My DNA Story

A couple of months ago I took an Ancestry DNA test. The results came back last week. I have a whole load of matches that will be useful in my research including a second cousin on my dad’s side. Some of the matches will take a lot more work to find the connection but I’m optimistic that it will prove worthwhile.

A lot of people take the test just to trace their ethnic origins. You can see my findings in the picture above. Not the most exotic mix but pretty much what I expected.

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Elizabeth Keenan 1866-1950

My great aunt Elizabeth Keenan was born on 22 March 1866 at 15 Furnace Row, Newmains, Lanarkshire. She was the 6th child of Patrick Keenan and Agnes Haughey and the elder sister of my mother’s maternal grandmother, Ellen Keenan. I have previously posted about her sisters Margaret and Mary.

The records show that Elizabeth married John Armit in 4 February 1887 and together they had 10 children. It wasn’t until I was researching Margaret at the Lanarkshire Heritage Centre that I discovered another chapter of Elizabeth’s story. Margaret was recorded as a pauper on her death record prompting me to check the Poor Relief Application Register. On looking through the index I was surprised to find Elizabeth as well as Margaret.

On 20 September 1886 Elizabeth, who at that time was living with her parents at 14 Furnace Row, made an application for poor relief. A home visit was made by the inspector on 22 September. Elizabeth is recorded as single, Roman Catholic and her occupation is given as “bleachfield worker”.

I had assumed that Elizabeth spent her whole life in Newmains however this information from the application shows otherwise.

“She states that she went to Foxbar Bleachfields when 13 years of age and came home to Newmains for 3 weeks, a month, sometimes 2 months every year.”

It is hard to imagine a 13 year old child being sent away from home to work in the horrible conditions of the bleachfields. Bleachfields were originally an open area of land used for spreading cloth and fabrics on the ground to be bleached by the sun and water. Bleachfields became redundant shortly after the discovery of chlorine in the late 18th century however, many of the factories bleaching with chlorine continued to be called bleachfields. Paisley had a thriving textile industry and Foxbar bleachfields employed many young females from across the country.

On a visit home to Newmains, Elizabeth fell pregnant. The reason given for her application was “confinement “. Having just given birth Elizabeth was forced to seek financial support for herself and her baby. Under a section for other info on the register the following is recorded:

“putative father John Armit, furnace filler residing in Main Street, Newmains”

Elizabeth was offered admittance to the Poorhouse but there is no corresponding admittance number so I assume she refused and stayed at home. It was not uncommon for the authorities to offer admittance to the house instead of financial assistance as a way of discouraging applications.

Happily she went on to marry John Armit and the two were together until his death in 1944. Elizabeth died aged 84 in 1950.

Grizel Rae 1852-1858 & Robert Rae 1854-1857

Grizel Rae was the eldest child of my 3 x great grandparents, Thomas Rae and Ann Symington. Robert was their second child. I only discovered their existence when I stumbled upon their death records. They were born and died between censuses so I would not find them there. They were both born before the start of civil registration so I’m struggling even to find their birth dates.

They were born in Ayrshire or I assume so as their parents were married in Dalmellington in 1851. Robert was just three years old when he died on 16 April 1857. The cause of death was chincough which is another name for whooping cough.

The following year Thomas and Ann lost six year old Grizel who drowned at Garlaff in Ayrshire. I have tried to find further information on her death but have so far been unsuccessful. I had hoped to find a newspaper article.

Robert is buried in Patna Churchyard whereas Grizel is in Cumnock showing that the family must have moved some time between their deaths. Their sister Ann was born in April 1858 in Old Cumnock.

Thomas and Ann had eight children (that I know of) and it’s sad that none of the surviving children knew or had any memory of Grizel and Robert. Ann and Thomas must have been affected by the loss. Robert’s death from illness is tragic but perhaps Grizel died as the result of an avoidable accident for which they may have felt responsible.

A Farewell Party

I have previously posted about Patrick Brawley and how he left Scotland in 1907 for a new life in America. I recently found this newspaper article published on 27 March 1907 about a farewell party held in his honour at the Cooperative Hall in Newmains.

I’d love to know who those 50 couples were and if the Miss O’Neill who did the singing was the same one with whom Patrick had a child. His daughter Mary was born in 1903 but was raised by his elder brother, Matthew.

And was Patrick the P Brawley who sang or was it one of the many Brawley cousins who lived in Newmains at that time?

It sound like a good time was had and it’s nice to find a happy family story. I just wish there were pictures along with the article.

Patrick Brawley 1884-1956

Patrick Brawley was born in Newmains, Lanarkshire on 22 May 1884.  His parents were James Brawley (Born about 1837)  and Sarah McLaughlan (Born about 1839).  He was the youngest of ten children and was born 27 years after his eldest sibling, John. By the time Patrick was born James and Sarah had lost two children.  Patrick (born 1873) and Matthew (born 1875) both died of scarlet fever in October 1876.  The family were employed in the local iron works and lived in accommodation provided by their employer.  The family home in Brown Street would have offered little in the way of luxury. In 1887 young Patrick saw two of his brothers, Daniel (born 1864), my great grandfather and James (born 1866) leave Scotland for new lives in America.  In 1888 brother Hugh (born 1869) did the same.  This would obviously have had an influence on a little boy seeing his brothers leave him and his world behind. By the 1891 census Patrick was living with his parents, brother Matthew (born 1877) and sister Elizabeth (born 1861) along with Elizabeth’s husband, Charles McCafferty.

Tragedy struck the family in 1892 when brother John died of a fractured skull at his home in Newmains and again in 1895 when Hugh Brawley was killed in a mining accident in Pennsylvania.

In the 1901 census Patrick was still living with his parents and was employed as a steel dresser. James and Sarah had now lost four of their sons and it would be easy to imagine that as the only son still living at home Patrick may have been a bit spoiled. Sister Elizabeth was still at home but not with her husband.  Patrick’s 5 year old niece, Sarah, was also living in the house.

In 1903 19 year old Patrick became a father when neighbour, Mary O’Neill gave birth to their daughter, Mary on 24 December.  The child was registered with the surname Brawley and Patrick signed the register.  She was baptised as Mary O’Neill on 8 February 1904 in St Brigid’s Church in Newmains.  Both parents are listed on the register. Despite acknowledging his daughter it would seem that Patrick had no intention of settling down to a quiet family life.

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From St Brigid’s Parish Baptismal Register

In 1907 he too headed for America arriving in New York on 2 April 1907 on board the SS Columbia.  He headed initially to stay with brother James, who by this time was living in Rock Springs in Sweetwater County, Wyoming. In 1913 Patrick married a widow, Mary Bates whom I believe had the maiden name McCrorie. According to the Rock Springs newspaper at the time they were married in a quiet ceremony. Mary had two children, Mary and Roy and in all future records the two are listed as Patrick’s children. Strange that he should end up with a wife and daughter called Mary after leaving the two Marys behind in Scotland.

Patrick did not remain in Wyoming. On his WW1 Draft Registration he was working as a pressman for DuPont de Nemours in Pomton Lakes, Passaic, New Jersey.

Patrick returned to Scotland at least once. In 1922 he visited along with his wife and the two children. By that time both of his parents had died and I have no way of knowing if he ever spent time with daughter, Mary who was brought up by his brother Matthew and wife, Mary Hagan.  Maybe he wanted to show off to the family left at home as by 1922 he was living in New York and I get the impression that’s what he dreamed of all along. Not for Patrick the backbreaking work in the mines or ironworks.  He had found a job as a barber which suggests he was quite a sociable character.  His home on 6th Avenue, Brooklyn was rented and they didn’t own a radio set! (Great census question I think)

The 1940 census shows that Patrick was unemployed and seeking work but fortunately this didn’t last too long as by 1942 according to his WW2 draft registration he was working in sales for Refined Syrups in Yonkers.  Again sales a sales job indicates he might have been quite outgoing. He’s described as 5’10 1/2 and 168lbs with brown eyes and dark hair.

I lose track of Patrick after that. The next record I found was his death record. He died on 18 September 1956 in Brooklyn, New York.

Margaret Keenan 1868-1886

My 2nd great aunt, Margaret Keenan was just 18 years old when she died on 18 September 1886. She was the 7th child of Irish immigrants, Patrick Keenan and Agnes Haughey and the closest in age to my great grandmother, Ellen Keenan. Ellen was my mother’s paternal grandmother. She was also the sister of Mary Keenan about whom I posted recently.

Margaret was born in the Parish of Cambusnethan on 16 March 1868. She appears on both the 1871 and 1881 census records living with her family in Newmains. The next record I found for her was her death record which shows she died within her family home at 14 Furnace Row, Newmains. Her mother, Agnes was present at the time of death and it was she who registered the death using an X as her mark in lieu of a signature.

It is the word “pauper” on the record written where her occupation should be recorded that caught my eye. Being recorded as a pauper meant that she had to have applied for poor relief at some point.

The poor relief applications for Cambusnethan Parish are held at the Lanarkshire Heritage Centre in Motherwell. On request, the very helpful staff will bring you the original registers which often contain information not available elsewhere.

In the case of Margaret, I discovered that she applied for poor relief at 230pm on 7 April 1885. I would imagine that for a 17 year old girl bring interviewed by the poor house inspector would have been a very daunting prospect.

On the register Margaret is recorded as single with no dependants. Her occupation is given as bleachfield worker and her religion as Roman Catholic.

Per the normal procedure, a home visit was carried out by the inspector who visited 14 Furnace Row at 1115am on 8 April.

Furnace Row, Newmains

I don’t know if having a poorhouse inspector visiting your home would have been a cause for shame. Had the family tried to provide for Margaret until they could no longer manage?

The register also lists previous addresses. Margaret had been at Furnace Row for two years. Prior to that, in her early teens, she had lived away from home at a bleachfield works in Paisley. The fact that she had been home for two years away from the bleachfields would suggest that she had been dependant on her parents for some time.

The inspector assessed Margaret as wholly disabled due to strumous disease. I had no idea what that might be but an online search showed it to be scrofula; a disease with glandular swelling, probably a form of tuberculosis. You can check online. It’s a nasty disease.

The decision from the inspector was to provide Margaret with 2/6. Payments of 1/6 were to continue but at some point she was admitted to Motherwell Poorhouse. I’m relieved at least that she did not die there but was at home with her family.

An Epidemic- Patrick COSGROVE 1866-1901

This is the story of my great grandfather, Patrick Cosgrove.  He is my maternal grandmother’s father. He was born in, Killoe County Longford in Ireland in January 1863 to Peter Cosgrove  (1832-1893) and Catherine Mullervy (1939-1910). Patrick was one of at least ten siblings.

  • Anne Born 1867
  • James Born 1869
  • Francis Born 1871
  • Peter Born 1874
  • Catherine Born 1875
  • Michael Born 1876
  • John Born 1878
  • Elizabeth Born 1880
  • Joseph Born 1883

I know that Francis was born in Longford and that Catherine was born in Lanarkshire but I don’t know for sure about Peter so at some point between 1871 and 1875 the family left Ireland and settled in Scotland.  Their family home was at 18 Furnace Row, Newmains, Lanarkshire which is where the five younger children were born.  The town that they left was Ballincurry in the parish of Killoe.

Having left Ireland for a better life, the family faced some horrendous times.  I can find no record of Francis in Scotland so I can only assume that he died very young.  Perhaps it was the circumstances of his death that caused the family to leave Ireland.  This was not, however, the end of the heartache.

Baby Peter died on 20 March 1875.  The cause of death was recorded as measles. Catherine was only a month old at the time.  She died on 21 January 1876 followed closely by Anne on 1 February and James on 5 February.  Three children dead within just over two weeks.  The cause of death is recorded as whooping cough. Catherine would have been pregnant at the time.  Son Michael was born in September 1876 but died less than four years later on 3 June 1880.  The cause of death was scarlet fever.  Joseph died on 2 April 1884 at 13 months old.  The cause of death was gastritis.

So it was amidst all this tragedy and death that Patrick was raised.  The family remained in Furnace Row and in the 1881 census Patrick was working as a coalminer while his father was a labourer.

By 1884 Patrick had left home and was living in Lochee, Angus.  It was there while he was working as a labourer and living at 44 Whorterbank, Lochee that he married my great grandmother, Sarah Helferty on 3 December 1888.  Sarah was born in Glasgow to Irish parents, Arthur Helferty and Mary Wilkinson. She had moved to Lochee to work in the jute mills

I recently visited the Verdant Works Museum in Dundee which is housed in a former jute mill. It gives a real insight into the lives that my great grandparents would have lived, albeit for quite a short time. There was a large community of Irish immigrants in Lochee as they were prepared to work in poor conditions for low pay. Jute was still a thriving industry and there were plenty of jobs to be had. The Irish had a reputation for rowdy, drunken behaviour and the women were very much in charge due to them being, by far, the majority of the workforce. In many households the woman was the breadwinner while the husband stayed at home to look after the children. This was not the case for Sarah and Patrick as at that time they were childless.

By 1891 the couple were back living in Newmains at 27 Furnace Row.  On the census Patrick is again recorded as a labourer.

On 16 July 1900 the couple’s only child was born in Glasgow – a daughter, Catherine.  Sadly, less than 7 months later, on 10 February 1901, Patrick died in Belvidere Hospital, Glasgow during the smallpox epidemic.  His death record shows that he had not been vaccinated against the disease.

At that time vaccination was compulsory only for infants but even that was not strictly enforced. There was some opposition to vaccination but I imagine that my great grandfather didn’t give it much thought. There were some 2500 cases of smallpox in Glasgow between January 1901 and May 1902.

The original admittance register for Belvidere Hospital is available to view at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. It shows that Patrick was admitted to the hospital from Weaver Street Receiving House which, I have been told, was to help cope with the amount of patients requiring hospital admission. On his arrival at Belvidere on 1 February 1901 Patrick was already very ill.

It’s heartbreaking that my granny never knew her father. I hope that her mother, Sarah, talked about him and told her about happier times.

John Brawley 1857-1892

John Brawley was born on 12 June 1857 at Calderbraes, Old Monkland, Lanarkshire. He was my 2nd great uncle and the eldest child of my great, great grandparents, Sarah McLaughlin and James Brawley. His brother Daniel was my mother’s paternal grandfather.

For the first few years of his life the family moved around as James’ work dictated. The 1861 census shows the family in Newmains followed by periods in Old Monkland and Ayrshire. By the 1871 census the family are back in Newmains.

On 12 July 1877 John married Roseanne McGuinness. The couple had four children

  • James Born 1881
  • Sarah Born 1885
  • Daniel Born 1888
  • John Born 1890

Like many others in my family, John lived in Furnace Row, Newmains. This photograph from North Lanarkshire Heritage shows the row with the Works in the background. A mineral railway runs immediately behind the row. (I would love to know who are the people in the picture.)


John was employed as a furnace tube cleaner at Coltness Ironworks. The local newspapers would regularly report on accidents at the works and this article describes what happened to John.

There was indeed a fatal result. John died on 2 March 1892 as a result of his injuries. Surprisingly he did not die in hospital but at his own home. The cause of death is recorded as a fracture to the base of the skull. He was 34 years old.

Roseann remarried the following year. She and her second husband, James Farrell had a daughter, Margaret in 1894. Roseann died in 1932.

Mary Keenan 1857-1885

My 2nd great aunt, Mary Keenan was born on 23 August 1857 at Old Monkland, Lanarkshire. Her sister, Ellen was my mother’s paternal grandmother.

Mary was the first of ten children of Patrick Keenan and Agnes Haughey. The next two siblings were born in Shotts but by 1862 the family had settled in Newmains.

Mary found work as a brickfield worker, a physically demanding and low paid job. She met coal miner, Peter McGarrell and on 21 October 1879 their son, John McGarrell was born. The child was illegitimate and while Peter acknowledged paternity on the birth register the couple never married and Mary and her new baby remained at home with her parents and siblings. Without the support of a husband Mary would have had to greatly rely on her mother and sisters for support.


She did go on to find love and on 24 April 1883 she married John O’Donnell. Mary discovered that she was pregnant and now that she was a respectable married woman this must have been a cause for celebration.

Tragically complications in the pregnancy led to peuperal fever and septicaemia and on 26 November 1885 Mary died. She was 28 years old. There is no record of a birth.

Her son John returned to live with his grandparents. I do not know if he had any further contact with his father or stepfather.

A Narrow Escape – Hugh Brawley and Catherine Cosgrove 

I found this newspaper article dated Monday 10 August 1953 while researching my maternal grandparents, Hugh Brawley and Catherine Cosgrove. The fact that they’d been involved in a train derailment was something I’d never heard before but it must have been pretty big news in the family at the time. Hugh and Catherine had been visiting their son, Daniel in Luton, Bedfordshire.

The picture isn’t very clear but the article focuses on two Yorkshire men who assisted in rescuing passengers from the train. Information from the Railway Archives tells us the events surrounding the accident.

Report on the Derailment which occurred on the 8th August 1953 near Abington in the Scottish Region British Railways

“The 10am Down express passenger train from Euston to Glasgow (the “Royal Scot”) comprising 13 bogie coaches, hauled by a Pacific type engine, was running about 60mph on the northward descent from the Beattock summit. As it emerged from a shallow cutting, rather less than a mile beyond Abington station, the track buckled laterally under its passage, with the result that the last seven coaches were derailed. The 7th, 8th and 9th came to rest upright and practically undamaged. They were in close line with the front portion of the train which was still on the rails ahead of them, but the 10th became uncoupled and fell on its side about 200 yards further back; this coach was again separated by about 150 yards from the day three which remained coupled together, with the 11th and 12th also overturned to the left, and the rear brake van partially overturned to the right diagonally across the two tracks. Damage to the three overturned passenger coaches was remarkably light in the circumstances, and there were no very serious injuries. Nineteen of the 312 passengers in the train and a dining car attendant were taken to hospital, and 7 of the passengers were detained; 17 others sustained minor injuries or shock.”

The newspaper article lists those detained including my grandmother.

My grandfather was also injured but refused to go to hospital thus missing out on the £150 compensation payment that followed!