Saturday 21 February 2015

Walter Hindmarsh - using enlightened Scottish records for an Englishman

Walter Hindmarsh, like his father and brothers, was a shepherd.  Unlike his brothers who walked the Northumberland hills he left England and hopped the border to Scotland.
Walter was born to William Hindmarsh and Margaret Grieve in a Northumberland farm.  The family home was called Carshope, in Alwinton Parish just south of the England/ Scotland border; he was baptised in January 1792 which wasn't too long after his birth when comparing it with census returns.
I knew from various sources including this one:
Inserted here by desire the children to William Hindmarsh and Margaret Grieve his wife in Carshope, Parish of Alwinton
William son born 7/10/1790
Walter son born 20/1/1792
Thomas son born 6/1/1794
Elizabeth daughter born 25/11/1795
Adam son born 1/10/1797
Jane daughter born 29/4/1802
Alexander son born 29/5/1805
All baptised Harbottle
that Walter was one of seven brothers, but so far I've only been able to confirm the names of five of them: William, Walter, Thomas, Alexander and John (John was noted elsewhere as the 7th son).  They also had two sisters, Elizabeth and Jane; Jane is my great-great-great grandmother. 
Photo of Alwinton, Northumberland, by Peter Reed
I have been using FindMyPast to search for my Northumberland family over the last couple of months.  Their specific record set of transcriptions by Northumberland and Durham Family History Society was one of the reasons I took out a subscription and it's been fantastically helpful.  But sadly I drew a blank on Walter and feared he'd died young.  However I tried searching for him on Ancestry and up popped a reference to an English couple called Walter and Isabella Hindmarsh, living in Morebattle parish, Roxburgh county in south Scotland.
Although this reference came from Ancestry in Utah it says that it had been transcribed from source, the General Register Office for Scotland. However there was no scan of the original document.  This, then, was a job for the Scotland's People website.
Photo of a Scotland's People card
Although I'm English, by the time I took up family history I was living in Scotland.  It was pre-internet (olden days!) so I didn't have access to any online resources or any English ones at all so I spent a few fascinating pre-motherhood years learning about my husband's Scottish family from occasional day-trips to the GRO in Edinburgh and a few visits to Argyll.
After a few years away from genealogy my interest was kick-started again and I had the chance to use sites such as Genes Reunited, Ancestry and more recently FindMyPast.
But whether paper or pixels, it's a huge shock working with English records after you're used to working with Scottish ones.  The amount of information provided is so much greater - so much more useful - in Scottish records.
So I found my uncle Walter in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 Scottish census returns, just as I would for his brothers in the English returns, and on Scotland's People could [pay credits to] view a scan of the original document.  But I could find no record of his marriage to Isabella and could not prove that Morebattle Walter and Alwinton Walter were one and the same man. In both England and Scotland at that pre-census time there was no formal registration so I will have to search through parish/non-conformist registers to find their marriage.
In 1841 William and Isabella were barely over the border in Scotland - Kelsocleugh Farm sits in the strange lumpy borders landscape just north of English Alwinton and the Northumberland National Park. There was also another family living at that farm, William Hall and his family.
Towards Morbattle, by Keith Holmes on Flickr
The 1851 census for Morebattle describes William as an Ag Lab (Agricultural Labourer) and with him and Isabella live a married Ag Lab servant called James Young and an unmarried house servant called Agnes Hall.
Isabella was older than Walter and she died some point between the 1851 and 1861 censuses, I haven't yet identified when and where.
In 1861 Walter is living with his domestic servant called Margaret Fiddes in Yetholm, at the Cross Keys.
And then I hit the jackpot: I found Walter's death certificate.
View of hills from Kirk Yetholm,
photo by Andrew Bowden
Most obligingly for my purposes, Walter had died in Scotland, specifically in the ancient town of Kirk Yetholm 
Interestingly Kirk Yetholm is on some main roads to England (see this Old Roads of Scotland website) so if he wasn't driving sheep along them, he perhaps trudged or rode them to find work.
Walter didn't make it to the 1871 census.  He died on the fourth of November 1869 at 8am, after being ill for three years with a cerebral spinal disease.  Curiously Margaret Fiddes, the informant, who was present at his death, had her relation to him noted as Inmate.  Looking back at the census returns to write this blog post I see that a Margaret Fiddes was a female servant on Kelsocleugh Farm back in 1841 and his domestic servant in  in 1861. Intriguing....  I'm catching myself looking at the certificate again, seriously wondering if it says Intimate, not Inmate.  Maybe she was just a very loyal servant.
And the identifying on the certificate of Walter's late wife as Isabella Hindmarsh, maiden surname Hall, would suggest that their 1841 neighbours on that farm were Isabella's brother and his family.
But the key piece of information that I was looking for was the names of his parents: father, William Hindmarsh, shepherd (deceased) and Margaret Hindmarsh, maiden surname Grieve (deceased). Proof.  All that information (and more) from one death certificate, it's amazing. Even the English certificates I've spent a tenner on ordering have nothing as comprehensive as this.
My favourite piece of information is definitely the mother's maiden surname - what respect for women, acknowledging they had an identity pre-marriage!
© Original text copyright Lynne Black, 21 February 2015


  1. Scottish records post 1855 have spoiled me for many other countries. Welcome to our community. I know you'll love it.

    1. Thanks Schalene! I know what you mean, it's such a gift.

  2. Absolutely LOVE Scottish records -have no idea why people are so reluctant to spend a few bob...the price of tea/coffee at SP.

    1. I know! And being there in person is really useful for researching round the family, siblings not just your particular ancestor, you can get so much family context.

  3. I live in the Scottish Borders so found your post particularly interesting. It is so frustrating, that in unlike Scottish records, English marriage and death certificates do not give the name of both parents - a policy that has resulted in my major brick wall!

    1. Thanks Sue. It's just plain manners, isn't it!?

    2. Hahaha! I've got similar brick walls to Sue's because of no mother's name. It's frustrating.

  4. Thanks all, glad you liked it. (I can't find my password to get back into Google so I'll just reply from my Wordpress account.)

  5. Thanks all, glad you liked it. [Sorry I couldn't reply yesterday - have forgotten my Google account info!]

  6. Thanks for the reminder about Northumberland and Durham Family History Society records on FMP - I've been neglecting my northern England ancestors recently. I wonder if any of their relatives wandered over the border like yours? I must say I'm envious of those detailed Scottish records...

    1. You're welcome! Defiantly worth a try. Even if you don't have access to Scotland's People census details, Ancestry have the names listed which may help.

  7. I loved how you told his story and the pictures took me right there in the Land. I'm one of those who love to find her Women Ancestors names. It is so important. All that information right there on a death certificate. I like to think she was "Intimate" instead of "Inmate" myself. I have a Grandmother that was a Glace I'm not sure if she is English or Welsh? I'll be so glad when I can find a document Across the Pond. Lovely Story. I laughed quite a bit on the "Tenners"!!!

    1. Thanks, True! I've since been trying to piece together Margaret's story - and decided I'd like to write her story as a book! But then I had my day job and family stuff to do and the notion passed. Maybe I'll come back to her.....

  8. I don't know about Scottish records yet, but in Canadian records "inmate" means "lodger" or "roomer" or whatever your term is for someone who rents a room in another persons house. It can be used in just a renting a room situation or at boarding houses, or at live-in factories,as I've found so far. Maybe it's the same sort of thing? Her living quarters in the house are part of her pay but she's not family so she's listed as an inmate? ( that's how she would show up on a Canadian census - does Scotland do the same thing?) I'm American but I've been researching a slew of Ancestors who lived in Canada recently. Most of them came from Scotland, so it's encouraging to read that Sotland has good records!

    1. Jo, thanks for your explanation of the term 'inmate'. I had not come across it as meaning a lodger or similar.

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  10. I'd love to mention this story in my talk 'Look Beyond the Border', which currently doesn't include a Scottish example. Most Australian death certificates (unlike those for England) have a huge amount of biographical data, and our death and marriage certificates include parents' names with mother's maiden name. It is therefore worth considering whether a sibling or cousin could have died in Australia. A list of details shown on Australian birth, death and marriage certificates (or at least, those for the most densely populated eastern States) is on


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