albert Smith, Gilbert Abbott À Beckett, Horace Mayhew. Henry Mayhew with illustrations by George Cruikshank.

It’s clear, however, that people, or the gentry at least, did have fun at Christmas, with adverts for balls and recitals, meaning that it was not all bills and invoices.


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The precariat of the nineteenth century …


Today, we often talk about the precariat.

However, there’s also a subtle shift underway in meaning – rather than simply gig workers such as Uber drivers and Deliveroo riders – increasingly the term precariat is applied to people in formerly solidly middle class jobs such as university researchers, teaching adjuncts, paralegal staffers, relief teachers, contract IT workers and so on and so on. People who would once have had a secure job but are now on endless rolling low paid contracts.

This has been ascribed to many reasons, among them supply and demand – too many law and IT graduates for example, but the effect is that you end up with a class of low paid skilled people who live from paycheck to paycheck, and never manage to build wealth and acquire the trappings of middle class life. Often, this is described as the hollowing out of the middle classes.

Of course, there have always been middle class occupations that have been precarious – music teachers are one example and there are doubtless others.

What we forget is that the solid respectable financially secure middle class has only really been with us since the latter half of the nineteenth century with the growth of recognised professions.

Darwin, for example, had the money to become a gentleman naturalist. Alfred Russell Wallace did not, and had to earn his living finding interesting insects and birds to stuff, kill, and sell to rich collectors.

And of course, the first half of the nineteenth century is marked by middle class people living in straitened circumstances. Patrick Brontë, who was a self made man struggled throughout his life with an ecclesiastical living that paid almost, but not quite enough, and of course that income would evaporate with his death, which is why his son, who tried and failed to be a professional portrait painter, became a railway official, and why his daughters had to seek work as governesses and schoolteachers to support themselves, work that was often poorly paid, but which was sufficiently genteel to allow them to maintain some social cachet.

And with no marriage portion to speak of, life for the Brontë sisters would have been hard, with an income just enough to keep themselves, and the fear of losing their position. Probably the best they could hope for was marriage to someone a little more financially secure than themselves.

This is of course reflected in the literature of the times with governesses being seduced by the master and then cast aside once they became pregnant, or murdered by suspicious wives. Obviously some escaped the poverty trap one way or another – one example who broke the mould was Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair, but even she came to a bad end.

And hence the obsession with property and wealth from novels of Jane Austen by way of the Brontës and Dickens to Wilkie Collins half a century later.

Wealth and property was important, because they brought security. An army commission, for a man, might bring an income, but for a junior officer was often less than required.

For someone with a junior position in the public service the situation was just as bad – as outlined for example Trollope’s The Three Clerks, and possibly drawing on his own experience as a junior post office official. Barely enough to live on, not enough to marry, or even to aspire to a home of his own.

And even in households with property this was often the fate of younger sons and daughters, when the wealth of the family was not enough to be sensibly subdivided. The old saw about younger sons ‘one for the navy, one for the army, one for the church’ was uncomfortably true.

And in the case of the clergy – and in this case we really mean the Anglican clergy in England – we can see the poverty of genteel life – a curacy and then perhaps a poor living, and then maybe a slightly more prosperous one, always trying to keep up appearances but in reality desperately poor and threadbare, scrimping and saving …

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The Iconography of John Sobieski Stuart

In my previous post about the Sobieski Stuarts (and my non connection with them) I reproduced the above photograph, which is attributed to the noted early Scottish photographer, David Octavius Hill, who had set up a photographic studio with Robert Adamson in Edinburgh in the 1840’s.

Hill was one of the first to produce artistic photographs and in the course of his work photographed many of the great and the good of 1840’s Scotland.

I’ve stared at this photograph, and blown it up to as large a size I can display and I find the iconography quite fascinating.

Firstly, Sobieski Stuart seems to be wearing a frock coat styled after the manner of a British cavalry officers’ undress frock coat.

Such coats are still worn today by members of the British Royal Family on state occasions, and if you search for ‘nineteenth century British undress uniform’ you can turn up a number of images from tailors that make uniforms for re-enactors.

The salient point is that they are usually dark blue and have quite an elaborate set of cross ties, that when done up, would give a frogged appearance, but of course one never actually does them up or at least no one does in later photographs.

Interestingly, Sobieski Stuart has them buttoned up – I have no idea when the fashion for leaving them dangling started, and perhaps in the 1840’s this was how one wore them. However, by the time of the Crimean War some officers were leaving them undone


British Officer, Crimean war

Note also that in Sobieski Stuart’s photograph  the small decoration in approximately the place an officer would wear a medal ribbon or similar decoration as seen in the above image of a Crimean war British officer wearing an undress frock coat.

So we can say that Sobieski Stuart – even though he was a Welsh charlatan – is trying to project the image of being an officer and a gentleman.

And there is the hair and beard. In a time when few people, even among the great and the good, had elaborate haircuts the hair and beard are styled to look a little like those of Charles I

(image CC-BY from British Museum)

In short he is is trying both to make himself like the romantic and doomed Charles I, and yet suggest he is an officer or at least someone who has seen valiant service.

I find it interesting that, at a time when photography was so new, he would take the trouble to present himself so elaborately …

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Nothing to do with Bonnie Prince Charlie

Every so often I mess about with family history. Not seriously. Really I do it to keep my skills in tracing documents back through the archives up to speed and to practice reading nineteenth century handwriting.

The only real mystery was my maternal grandfather, and that wasn’t really a mystery at all, more, that as he died when my mother was three, her memories of him were hazy, and perhaps confused with other early memories of uncles and aunts.

However, I started using MyHeritage, an ancestry company to back up the relationships map, for no reason that my brother had started on his own family history project using MyHeritage.

One side effect of this is that I get the ‘you’ve got matches’ emails that they send out as a tease to get you to sign up.

Usually they are things I already know, or in the case of Hanna Mathiesen, a false positive, even though Hanna’s turned out to be more useful than I first thought.

And then I got this email a few days ago:

Screenshot 2020-12-06 132038

William Cargill I knew about – in 1808 he married Magdalene Salmond and in 1816 he and Magdalene had a daughter Ann, who married one of the innumerable James Moncur’s in my family tree.

Magdalene’s father was Robert Salmond, and while I havn’t researched any of them, we must be looking at a date earlier than 1775 for Robert’s birth.

Screenshot 2020-12-06 132903

Now, as I have not researched William Cargill. I don’t know what he did for a living, but I’m reasonably certain it was nothing particularly grand.

So what of the other two names mentioned?

Well wikipedia (plus a bit of inspired googling) turned up this family tree:

Screenshot 2020-12-06 141056

so we can say that Charles de Rohan was the offspring of Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and immortalised for ever on shortbread tins.

Charles de Rohan had the following offspring

Screenshot 2020-12-06 140935

which initially all looks rather neat. (Except it isn’t)

Remember the story about Charles de Rohan being smuggled on a British ship to avoid assassination by agents of the Elector of Hanover?

Well, at this time the elector of Hanover was none other than Mad King George of England, and one could see that Charles de Rohan by his existence, could be a threat to the legitimacy of the Hanoverian dynasty, except that by then the Stuart claim was dead, and no real threat.

So what about this John Carter Allen?

He undoubtedly existed, and was an admiral. He had a number of children, including Thomas Allen, who appears to have been born before his father was married, suggesting he was illegitimate. His mother has never been identified.

John Carter Allen’s father, Carter Allen had married a woman name Emma Hay, and on that basis said he had a connection to the Earldom of Errol, the Errols’ surname being Hay. It’s worth noting that Mary Hay the 14th Countess was well known as  a Jacobite sympathiser and the story of Erroll connection could have had an influence on his children and grandchildren. Certainly he was well enough taken with the story to add the name Hay to his.

Thomas Allen had an undistinguished naval career, and while he claimed to have been a captain, seems not to have progressed beyond the rank of lieutenant.

However he did marry reasonably well, to Catherine Matilda Manning, and in time had three children, John, Matilda, and Charles.

This isn’t a story of Regency married bliss however, around 1807 he took up with a younger woman, Ann Salmon, who had been born in Hackney in 1790, and with whom he had five children. Sometimes the name is given as Salmond, and I’m guessing that Ann Salmond or Salmon was a descendant of one of Robert Salmond’s siblings.

Thomas never claimed (as far as I’m aware) to be grandson of Bonnie Prince Charlie, but in the 1820’s his two legitimate sons adopted the surname Stuart, and claimed to be descendants of Bonnie Prince Charlie

John Sobieski Stuart  c 1845 (attribution etc)

The claim of descent from the Young Pretender is, of course, bollocks.

The genealogist Antony Camp has researched them extensively and found no evidence for their descent from Charles Edward Stuart. It’s just possible Thomas Allen was the son of Charles Edward Stuart, but there’s no evidence to support it.

However, not only did  the brothers claim descent from Charles Edward Stuart, they also perpetrated a monumental hoax, the Vestiarium Scoticum, which claimed to be a history of the clans of Scotland and their tartan. Immensely popular as the romantic tartan myths took off in the 1840’s the book was not debunked until well over a century later.

The Vestiarum filled a need. After the ‘45, the Dress Act had broken the oral history of tartan and the significance, if any, of the various tartans.

In fact many of the associations were invented by weavers in central Scotland who started weaving tartans for the Highland regiments and sought approval for various designs from clan chiefs.

With the birth of highland romanticism in the early Victorian era there was a need to invent a whole history for tartan, and this is what the Sobieski Stuarts proceeded to do. Their claimed descent from Bonnie Prince Charlie of course lent an air of legitimacy to their hoax – a case of ‘if one lie doesn’t do it, tell a bigger one’.

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Did Charlotte Bronte smell?

When you visit old early nineteenth century houses one thing you notice is the absence of a dedicated bathroom. The Brontes didn’t have one in Haworth, nor did Hamilton Hume in Cooma Cottage.

Privies, yes, sometimes, as can be seen Mr Seller’s house on Quality Row in Kingston on Norfolk Island, but no bathrooms.

And of course, the reason for this was that before the advent of piped water and household hot water services, having a bath was a major undertaking.

Heating even enough water for even a classic tin bath would have been a major undertaking, so most people made do with a ewer and a basin, and even then would most likely have washed in cold water, which would have been a character forming experience in a Haworth winter.

So, while most people did wash, it would have been more of a hurried sponge down with a cloth, and even then, perhaps not every day.

Equally, people did not was their day to day clothes as often as we do. Clothes were expensive – remember just about everything had to be hand made so people had fewer clothes, and washing them would have involved heating a large copper of water – hence the idea of Monday as washday.

So, if we were to stand next to Charlotte a a bus stop, we would probably notice a slight smell of body odour, just as when travelling in poorer countries one sometimes notices a slight smell of body odour, even where the culture emphasises washing.

She probably wouldn’t have smelled terrible.

Women in England typically did not wear underpants until at least the 1840’s – Rowlandson and his contemporaries took great delight in drawing cartoons showing society ladies unfortunate enough to slip on the stairs or fall off their horses and accidentally display their bare bottoms – which probably would have helped with hygiene, especially in the warmer months, but I suspect that even so there would have been a hint of body odour.

And this of course begs a question – colonial Sydney, even Hobart ,was warmer than the Yorkshire moors, and people would undoubtedly have sweated more and smelled more, especially over the summer months …

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