My Ancestors in Scotland

A Highland crofter from The Sunday at Home 1888. Artist F.S.W.

A Highland crofter from The Sunday at Home 1888. Artist F.S.W.

The research of my Scottish ancestry continues slowly.

Every region in the world had its own recording needs and thus the records from different places will contain different data.  In Van Diemen’s Land, for instance, a marriage record was likely to record whether a person was a convict under sentence, a former convict free by servitude, or free (never convicted).  The record also often gave us the ship they arrived on.

In Victoria, they didn’t care about this.  They recorded the birthplace of each party instead.

So when approaching research in Scotland, my first task was to determine which record gave me which information.  Since my single known Scottish ancestor (Annie McLeod) emigrated in 1853, the civil registrations beginning in 1855 are not all that relevant.  The earlier records are somewhat scanty.  For a marriage, they give the name of each party and where they were married.  A baptism is nice – it gives the mother’s maiden name.  I have not located many baptisms in my area of interest.

I’ve learned a bit about the region now. Annie came from Balelone, a … what was it?  A village? A locality on the western coast of North Uist? An area where more than two buildings could be seen at once?  I have not really figured it out.  A search of the 1841 census in Findmypast on location Balelone brings up 25 entries. Amongst them are several surnamed McLeod.

My Annie was living in Kilpheder in 1841. A search of location Kilpheder in the 1841 census via Findmypast also brings up 25 entries.

So where is Kilpheder?  The Google Maps site shows a township in South Uist some forty miles south of Balelone.  I looked at it and was not quite convinced.  The census clearly places them in Kilpheder, North Uist. But it took me a long time to find anything.  The only clue I was finding via google search was on the website of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland which placed Kilpheder not too far from Balelone.  It took a bit more searching but finally I found it on the Scottish Places website.  Kilpheder – Annie McLeod’s Kilpheder – was a quarter of a mile north of Balelone. Just up the coast.  Over the hill maybe.

It was a coastal community, more of a family estate than a proper village.  The residents were fishermen and labourers, doing it very tough as so many Scottish families did in those years.  They lived on a windswept coastline, a land of grey rocks and flattened grass.

North Uist in Scotland  Gordon Hatton [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

North Uist in Scotland Gordon Hatton [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Discovering this locality helped everything fit into place.  Kilpheder contained just the one family of McLeods in 1841 – Annie’s family.  There was a pair surnamed Arbuckle.  A family of McCaskills and a couple of McDonalds.  That’s about it. The rest were grandchildren obviously staying with their mother’s parents, or single men presumably following the work.

Balelone was pretty similar.  There were the Alexander McLeods with three teenagers at home, Archibald McLeod who lived with them and might be Alex’s older brother.  Flora Arbuckle who was an elderly lady living with Murdoch and Harriet Arbuckle, most likely her son and daughter in law or even grandson and granddaughter in law.  They also had some grandchildren of different surnames. A family of McLeans, a couple of McDonalds and some McGillevrays make up the bulk.

Ocean and birds from The Quiver 1864

Ocean and birds from The Quiver 1864

Balelone was a small community and the family groupings were somewhat telling.  Very few children and what children there were seemed to be with grandparents rather than parents.  More than a few elderly persons and some couples old enough to have a whole big family, but very few with any children present at all.  They give an impression of struggle.  In the community of 25 individuals in Balelone there were only two children under 10 – Murdoch McLeod and Murdoch McKenzie, and each of them was aged 8.  I count seven women of an age to be parents, most of them married.

Kilpheder, equal in size, had more children so maybe was a more comfortable place to live.  Out of the wind perhaps? Donald and Marion Arbuckle had a newborn baby.  My Annie’s family had a healthy four children aged under ten.  John and Catherine Monk had two young ones aged 9 and 4.

That’s nine children under ten years out of a total population of 50.  Not a statistic indicative of a growing community.

Of course, it wasn’t a growing community and the problems of the Scottish people were what resulted in so much emigration.  I guess we all knew that.  Still, the census gives that further glimpse into their lives.  My Annie did not see many other children.  She lived in a world of probably hardworking but still struggling adults.  When she married she signed her name, so somewhere she learned to read and write.  She put a great deal into keeping her family together in later years, she had developed a family ethic so I would guess her family unit was tight in Scotland too.  More than this, it is hard to deduce.

This seems like a good beginning.

The Continued Search for Annie McLeod

So many of my DNA matches were connected to the one ancestor, and this ancestor still seemed very likely to be my great great grandmother, Annie McLeod.  I knew I had to find her.

First, I examined the details I already had.  Again.  Starting from the wedding.

One of the very few records we have for Annie McLeod

One of the very few records we have for Annie McLeod

In 1866, Annie McLeod was aged about 22 and was living in North Adelaide.  Somewhere, she met James Dunstall who was two years her senior.  James was a farmer and lived at Normanville in the district of Yankalilla, on his parent’s property.

Not many McLeods pop up in Yankalilla.  There was Marion McLeod who was married in 1860 to Isaac Eyers.  Marion’s father was Angus and it seemed possible that Annie’s Kennis and Marion’s Angus might be the same one.  That was one to keep an eye on.  There was also Allan McLeod of Jarvis Bay with his children Margaret, Mary, Catherine/Christian, John, Donald, Ann, Kenneth and Kate.  His son John was a witness at my Annie’s marriage so some connection is possible.

Margaret married John McKelvie, Mary married Andrew Knox Fraser, John married Martha Ann Dunstall, Ann married Tom Bennett, Ann Kate married Oscar Cook.  I’m not sure who the others married. However, with two Anns in the family already they surely had no room for my Anne.

Newspaper announcement of James and Annie's marriage

Newspaper announcement of James and Annie’s marriage

“Family Notices.” South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900) 4 Jun 1866: 2. Web. 13 Oct 2014

There were also the many McLeods near Stanley Flat or Clare, but none of those have led anywhere either.

I’ve followed James and Annie through South Australia so many times, up until their death at Orrie Cowie and their burial in Warooka.  It yielded no new clues.  Annie’s death certificate told us nothing, her will provided little more.  Her grave and burial details had nothing.

The only new detail I had was the DNA test and a probable connection to yet another John McLeod.  The obvious next move, as the administrator of the Normanites Group had told me, was to build the tree of that John McLeod to see where it led.  I had access to a basic tree showing John’s parents as Kenneth McLeod and Flora nee McIsaac, and John was shown as being born in North Uist in 1847.

My next search was the 1841 UK Census where I found one possibility.  I don’t believe the terms of service of my subscription site allows me to post an image, so I’ll transcribe the basics:

In Kilpheder, North Uist, Inverness-shire, Scotland

Kenneth McLeod aged 36 Head Ag. Lab. Born in Inverness-shire
Flora McLeod aged 36 Born in Inverness-shire
Mary aged 11 Born in Inverness-shire
Marion aged 9 Born in Inverness-shire
Ketty aged 7 Born in Inverness-shire
Isabella aged 1 Born in Inverness-shire
Anne aged 1 Born in Inverness-shire
Ketty McInnes F.S. aged 25 Not born in Inverness-shire

This entry looked very promising so I jumped forward ten years to the 1851 census where I found the following:

In Baleloch, North Uist, Inverness-shire, Scotland

Niel McVicar Head 32 1819 Ag Lab North Uist, Inv, Scotland
Mary McVicar Wife 21 1830 Lab Wife North Uist, Inv, Scotland
Marion McLeod Sister-In-Law 18 1833 House Servant North Uist, Inv, Scotland
Catherine McLeod Sister-In-Law 16 1835 Spinstress North Uist, Inv, Scotland
Ann McLeod Sister-In-Law 10 1841 Pauper (Orphant) North Uist, Inv, Scotland
Isabella McLeod Sister-In-Law 10 1841 Pauper (Orphant Scholar) North Uist, Inv, Scotland
John McLeod Brother-In-Law 8 1843 Pauper (Orphant Scholar) North Uist, Inv, Scotland

This was still looking good.  Then I found something even more exciting:

From the Highland and Island Emigration Society (HIES) records for the ship Hercules

MacVICAR MARY 22 nee McLeod born NORTH UIST


Orphans, their father was drowned last year. Brothers and sisters of Mary.  All born Balelone. 

Family arrived in South Australia on the Hercules except for Marion who arrived on the Neptune.

This was just looking better and better.  I now had a family of McLeods, with a boy of about the right age to be my cousin’s John McLeod and born in the right location to parents Kenneth and Flora McLeod, now emigrated to South Australia and with a sister Ann!

I then searched for them in South Australia and learned that my cousin’s John was an ‘only son’.  Yes, that fitted.

Then I found Neil and Mary McVicar ending their days in Clare, South Australia.  I was pretty much convinced.

I’m still convinced, but I wish I could find a record to directly connect my Annie, indisputably.  I need her to have informed for a sibling’s child’s birth and refer to herself as ‘aunt’.  That would be nice.  Or a family bible held by one of the others, or a letter.  But without this, so much holds together for this family that I am quite sure.

The other thing which I noticed when tracing the siblings was that all had a daughter called Isabella in some form.  Isabella, Bella, Belle … something like that.  Also, they all had a Flora or Florence.  My James and Annie had two daughters, Annie Isabella and Martha Florence.  This fitted too.  Kenneth Norman … well, Kenneth after the father – I wonder who Norman was?

Hopefully I’ll find out soon.  The next step is the death records of Kenneth and Flora in North Uist.

My Genealogical DNA Test Experience Part 5 – Annie McLeod

After three years of contacting fellow researchers while seeking Annie McLeod, I have become quite friendly with some of them. We still share our frustrations and little successes, we still throw thoughts and mad ideas at each other for feedback.  We have very nearly formed an unofficial South Australia McLeod Researchers Support Group.

Since I recognise the difficulties fellow McLeod researchers are facing, I decided to devote this blog entry to my search for Annie – a challenge revived by the DNA match results.  I am of course aware that my connection to this cousin might be in another line, but this one is so close, so promising, that I have felt driven to pursue it further.

Annie said she was aged 22 when she married in 1866, giving her a birth year of 1844. She resided in North Adelaide.  I have attempted to find McLeods in the directories of the time at this address, but the results are inconclusive.  The directories refer to ‘Mr McLeod’ without giving first name, occupation or street address. I have found various Mr, Mrs and Miss McLeods amongst the unclaimed letters lists, of Adelaide, Port Adelaide and North Adelaide.  Once again, without further details this does not help.

The first certainty was the marriage so I shall start there.

After James and Annie married, they lived at Normanville near James’ parents for about 18 months.  Their eldest child John James Dunstall was born here in 1867.  Sometime after his birth they headed north and inland.

By the late 1860s the population of South Australia had increased drastically.  The state has very good land near the coasts but is arid and inhospitable the further inland you go.  Along the Flinders Ranges there is good farming land but even here the rivers are mostly seasonal.  Colonists who followed the Murray River to the north east found they could make a go of it.  Those who headed for the Clare Valley, north of Adelaide, found pockets of good pasture, good rainfall, good conditions for viticulture.  Those who kept to the coast, heading west to the Yorke Peninsula or even further west to the Eyre Peninsula were able to sustain themselves by combining farming and fishing.  Slightly inland were good metals and mines popped up all over the place, mostly owned by wealthy Englishmen who provided employment but the working conditions were tough.

James and Annie Dunstall headed for the Clare Valley, for reasons I had never fathomed.  In the light of the DNA test, I considered the possibility of Annie having family there already.  I searched the birth, death and marriage indexes for McLeods in Clare and found many.

The little village of Stanley Flat is situated about 6km northwest of the township of Clare.  I began to notice how many times the surname McLeod popped up in connection with this little village and felt maybe I was onto something.

Firstly, the birth of James and Annie McLeod’s second child, Charles Guy Dunstall, was at Stanley Flat in 1869.  This one had definite relevance to me.  Secondly, my newly discovered cousin’s ancestor John McLeod was married at Stanley Flat in 1871 to May Witcomb.  By this time James and Annie had moved to the little town of Templers, some 80km (50 miles) south towards Adelaide.  Still relatively close.

Thirdly, there were a plethora of others there – Mary McLeod the wife of Donald McKinnon, Alexander McLeod and wife Marian Morrison raised a family nearby,  Donald McLeod and Mary MacKenzie, Malcolm McLeod and Isabella McNeil … it was a large group and I spent some time sorting them out.  Some sorted nicely, a few remained strays.  Amongst the strays were my James and Annie and my connection’s John and May.

I wasn’t onto something at all.  It was just a whole lot of McLeod families with no obvious link.

James and Annie remained at Templers for about five years.

Templers is a little town in the Midnorth district of South Australia.

Templers as it is today: a cluster of houses at a main highway intersection.

The third child in the family, Kenneth Norman Dunstall, was born in Templers in February 1871.  The name suggests to me that Annie’s father was actually Kenneth and maybe … just perhaps …. her grandfather’s name was Norman??  I have had no luck researching Kennis McLeod.  Was it just her Scottish accent?

Tragically, Kenneth died at eight months of age and was buried in Willaston Cemetery.  The cemetery only holds graves for fifty years and the plot has been reused so there are no clues to be found there.  The burial record simply gave his name, age, father’s name and residence of Templers.

William Herbert was born in 1873, also at Templers, and he is my great grandfather.  He was known all his life as Herbert and I pondered this too.  Was there another William around to distinguish him from?

Between 1873 and 1875 the family then made the big move west to the Yorke Peninsula, settling on a property called Orrie Cowie.  The nearest town was Warooka but they were rather isolated at Orrie Cowie, along the western coast of the peninsula.   After a bushfire which damaged property in 1880 an inquest was held including the following:

James Dunstall, farmer, said the fire occurred on December 16. He first noticed it at about 10 minutes to 2 p.m. No men had been working near the place that day, and he had not the slightest idea how it occurred. By a Juror— Had not seen glass-bottles about there. There was not much traffic on the coast-track there.

Two years ago I went to see the place where they lived and it is the same today.  The statement ‘There was not much traffic on the coast-track there’ is very much an understatement.  They would have gone days without seeing anyone other than those who lived there, except perhaps aboriginal tribes (who were eventually blamed for allowing the fire to occur).

Outside Warooka on a summer's day

Near Warooka on a summer’s day

Ernest Guy Dunstall was born at Orrie Cowie in 1875 and Lewis Liston was born in 1876.  How Annie coped on an isolated station with all those young boys is anyone’s guess.  From what we can tell the boys were responsible and helpful. However, the family were beginning to do it tough.

Annie Isabella Dunstall, their first daughter, was born at Orrie Cowie in 1879 and Martha Florence Dunstall was born in 1882.

In 1883, James Dunstall died of tuberculosis and was buried at Warooka Uniting Cemetery.  His father posted a notice in the paper.  Annie, with the help of fifteen year old John and thirteen year old Charles, kept the family together.

It really looks to me as if they were struggling, but it seems they did not ask for help from any family members.  Perhaps they thought they would pull through.  Perhaps Annie had pride.  She held on for three more years before she became ill enough to make out her will, anticipating that her children would become orphaned and asking that her sons John and Charles act as guardians to the younger ones.

Annie died on 9th June 1887.  Her death certificate states cause of death phthisis.  She was the widow of James Dunstall and her residence was Orrie Cowie, Warooka.  The informant was her son John James Dunstall.  At the age of 19, he had suddenly become responsible for a family of seven.  There was no notice in the paper when Annie died.

Headstone for Annie Dunstall, placed on her very unmarked grave only a few years ago. No clues to be found here.

Headstone for Annie Dunstall, placed on her very unmarked grave only a few years ago. No clues to be found here.