Saturday, January 23, 2010

One man's 67 illegitimate children, deaths and Guyana

The third 'Digging up Your Roots' programme started with the account of Gilbert Innes of Stow who lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, who rose to become deputy governor of the Royal Bank of Scotland. He had an amazing 67 illegitimate children, with many different women. He never married, and died aged 81.

His colossal estate included £750,000 in foreign stocks and bonds, and £140,000 in Scottish property, including the barony of Stow. Jane, his sister, inherited his fortune. Actually, I've assumed they meant pounds sterling, but even 890,000 pounds Scots would be a lot. (Scots money wasn't used for spending after 1820, and there was an exchange rate of £12 Scots to £1 sterling. In spite of its having being withdrawn in 1820, some Scots coins continued in circulation in rural Scotland even till the 1890s.)

They mentioned the difference between moveable property (cash, stocks, and anything that could be moved) and heritable property (land and buildings).
Moveable property is mentioned in wills (till 1901 on Scotland's People and after 1901 in the National Archives of Scotland). Bruce Durie suggested checking the Register of Deeds at the National Archives of Scotland.

Heritable property is mentioned in transfers of ownership in the Register of Sasines and the heir proving the right to inherit in the Retours, both in the National Archives of Scotland.

The next article that interested me was about Humphrey Ewing Crum Ewing Junior who died in Demerara in 1878. Demerara (after which brown sugar is named) was in British Guiana (now the Republic of Guyana) in South America.
His body was put into a lead-lined coffin, which was then filled with rum, and transported back to Glasgow. Humphrey's father was the owner of a sugar plantation in Jamaica, and an MP for Paisley.

There's a Guyana Genealogical Society.

(I visited Guyana in 1993. A lot of Scots went to Guyana, many as overseers, managers, or owners of plantations but others as labourers; and it's remarkable how many estates and some villages are named after Scottish (mostly Highlands) towns and villages, for example Alness, Tain, Fearn, Nigg. There were two small estates named Glasgow, and Edinburgh, though when I was there, they seemed to be long abandoned. There seem to be a lot of Gaelic words in the spoken English language).

An article about military deaths mentioned good sources - the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Pension records in the National Archives at Kew, England, Soldiers' Wills at the National Archives of Scotland, and the Scottish War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle to almost every Scots soldier. apparently regardless of whether they were in a Scottish regiment.

Poor law records helped one lady discover that her great grandmother's brother was killed in Huelva, Spain. There are lots of interesting facts to be discovered in our volumes of Poor Law records - see our blog article, Borders Poor Law Records - Jedburgh (1852-1874), and index to Borders Poor Law Records.

An interesting anecdote about a death mentioned other useful sources. Margaret Halcrow died, was put in her coffin, and left in the church overnight. During the evening, the beadle went in to try and steal a valuable diamond ring, was in the process of cutting her finger, when she sat up in the coffin.
Her husband, Henry Erskine, was at home being consoled by a friend when there was a knock on the door. Henry told his friend that it sounded like Margaret's knock. They opened the door and found it was her. This demonstrates the need to look at the Register of Corrected Entries. Those two useful sites are Deceased Online and

Next Sunday's programme, like the others, will be broadcast on 92-95 FM at midday, will cover criminal ancestors, Burke's accomplice and a prison governor.

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