I don’t know if we have photos of Elizabeth Scott, who was born at Burntisland in 1811. We actually may have photos, but it will take some work to try to figure out the possibilities of that.
Over the years, this Elizabeth has confused me often – and I can’t say I’m yet totally certain of her details. As I wrote earlier in Our Scott History: Where My Dad (And Others) Got It Wrong, I think she has caused others some confusion as well.
I think much of this confusion, at least for me, lies in the fact she had the same surname, Scott, as the man she married, named James. And then there is James’ father, also apparently James Scott. When I first came across the detail that Elizabeth seemed to have the same surname Scott, it did throw me off quite a bit. Was it a mistake? Did we really have three different lines of Scotts (noting that Jane Greig’s parents were Alexander Greig and Anne Scott).
Did their Scott ancestry diverge somewhere? I’m still not sure of that and to be honest, still have not fully figured out the life of Elizabeth Scott.
Birth Of Elizabeth Scott
Assuming we are discussing the same Elizabeth Scott, I have a birth record for her in Burntisland, Fife. She was born on the 22nd of September, 1811 and baptized on the 3rd of October, 1811.
In some oral and written notes, it’s claimed that John Scott, b. 1848 in Dysart and who lived in Dundee (See The Scott Family, Dundee 1885) was born to a John Scott and Maryanne Laurence. But this does not match any of the records I have found.
Instead, as pointed out in the article about where they went wrong, there is overwhelming evidence that this John Scott b. 1848 was actually born to James Scott and Elizabeth Scott. This evidence includes:
- The marriage record of John Scott, b. 1848 in Dysart to Jane Greig. His parents are clearly recorded as James Scott and Elizabeth Scott, M.S. (Maiden Surname) Scott.
- John Scott’s recorded address of residence on the marriage registration is Gellatly Street
- John Scott’s father is recorded as James Scott, a Cooper, and deceased by this date in 1869.
- A death record for a James Scott who died on the 11th of September, 1865 shows his address as “Stewarts Court, Gellatly Street” in Dundee. His occupation is listed as a “Cooper” and his wife is Elizabeth Scott. His son John Scott was the informant for the death.
- Various census records which I’ll examine below.
Family Oral Tradition Meets The Recorded Documentation
My father would tell me that our great-great-grandfather’s father and his father were both coopers (barrel makers) by trade, and went to Dundee to teach the craft of barrel making. I don’t know and cannot find any evidence to support this; it could have been that they went to Dundee for work. But the records indicate that it was actually a father and father-in-law, both named Scott that arrived in Dundee, along with the family of the younger one.
This part – that there had been a move to the “big city” of Dundee from the village seems to be correct. But both were named James, and the elder James was actually the father of the younger James’ wife. Both had the surname Scott. Believe me when I say that this can make things very confusing when researching the family(s)!
1851 Census – Dundee
We first come across the family in Dundee, in 1851. It’s important to look at the family relationship in this census:
The “Head” of the family is James Scott age 42, born at St. Monance. A cooper by occuapation.
His wife is Elizabeth Scott, age 39, born at Burntisland.
We then have children which we can look at but critically, the last entry is for:
James Scott, age 60, born at St. Monance – but his relationship to the “Head” of the family is “Father-In-Law.” (As an aside, I don’t care if you’re “woke” and you don’t like the term “Head,” that is used here. For purposes of knowing some things, it’s more important to know what they meant as far as census returns than your feelings about words and terminology).
Let’s look at the children in this census now:
Elizabeth Scott, age 12
First in the census is Elizabeth age 12, and reportedly born at Burntisland. We have a birth record for Elizabeth Scott born at Burntiland on 13th May, 1839:
How can we be fairly certain this is the same Elizabeth Scott in the census? One thing we can note is that the census, as mentions, would have us realize that Elizabeth Scott Maiden Surname of Scott is living here with James Scott, and her father James Scott.
Next, we can note a couple of things on the birth record. The writer of the records in Burntisland recorded maiden names of mothers – not their married names. I have provided a cropped image (for sake of file size) that shows the two records above Elizabeth’s birth. It’s the maiden names of the mothers that were recorded. This is the same throughout the page. So we can be pretty certain that Elizabeth Scott’s maiden name was Scott.
Having been born on the 13th of May, 1839 would put her age at 12 years old when the 1841 census was done during the evening of the 6th of June.
Next Three Children And A Problem
On the census report of 1851, we find three other children listed:
Mary Scott, aged 10 (therefore born Abt. 1841)
Margaret Scott, aged 7 (therefore born Abt. 1844)
John Scott, aged 3 (therefore born Abt. 1848).
Mary and Margaret both have their birthplaces recorded as what appears to be “Buchenhaven.” But I cannot find such a place in Fife. There is a Buchanhaven near Aberdeen, but I have my doubts this is what it is referring to. Instead, it is more likely to be Buckhaven, which is a village in the Parish of Wemyss, Fifeshire. And Fifeshire is written on the census.
John Scott is being recorded as born at Fifeshire, Fifeshire. This was likely a mistake, and our records indicate Dysart, Fifeshire.
Another problem is that I can find NO record of birth/baptism for any of these three children, in all of Scotland – to parents named James and Elizabeth Scott. But we know they existed.
Can we offer a possible reason for the lack of birth records for these three?
It’s not my intention in this post (but it would be an interesting topic to me and perhaps others) to discuss doctrinal differences between Scottish Presbyterians and other Protestant denominations including Baptists, Brethren Fellowships (of this, there are even more sub-groups), etc., that had a more evangelical approach to their faith.
But there is a note in our Family Bible written by John A. Scott (b. 1935) that John Scott, b. 1848 was an early member of the Brethren Fellowship in Dundee. Is it possible that perhaps it was his father James had moved to the Brethren Fellowship? The Brethren do not believe in infant baptism, and therefore it is very possible that no baptismal/birth records would exist for children of parents that were of that theological persuasion.
Of course, there could be other reasons, including damaged records that are simply not available for the lack of birth records for these three children.
Dundee Scott Family – 1861 Census
Can we locate this family in Dundee and discover changes by 1861? I have located a census report for a household in Stewart’s Court (which includes Gellatly Street although not specifically mentioned in this census).
The family begins on one page and is continued on the second page:
There are a couple of anomalies. But even so, I think we can be confident that this is the same family as we see in the 1851 census, with some changes.
One anomaly is that Elizabeth is now listed as the “Head” of the family. This would be the case if her husband James had passed away, and indeed he is not listed on the census. I do not think he was deceased – I have a death registration for James Scott, in 1865.
It is possible that he just was not there the evening the census took place, but I am fairly certain that Elizabeth still should have been listed as “Wife” and not “Head.”
But if we scan the children from Elizabeth through Mary, Margaret, and John, it matches up nicely with the census of 1851. We also see Burntisland for the birthplace of mother Elizabeth and daughter Elizabeth, Buckhaven Fifeshire for Mary and Margaret, and Dysart for John (which matches our other records for him).
Another important observation is that John Scott, now 13 years old, has an occupation of what appears to be “Ap Turner” – probably for Apprentice Turner – and we know the John Scott we have been interested in would eventually have his occupation listed as a “Woodturner” the rest of his life.
We also note that Elizabeth’s father James (father-in-law to a younger James) on the previous census 1851 is not present. I have not located a death record for this James Scott, who was 60 years old in 1851.
Over the ten years since the census of 1851, we can see the family added 3 children:
“Catharin” – aged 10 years, born in Dundee
James – aged 8 years, born in Newburgh, Fifeshire
Sarah, aged 6 years, born in Dundee.
Catharin presents a little bit of a problem – family lore says that John Scott had a sister named “Christina” and we have a photo of her. Between 1851 and 1855, in the Church records, I can find no Catharin or Catharine or other forms of spelling born to a James Scott and Elizabeth in all of Scotland.
Nor can I find a Christina. But we’ll get to her in a later census.
We move on to the next child: James.
No record in all of Scotland Church records for a James Scott born to James and Elizabeth Scott.
How about Sarah?
Boom! Our sleuthing has paid off this time:
This record is very hard to read, but it’s the record that helps to tie up some things.
It records the birth of Sarah Adamson Scott, born on 12th of January 1855 to James Scott, 47 years old, a Cooper born in St. Monance, and Elizabeth Scott, born at Burntisland.
Why A Record For Sarah?
Finding this record for Sarah, and noting the lack of birth records for the previous children lends support in my opinion, that this family left the Presbyterian Church – but more research on the Brethren Fellowship and its beginnings in Scotland would be helpful.
However, in 1855, civil registration of births became mandatory in Scotland. Sarah agreed to be born just 12 days after this registration became mandatory, allowing us to have a peek and confirm more about the family in Dundee.
If anyone wants to have a go at completely deciphering the birth record, I’d be forever grateful! I’ll leave it for another day; I think though we have the important parts done.
1871 Census Elizabeth Scott & Family
By 1871, if not in the same house (the addresses on census records can be confusing for some neighbourhoods), this same Scott family was shrinking and at least living in the same neighbourhood. They are listed at 5 Stewart’s Court, Dundee.
Elizabeth, born at Burntisland is living with the youngest three of her children. As we know, John had been married in 1869, two years earlier. One anomaly is that the person listed as “Catharin” on the previous census is now Christine. She’s working as a “Power Loom Weaver,” James is an Iron Turner, and 16 year old Sarah is a “Sewer In Boot Factory.”
1881 Census Elizabeth Scott & Family
I have not been able to locate Elizabeth, James, Christina, or Sarah in the 1881 census; further research is required as time permits. However, it’s very possible they moved away from Stewart’s Court – photos from 1876 show it appears to be quite a dilapidated area. At some point it was demolished, but I’m not sure of the exact date at this time of writing.
Both James and Christina may have moved on – and in fact, as mentioned, we seem to have a photo of Christina in the early 20th century, in Newport, Fifeshire. We’ll save that for a post on her life.
1891 Census Elizabeth Scott & Family
In 1891, we find Elizabeth residing with her daughter Sarah at 18 Craigie Street, Dundee:
Sarah is now 36 years old, unmarried, and working apparently as a self-employed “Mantle Maker.”
I note that there is a Margaret Scott, married listed next door – I don’t know at this point if she is related, perhaps the wife of Elizabeth’s son James Scott who may not have been present when the census was taken.
1901 Census Elizabeth Scott & Family
When the 1901 census took place, Elizabeth is now age 89. Her daughter Sarah continues to reside with her, now at 24 Arbroath Road. This address will be very important when looking at what I think is her death registration.
Sarah appears to remain self-employed, but now as a Draper, working from home.
Death of Elizabeth Scott
I found this record and almost discarded it as being for the Elizabeth Scott we are interested in here. Do you see a big problem with this?
It was not until I spent time looking at census records and trying to do math calculations, trying to understand different things, that I am now almost certain it is the death record for Elizabeth Scott, married to James Scott, and the mother of John Scott (my great-great-grandfather).
If it is the record, then there is most certainly a major mistake on it, which may be what has thrown others off in their Scott Family history research.
On the other hand, I may have made mistakes along the way in looking at census records, children, etc and am incorrect. But I’m pretty certain the mistake was made at the time of the death registration.
The death informant was Elizabeth’s son, John Scott (of an address I have not seen before – 25 Bonnybank Road. The registar however, has also recorded Elizabeth’s father’s name as John Scott. But we know from all of the other documentation, this cannot be true.
But we can also note that Elizabeth’s mother is correctly recorded as Elizabeth Cunningham, her husband, deceased as James Scott, a Cooper, her father’s occupation (Cooper), and the age all match.
Assuming I have correctly examined the census records, the address of Elizabeth when she died also matches the address on the census earlier in the year – 24 Arbroath Road.
The Chances OF Being Wrong About This Death Registration
There is an outside chance that this Elizabeth Scott is not the Elizabeth we’re interested in – but you’d have to find me an Elizabeth Scott, born to John Scott and Elizabeth Cunningham, who married a James Scott, and who resided with a daughter Sarah over the years in Dundee with census records that have matching birth ages, and a son named John Scott. And her father John Scott and her husband James Scott were both Coopers. And, she was born in 1811 in Burntisland.
I can’t account for a major mistake being made – but perhaps there was confusion – there often is at the time of a death. Perhaps the Registrar was confused, and John Scott, when he signed it, didn’t examine it closely. There may have also been confusion at the time; Elizabeth Scott’s husband – James Scott did have a father that was named John Scott (married to Mary Marr).
If you can see where I may have gone wrong, please leave a comment and point it out!
There is also other research to be done; I’m very interested in knowing about the history of the Brethren movement in Dundee and Fife – could this be the reason we cannot find church birth/baptism records for some of the children? Some other reason crosses your mind? Other research that would be interesting?
Leave a comment below.
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