The Case of George Irvine – An Enigma Wrapped in a Conundrum

My cousin Pamela Gaull posted some comments on my recent blog post about one of our common ancestors, Mary Jane Gaull. In one of her comments Pamela pointed out that George Irvine, born George Gaull, had listed his father as being George Irvine on his marriage registration. Pamela makes a valid point in suggesting that the father of the twins could have been a man named George Irvine just as ‘young’ George listed on his marriage registration.

It got me to thinking about George and what we really know about him from the records found to date. So here is my analysis of those records and the questions that I still have lingering in my mind.

We know from George’s birth registration that he was born on February 8, 1860 at Whitehaugh, Chapel of Garioch, Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom. George was one of two twin boys, the other being John Gaull, and their mother was Mary Jane Gaull. The births were registered by the twins’ grandfather, Mary Jane’s father, John Gaull on February 28, 1860 at Chapel of Garioch. The births were registered as being “illegitimate” and no father is named for the boys. According to the birth registration, George was born at 3:00 A.M. and his twin brother John was born at 4:00 A.M.

We know from the 1861 Census of Scotland that George was ‘boarded’ out to the family of James and Isabella Hooey who lived in nearby Inverurie. James and Isabella Hooey (the spelling of this surname was offered as Howie in the Will of the twins’ grandfather John Gaull) were not a childless couple in search of a child, for the same census that records George ‘boarding’ with them also records that the Hooey’s had three daughters living with them in the household. These daughters were aged 22, 15 and 12.

Were the Hooey’s (or Howie’s) in search of a son? I don’t know. James Hooey was recorded as being 47 years old in 1861 and his wife Isabella was recorded as being 48 years old at the same time. Given the age of their youngest daughter in 1861, that is 12, the Hooey’s would have been 35 and 36 when that daughter was born respectively, therefore young enough to have had additional children. Their youngest daughter would have been born about 1849 thus pre-dating civil registration in Scotland. Each of the three Hooey daughters recorded in the 1861 census record are recorded as being born in Aberdeenshire suggesting a likely long-term residency for the family in the county. Yet the Old Parish Registers, Catholic Registers and the civil registrations do not provide any additional Hooey children either being born or having died. There were 39 births registered between 1835 – 1854 under the surname of Howie but none with the parents recorded as James and Isabella.

It is in my view then still a mystery as to why George, the oldest of the twins, was ‘boarded’ out. I also can find no record suggesting that there was a financial transaction involved in the ‘boarding’ out of George.

There is evidence that the family kept ‘tabs’ on George though. For example, in his Will, dated December 3rd, 1892, Mary Jane Gaull’s father, John Gaull refers to his acknowledged grandson George as “George Gaull sometimes named George Howie [or Heowie], sometimes George Irvine.” John Gaull, the grandfather, directed that one hundred British pounds sterling be paid to George from his estate. Clearly, John Gaull knew of George’s surname change(s).

In all of the records I have reviewed, it seems that there are only two likely candidates as the father of the twin boys. Alexander Glennie, the man who married Mary Jane Gaull just a few months after she gave birth to the twins, and George Irvine, the man named by twin George (Gaull) Irvine on his marriage registration in 1883. I am not convinced however that there is evidence, meeting the Genealogical Proof Standard, for a determination that either man is their father.

The only evidence in favour of the case for Alexander Glennie is the circumstance of his marrying Mary Jane Gaull six months after she gave birth to the twins. However, there is no evidence that Alexander accepted Mary’s child John and assisted in raising the boy. In the 1871 Census of Scotland, Alexander and Mary Glennie are found residing at Tillyfro in Cluny whereas the then eleven year old John Gaull is residing with his grandparents John and Mary Gaull in Chapel of Garioch. In 1881, the twin John Gaull was still living with his grandfather who by then was widowed.  
Both of the twin boys were married in 1883. John Gaull married Harriet McKenzie on June 15th at New Inn in Cluny and George (Gaull) Irvine married Isabella Watt on December 5th  at 48 High Street in Airdrie. As was required, both of the twins were asked to provide information about their parents as part of the registration process for their marriages.

John did not provide a name for his father, rather he simply indicated his mother to be “Mary Gaull married since birth of Bridegroom to Alexander Glennie and now his widow.” Twin brother George however provided the names of his father as George Irvine, a farm servant, and his mother as “Mary Irvine MS [maiden surname] Gall.” Aside from the misspelling of the Gaull surname on George’s marriage registration, it is known that his mother Mary did not marry, and was not married at the time of George’s marriage, to a man named George Irvine. John’s marriage registration recording of his parent’s names is accurate whereas George’s is not accurate with respect to the recorded marriage of his stated parents. That Mary Gaull and George Irvine never married is fact however, that fact in and of itself does not rule out the possibility that a man named George Irvine was the father of the twins George and John Gaull.

In order to determine if George Irvine is possibly the father of the twins, it is necessary to find a man named George Irvine who was of an age and living in close enough proximity of Mary Gaull to be the father. There were six men named George Irvine living in Aberdeenshire in 1861, the year following the birth of the twins when the census was taken. One of these was just one year old in 1861 so he can be ruled out as the possible father. Two other men are unlikely to be the father because of their age; one was 77 years old in 1861 and the other was 55 years old and while they might have had the potential for fathering children, it is unlikely they would have been in an intimate relationship with a 22 year-old Mary Jane Gaull. 

Two of the remaining three men were of the ‘right’ age, one was 27 years old in 1861 so would have been about 25 in 1859 when Mary became pregnant but he lived in Fraserburgh, about 37 miles away. The other man was 23 years old in 1861 so he would have been about 21 years old when Mary became pregnant, that is, he was the ‘right’ age for a relationship with Mary but he lived in Foveran, a distance of more than 20 miles away. I think both of these men can be ruled out of fathering the twins because they don’t appear to have been living close enough to Mary to have been in a relationship with her.

This leaves only one George Irvine, who was recorded as being 20 years old in 1861 so would have been about 18 or 19 years old in 1859. This George Irvine lived in Old Meldrum, a distance of about seven and one-half miles away. He is also recorded as having be born in Chapel of Garioch so was familiar with the town and many of it’s families. Of all the George Irvines in Aberdeenshire at the time, this man appears to be the most likely candidate to be the father identified by George Gaull Irvine. 

In addition to being about the right age and living in close proximity to Mary Gaull, this George Irvine was a farm servant, just as George Gaull Irvine would record for his father’s occupation on his marriage registration. George Irvine, the possible father, is recorded in the 1861 Census of Scotland as being a ploughman servant to David Philip, a farmer of 197 acres.

Unfortunately that is where the evidence seems to end. I am still left with two possible fathers for the twin boys, George and John Gaull. I have found no record in which John Gaull states the name of his father and the only record found to date in which George states the name of his father is his marriage registration. But that recording of the father’s name is built around a fabricated marriage between his mother Mary Gaull and a man named George Irvine.

My cousin Pamela might be right. A man named George Irvine could be the father of the twins. But until additional records are found, I am of the opinion that we can’t definitively determine the identity of the father of the twin boys John and George Gaull. We can only determine good possibilities.
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2 thoughts on “The Case of George Irvine – An Enigma Wrapped in a Conundrum

  1. I will find the time soon to share with you. I am at present 'locked out ' of my laptop. However I am sure if I sift through the Scotland's People downloads I shall find it all. A young lad called George Irvine was a farm worker in Old Meldrum at the time and his,father was the blacksmith in Chapel of Garioch where Mary Christie lived with her parents. My father always told us that the Irvines were part of the family a couple of generations back and that there were twins to the Irvines. I concentrated on this when doing research as this was my main reason for doing it. Also Alex Glennie won't be the father as he and Mary had a child called John later, so very unlikely to name a child after one still living. I also was researching the origin of the unusually spelt Gaull which is a nuisance as I am always having to spell it to people. My father said it was made up after the split in the family caused by the birth of,the twins. In fact Mary Jane and her father John were in fact Gauld. It was only after the birth of the twins that her name was Gaull and her father seemed to adopt it too instead of Gauld the real family name. However in those days spelling wasn't so important in names as today. From friends I have over 80 especially I know a few who were 'given' away for convenience. One whose father was killed and her mother finding a new husband just took her to a friend and left her. In the days of Mary Jane this might not have been so unusual for a family . I would imagine her proud father would have been all right to take on the second born twin bearing his name but would have drawn the line at one called after the seducer of his daughter. Mary Jane would have been glad of escaping from her parents' strict household and to be taken in by an older man of means. He would in turn have been glad of a healthy young woman to assist homon the farm and bear him offspring. Those,were days of survival and required a couple to run homes and especially farms. Reading between the lines Mary Jane's mother would not have been particularly strong and healthy. This may be why ther was on
    Y the one daughter although John Gaull or Gauld would no doubt have wanted sons. Later before her deaths it seems from a census return that her sister was called upon to look after her. This sister stayed on for a short time to look after John Gaull and his grandson John Gaull the twin. John Gaull the twin lived with his grandparents and not his mother and Alex Glennie. They went on to have their own children. John Gaull the twin went on to marry Harriet McKenzie. It is likely he met her in Cluny when visiting his widowed mother and she was working in Cluny. And that would be when Janet was born. I will have to find time to compile all this and I do have the census returns and certificates to verify the above. And it all ties in with what my father used to tell us. John the twin was his grandfather and my father would go to the farm for holidays. I didn't get round to piecing it all together for other people with the evidence because I was occupied with that second book. But I shall especially once I get into the laptop. The iPad doesn't lend itself to downloading the certificates in the same way. Fascinating stuff! All the best. Pamela

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