08 February 2010

Kirk Sessions Excerpts, Isle of Coll, Scotland, Part II

As I study the minutes of the elders’ meetings, it strikes me how much the events could affect a family’s genealogy, attributing the true parents to children ... in particular, the instances of out-of-wedlock children. Whether this immorality was more prevalent in rather isolated, small communities, or rampant across Scotland in general, I can’t say. On Coll, those children were baptized when the transgressing couple paid their fines. I’ve yet to see an ensuing marriage mentioned in the minutes. A diligent researcher would compare dates in the kirk session minutes with parish register baptisms and marriages in hope of corroborating a family group.[1]

The following couple might look familiar if you saw my previous post, which referred to their second offense in 1835. I’m not deliberately picking on the McFadyens! ... whose surname I arbitrarily “standardize.” They were recorded in multiple variations as is the wont with Scottish names, the most common apparently being (choose Mc or Mac) McFadyen, McFadden, McFayden, McPhaiden, McPhadden, and so on. Quoting from the KS minutes, of course I use the spellings therein.

Coll Kirk Session Minutes, 1813-1844, GB 234, CH2/70/2; National Archives of Scotland
15 March 1833

At Arileod the Kirk Session of Coll met, Compeared Mary McFaden daughter of Lachlan MacFaden Tenant at Grimsary, Declared herself to be with child to Allan son of Hugh MacFaden Tenant also at Grimsary. She acknowledged that the first lapse took place about the beginning of September 1832 and that there were guilt between them repeatedly after that. The afore said Allan MacFaden did not appear. The Kirk Session delayed doing any thing farther in the mean time and ordered Allan MacFaden to be Summoned for Sunday first.
17 March 1833
Compeared Allan MacFaden acknowledged to have had guilt with Mary MacFaden Several times but as he would not own to be the Father of the child unless the said Mary MacFaden would make oath that he was the father of it, the Session was of oppinion that her oath should be taken which was done accordingly.

I find no marriage recorded in the parish for Allan McFadyen to Mary McFadyen after their second offense, nor indeed Allan to anyone else from 1821 to 1855. However, their daughter Isabel McFaden was baptized 15 July 1833, no date of birth given, the parents both residing at Grimsary (first offense, as above). Their son Donald McFayden was born in June 1835 and baptized 10 January 1838, the father at Grimsary, the mother, or perhaps the baptism, at Loanban (second offense, as previous post).

One of the genealogical points is that if either of the parents married later, depending on who raised the two children, those kids may be attributed wrongly to the current spouse. Another point is the importance of noting place names. On Coll at this time, the “places” were little more than a cluster of cottages for farm crofters and workers. That’s not to say that folk wouldn’t move from one place to another as necessity arose.

As a tenant at Grimsary, an Allan McFadyen fathered two children with Janet McLean: Jean born 19 September 1843 and Lachlan born 28 April 1845. Was Allan married to Janet or was he a serial offender for population explosion? Was there more than one Allan McFadyen at Grimsary? The parish register shows no marriage for Allan McFadyen to Janet McLean, and none for his erstwhile lover Mary McFadyen at Grimsary from 1835 onward. If Mary McFadyen moved to a different farm or community, she might be one of three Marys who married in Clabbach (1840) or Arinagour (1840 and 1852).

We know that many marriages and baptisms are missing from the parish registers. The main reason was probably whether the minister was on the island or not; historically, his parish included the Isle of Tiree as well and he had to spend time there too. So we can’t necessarily trust the absence of records to mean that events didn't occur. For Coll children born in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, we can seldom confirm family composition with the use of the 1851 census when all household members are named. Sometimes the emigration of families, and their subsequent death/burial records, or marriages of their children, or other sources, if available, assist in the difficult process of identifying parental relationships.

However, children born in the 1830s and 1840s could show up in 1851 if they lived that long. There is an Allan McFadyen age 37 at Grimsary, Coll, with a wife Janet age 35; the head of household is Hugh McFadyen ... seemingly Allan’s father as above.[2] Allan does not have Isabel and Donald with him. The children are Flora 11, Jam 7, Lachlan 6, John 4, Mary Ann 2. Jam could well be an erroneous transcription for Jean (digital images are presently not shown on Ancestry). Baptisms for John and Mary Ann with these parents are missing.

It looks like Allan made an honest woman of Janet, but where did Flora come from?! Allan McFaden at Grimsary had a child Flora born 8 November 1839, baptized 1841, whose mother was Mary McLean at Arivorich. Flora age 11 in the census almost fits the age of this child. Did Allan take his and Mary McLean’s daughter into his household, or did the minister record Mary instead of Janet at the 1841 baptism?

From Part 1:
While I can find no marriage at all on Coll for a John McArthur 1821-1855, a daughter Mary was born to him and Mary McDonald in May 1835 and baptized 10 January 1838. Possibly this was the same John McArthur (the only one in the parish records of this period) who had children with Effy Kennedy at Grimsary in 1837 and 1838, at Gortan in 1840, and Arnabost in 1843 and 1845. John is described as a weaver in all the entries with Effy; while he sounds like a fairly established man, a marriage to Effy is missing.

Superficial searches like this merely emphasize the need for thorough study of original sources.

[1] Please note: the parish marriages and baptisms in this case were consulted from the transcriptions on Isle of Coll Genealogy for the purposes of this blog. Consulting the original parish entries on microfilm or Internet digital views are essential for due diligence.
[2] “1851 Scotland Census,” database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 8 February 2010), Island of Coll, entry for “Allar” McFadyen, p. 4.


Scot said...

Marriages in Scotland were not always recorded through the Church with many people having 'irregular marriages' and I wonder if this might explain the lack of marriage records for the McFadyens?

Irregular marriages could occur through the couple making a simple declaration outwith the church that they were married or even by the couple simply living together and presenting themseleves in public as married even if no ceremony or declaration took place.

CallieK said...

I wish there were notes like these for Argenteuil! I've found zero birth records and exactly one baptism for that entire branch and that was for the child who died and was baptized on the same day.

BDM said...

Thanks for your comment, Scot. I'm sure 'irregular marriages' occurred many times in the absence of the clergyman. Some may even have been 'regularized' in the church years later.

Callie, I agree! I've been led to believe that kirk sessions records were often held in the homes of successive clerks of the sessions .. at least in early days of the Presbyterian church in Canada. I don't know how soon some elders would have been appointed for a new church. Sessions records are historically valuable but they are also private (not public) records, and a church does not have to allow access to them. That's my take on it.

Heather said...

Hello Brenda, We have just read with interest your notes on Allan Mcfayden and family. You might like to know he came to Australia in 1853 with his wife Janet McLean and family. They settled in Cavendish Victoria. We are decended from his daughter Catherine.And have just done a lot of research on the family in Australia. Our email is mereweather@harboursat.com.au. Regards Bill and Heather Funk

BDM said...

How lovely to hear from you, Heather! If you are on FaceBook you might be interested in the McFadyen group there. I'll be in touch,

Heather said...

I'm far far behind on reading blogs but I wanted to tell you how much I'm enjoying reading about these roguish MacFadyens :)

The other Heather

BDM said...

... that makes three Heathers I'm in touch with. Beautiful name!

CallieK said...

It's a good thing I use my screen name to post here- I'd be the third Heather!

BDM said...

I'm going to start thinking of you as Heather HX (Ottawa about to be Halifax), Heather TO (Toronto, and Heather OZ (Australia).
Big smile :-D