Visiting My Ancestral Homelands (Part 5) – ‘Oot ‘N Aboot’ Aberdeen, Scotland

This is the miscellany of my recent visit to Aberdeen, Scotland, the home of my Hadden ancestors.

1. Befriend Your Pilot (after all he or she will have your life in their hands)


Ellen Hadden with Air Canada pilot extraordinaire Murray Garrison

2. If There Is A Street With Your Family Name A Photo Is Obligatory


You can see the excitement on my face?

3. See The Sites


Ellen and Ian Hadden at Dunnotar Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

4. Sneak In A Little Genealogy When No One Is Looking


The Kirk of St. Nicholas and Cemetery, Aberdeen, Scotland


The gravestone of Alexander Sturm, merchant in Aberdeen, died 20th November 1844 (located in the Kirk of St. Nicholas cemetery)

5. Don’t Forget Why You Are There!

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Ian, Jenna and Ellen Hadden at Piccolo Restaurant, Aberdeen, Scotland

Visiting My Ancestral Homelands (Part 4) – An Ancestral Home in Aberdeen, Scotland

There are various records that provide me with the addresses that some of my ancestors lived at in Aberdeen. Although my recent visit to Aberdeen was not aimed at genealogical pursuits, I did take the opportunity to visit one of those addresses that was conveniently located as it turned out, not far from our hotel.

This rather plain-looking house at 57 Bon Accord Street is where Janet ‘Jessie’ (Jamieson) Hadden lived and died.


James Hadden was my 4X great-grandfather, the son of a crofter named William Hadden and Agnes (or Ann) Robb. James was born around 1807 in Fetteresso, Kincardine, Scotland. On May 25, 1833 (182 years ago yesterday), James married Mary Smart in Inverurie, Aberdeen, Scotland. Sadly, Mary died just seven years later in 1840, leaving James to care for their three young children.

So James married again. His second wife was a widow named Janet Jamieson who was usually referred to by the name Jessie. Jessie had two young children to care for from her first marriage to a man named John McKnight.

James Hadden died in March 1871 of bronchitis and was buried in a family plot he had purchased in St. Peter’s Cemetery on King Street in Aberdeen.

Rather than move in with one of her by then adult children following her husband’s death, it seems Jessie chose to live on her own. Census records tell us that 1891 she lived alone in a flat at 41 Bon Accord Street in Aberdeen, sustained by an annuity.

On March 7, 1896, at the age of 76, Jessie suddenly fainted and passed away. This event occurred according to her death registration at her home located at 57 Bon Accord Street, Aberdeen.

There is a deep, touching joy in the recognition that you are walking in the footsteps of your ancestors. A connection suddenly made tangible. And, so it was for me, as I walked the same street as Jessie and, as I took a moment to physically touch the house that she lived in.

Of course, I think that somber moment was lost on the delivery man who was watching me with my head slightly bowed and hand on Jessie’s house. I suspect he was thinking that it was too early in the day for someone to be inebriated!

Visiting My Ancestral Homelands (Part 3) – The Lang Stane

The Lang Stane (stone in English) is a sight you will miss if you are not told about it.

I found no mention of the stone in any of the tour books or pamphlets I read. There is a lot of information available about distilleries, castles and historic buildings but not a word about the wee piece of Scottish history known as the Lang Stane.

I was lucky enough to have had my cousin Pamela Gaull mention the stone during a visit over coffee one day during my recent trip to Aberdeen, Scotland.

When I told Pamela that we were staying at the Bauhaus Hotel (an absolutely fabulous hotel and highly recommended) on Langstane Place in Aberdeen, Pamela asked if I had seen the Lang Stane. Seen it? I had never heard of it!

With a little bit of surfing on Google, I was able to determine that this ancient stone was located somewhere at a corner of a crossroad with the short street the hotel was on. One morning during a walk in the seemingly ever persistent light rain, I found it. But be assured that if I wasn’t looking for the Lang Stane, I would not have noticed it.

Tucked neatly into a tiny alcove of a building at the north-west corner of Langstane Place and Dee Street rests the Lang Stane.

ABERDEEN Scotland - the Lang Stane on Langstane Place

The Lang Stane. Photo by Ian Hadden, May 4, 2015

There is not much known about the stone other than it is made of granite, appropriate enough given it’s location in the ‘Granite City.’ It appears to have been a boundary marker at some point given it’s pointed or “keel shaped” base and, may have been part of a stone circle which could possibly date it back to about 3000 B.C. Whatever it’s past, the Lang Stane is a part of Aberdeen and Scottish history, sadly an ancient relic ignored by most passersby.

Visiting My Ancestral Homelands (Part 2) – It’s About Family When I Visit Aberdeen

One of the great benefits of visiting my Scottish ancestral homeland was knowing that I had family there I had never met.

When I began researching my family’s history, it struck me that when my ancestors left Scotland, a country they clearly had  a strong love for, they left not just their homes but they family behind. Family they would likely never see again.

Eventually as technology developed over the past fifty years, the ability to communicate at long distances became more accessible and contact began to be restored with the family members who had remained in Scotland. This contact first began with my paternal grandmother’s family, the Little’s and Galbraith’s of Greenock, Scotland.

Eventually through genealogy research and the use of social media, I was able to virtually connect with my paternal grandfather’s family in Aberdeen, Scotland. Although we had never met face-to-face, I was able to reach out to these family members who freely and willingly provided assistance to my daughter when she was moving to Aberdeen to study.

The sense of family transcended the mere records that told us we shared a common ancestor. They helped look for accommodation and opened their home to my daughter to share a family Christmas dinner.

Our common ancestors were John Gaull (1860-1942) and his wife Harriet McKenzie (1858-1925), my 2X great-grandparents, who lived in Monymusk, Scotland, to the west of Aberdeen City.


Gaull Family Reunion (from left to right – Renee Thomson, Ian Hadden, Rudy Thomson, Jenna Hadden, John Gaull Thomson and his wife Elizabeth (Anderson) Thomson, Fiona Thomson, Roy Thomson and his wife Romy (Bennink) Thomson) Photo by Ellen Hadden

Roy Thomson and his sister Fiona are my third cousins. Their father John Gaull Thomson is my second cousin, once removed. We enjoyed a fabulous meal together at Roy and Romy’s home near Maryculter, Scotland and a visit that was cut far too short by my concerns about driving back to Aberdeen from a country home in the dark while navigating on what I considered to be the ‘wrong’ side of the road!

My wife and I also had a chance to meet up with my second cousin, once removed Pamela Gaull and share family stories and personal updates over coffee at a downtown Aberdeen hotel. Pamela and I had initially connected online and then met when she visited Toronto, Ontario, Canada. As always, Pamela was welcoming, gracious and engaging.

HADDEN Ian with Pamela Gaull May 2015

With cousin Pamela Gaull in Aberdeen, Scotland (Photo by Ellen Hadden)

Fortunately for me, the effort in researching my own family history has provided me with a rich bounty of those I am pleased to call my family!

In The Newspapers For All The Wrong Reasons: Snippets From The Life Of John Gaull

Today, we might refer to it as his ’15-minutes of fame.’ But for John Gaull, his mentions in the media tended to be for all the wrong reasons or at the least for reasons he likely would not have asked for.

Genealogists have long known that newspapers can be a great source of rich information and stories about the lives of our ancestors. It is for this reason that I try to spend as much time as I can searching through newspaper archives to find the stories of those in my family who laid the foundation for who I am.

In the case of John Gaull, archived copies of the Aberdeen Journal from the 19th century provide me with three stories: he was a victim of fraud; he was accused of fraud; and, when he died he funeral procession took two hours and covered a distance of about eight miles.

John Gaull is my 4X great grandfather and as I remind myself, he is not to be confused with his grandson, my 2X great grandfather also a John Gaull.

The records I have found tell me that John (the elder) was born in 1806 in Inverurie, Aberdeen, Scotland, one of at least six children born to Alexander Gauld and Elspet Harper. Early newspaper mentions confirm what later census records report, that John was employed as the farm overseer at Whitehaugh, an estate owned by Lewis Xavier Leslie of Old Aberdeen, in Chapel of Garioch. In that capacity, John can be found listed in newspaper advertisements as the contact person when the estate had land available for prospective tenant farmers or when livestock and farm equipment was being offered for sale.

In December of 1850 however, John along with several other men of Aberdeenshire fell victim to a fraud perpetrated by a man named James Forbes. Forbes forged John’s signature as well as the signatures of two other men on a bill in the amount of 400 pounds. Forbes had committed a similar fraud on two other occasions with different victims, each time passing off the forged notes as legitimate obligations. When his fraudulent activities were uncovered, Forbes is reported to have ‘escaped’ to America only to be tracked down by constable John Scott and returned to Scotland to face justice. 

On Monday, December 16, 1850, Forbes was brought before the High Court of Judiciary in Edinburgh where he plead guilty to the three frauds. He was sentenced to 21 years transportation. No mention is given as to where Forbes was sent but I’m guessing it was likely Australia.

In November of 1877 the newspapers report that a horse dealer named Alex Smith brought a lawsuit against John Gaull, accusing John of selling him a mare on July 31, 1877 that was sick and subsequently died. Smith alleged that John knew the horse was unwell so completed the sale in order to avoid the loss himself. John told the court that he believed the horse to have been in good health at the time of the sale, that he had offered Smith no warranty and, that Smith had subsequently re-sold the horse to a John Mackie who later returned the horse to Smith. John alleged that Smith had brought the lawsuit to recoup losses that Smith was solely responsible for. Following an adjournment of one month, the case returned to court on December 26, 1877 where Smith gave up the case and the court found in John’s favour including granting him expenses.

Finally, confirming the information on John’s death registration, a death notice was published in the Aberdeen People’s Journal newspaper on August 20, 1892 (page 6). But there was also a separate funeral notice for John published on August 13, 1892 in the Aberdeen Journal (page 6), two days after John died. 

The funeral notice states that his funeral procession would be proceeding from Skene and travelling to his burial site at the churchyard in Kintore, a distance of about eight miles. In 1892, that funeral procession was take an estimated two hours to complete.

52 Ancestors: James Hadden (abt 1804-1871)

James Hadden is my 4X great grandfather. I really don’t know that much about the life that lead but various records tell me that he was born about 1804 in Fetteresso, Kincardineshire. 

I have searched Scotland’s Old Parish Registers and could find no baptismal record for James. This suggested to me that either the register book containing the baptismal record for James no longer exists or James’ parents, William Hadden and Agnes Robb were not ‘church going’ people and the baptism of their son was not a high priority for them.

What the Old Parish Registers do inform me is that James Hadden married Mary Smart on May 25th, 1833 in Inverurie, Aberdeen, Scotland. James was about 29 years old and his bride, Mary was 25 years old.

The young couple settled into life together in New Hills, Aberdeen, Scotland, a small village near the location of the present day Aberdeen Airport. James seemed to do well working as a farm overseer. Mary and James also started a family; their first child, a daughter whom they named Mary was born December 31, 1833. A son, Alexander ‘Bean’ Hadden was born in 1837 and another daughter, named Jane was born in 1837.

Their apparently happy existence was cut short however when Mary died suddenly in 1840. Eventually James re-married. His second wife was Janet or Jessie Jamieson and unfortunately I could find no record of their marriage in the Old Parish Registers of Scotland but other records do provide confirmation that they were married, likely around 1847 as their first of two known children (both sons – James George Wood Hadden and William Hadden) was born in 1848.

James continued farming up until his death from bronchitis on March 12, 1871 in Aberdeen.

Curiously, several years ago while suffering from a concussion that caused severe headaches and an inability to focus for more than 20 or 30 minutes at a time, I decided to ‘kill some time’ by searching Google for images of James Hadden. I had no realistic expectation that I would find a ‘photo’ of my 19th century ancestor but what I did find astonished me nonetheless. A photo was found of James’ gravestone!

The photo had been taken by Colin Milne in St. Peter’s Cemetery on King Street in Aberdeen. Colin had taken photos of several gravestones that he referred to as ‘strays’ and then posted them on his website in the hope that family members might one day find them. I contacted Colin and he kindly provided me with a copy of the original digital file for my use.

James Hadden gravestone, St. Peter’s Cemetery, Aberdeen, Scotland (photo courtesy of Colin Milne)

I then contacted City of Aberdeen staff who informed me that the people listed on the gravestone do not represent the names their records show are buried in the plot. The gravestone lists seven family members: Mary Smart, William Hadden (James Hadden’s brother), William Hadden (son of either William or James), James Hadden, James G. W. Hadden, Jessie Jamieson, and Alexander ‘Bean’ Hadden.

As it turns out, Mary Smart is not buried in this plot. Her name on the gravestone is a ‘memorial’ only. The same is true for James’ brother William Hadden. James Hadden and Jessie Jamieson are buried here along with James George Wood Hadden, Helen B. Smith McKnight, James Reid, Elspet Scott, John McKnight, and Christian Mackie. 

The City of Aberdeen staff informed me that James Hadden bought the plot in section 39 of the cemetery in 1842. “In the olden days in Aberdeen it was not uncommon for family’s to use graves for close friends or even neighbours as money was so tight.”  I was able to identify that John McKnight was James’ step-son so perhaps Helen was John McKnight’s wife and I have no idea as to who Elspet Scott, James Reid and Christian Mackie are? Identifying them and their relationship to James Hadden is another task to add to my genealogy to-do list!

52 Ancestors: Andrew Gammie, Sr. (1861-1926) or Why My Family Moved to Toronto, Ontario?

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

When I became curious about the history of my family, some thirty plus years ago, one of the first people I spoke to was my great uncle Alexander Gaull Hadden, or Uncle Alec as I knew him. Uncle Alec told me what he knew of the family. His paternal grandmother was Helen Shand. She had given birth to his father, my great grandfather Alexander Shand Hadden and then later re-married a man named Gammie. In 1907, she and this Gammie fellow moved to Saskatchewan to homestead. Years later, she contacted her eldest child Alexander and invited him and his family to come join her working on the farm in Canada. In 1923, the Haddens accepted her invitation.  

The family story went a bit further but still lacked detail. Uncle Alec told me that his mother, Jessie Gaull, didn’t like it in Saskatchewan, with it’s bitter cold in winter, so in 1927, the family moved to Toronto, Ontario where Jessie had a brother George Gaull who owned a small grocery store. Uncle Alec also made a comment I wrote down in the notes I made during the family history interview with him and have kept to this day. The comment was that there was some tension between the Gammie boys and his father Alexander. No details. Nothing more said.

Andrew Gammie (1861-1926)

I first must confess that I am not genetically related to Andrew Gammie Sr. and I am not really descended from him. But Andrew Gammie Sr was the step-father to my great grandfather Alexander Shand Hadden as seen in the snippet below from the 1891 Census of Scotland.

Andrew Gammie was the eldest son in a family of ten known children (five boys and five girls) born to Andrew Gammie and his wife Jane Christie. Andrew was born on 28 Jun 1861 in Huntly, County of Aberdeen, Scotland. Andrew’s father was a successful farmer of 135 acres in Monqhitter, Aberdeen, Scotland, employing two men and a boy according to census records. It is very likely that Andrew worked on the farm and learned from his much from his father.

On the 14th of June, 1890, Andrew married Helen Shand, a domestic servant, in Ythan Wells. As the census record above shows, with Helen came her son Alexander Hadden whom she had raised on her own, supported by her Shand relatives. Andrew was 29 years old and Helen was 25 when they married. A year later, and just a few months after the 1891 census was taken, Helen gave birth to their first child, the first of three sons. They named him Andrew, like his father and grandfather before him.

Sons Peter and James, or ‘Jimmie’ as they called him, would follow over the next four years. Finally, in 1897, they had a daughter whom they named Helen, after her  mother. I’m not certain as to the reason, but Helen and Andrew later adopted a little girl born in 1904 named Whilimena (Williamina) Alexander, known in the family as ‘Minnie.’

Andrew supported his family by working as a farm servant and then as a baker’s van driver and grocer’s carter. Opportunity knocked, at least in Andrew Gammie’s eyes, when the Canadian government offered the chance at land ownership – for free. All that was required was moving half-way around the world to the prairies of Saskatchewan. It was with this promise in mind that Andrew and Helen along with their five Gammie children boarded the Lake Erie in April 1907 for the voyage to St. John, New Brunswick and from there to Stoughton, Saskatchewan where they would wait for their homestead application to be approved and land granted.

While they waited for their land, Andrew moved his family and worked on farms first in Morse, Saskatchewan and then in Anerley, Saskatchewan. Likely the lessons in farming he received from his father now served him well. Eventually, their homestead application was approved and the family settled on and began farming their own land near Aneroid, Saskatchewan.

As in all families, the kids grow up and begin making their own decisions. Such was the circumstance when on 17 May 1916, sons Peter and James enlisted in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. The two Gammie boys went off to fight in World War I but only one would return. Jimmie would die of shrapnel wounds suffered when the Allies were taking a bridge in Fricheux, France. He was buried not far away in a military cemetery outside of Arras, France.

Land that Jimmie had acquired in Saskatchewan, not far from the Gammie homestead was bequeathed to his mother Helen. It was help with this land that she sought when she invited her first-born Alexander Hadden to come to Saskatchewan. Eventually, Alexander agreed to the move and to help with the farming even though he really had no farming experience. I’m told by a member of the Gammie family that Helen had kept her correspondence and this offer secret and so I suspect it was quite the surprise to the Gammie children when their half-brother Alexander Hadden and his family showed up on the prairies in 1923. It is also likely that there was much that needed to be done so there was not much time to quibble about the new arrivals.

However, on 23 August 1926, at the age of 65, Andrew Gammie died. He also died intestate, meaning he had left no will. I don’t know the reason, but Helen, now a widow, chose the younger of her two surviving sons to be the executor of her husband’s estate. Andrew Gammie’s estate file records that Helen, Andrew Jr. and Helen, the daughter, all renounced their rights to letters of administration which were duly granted to Peter by the Surrogate Court, appointing him as executor.

On 11 January 1927, when Helen Gammie renounced her rights to the letters of administration in favour of her son Peter, she listed her husband Andrew’s survivors as: herself, her sons, Andrew Gammie Jr. and Peter Gammie, and Helen Gammie, then Mrs. Harold Hardement. No mention of step-son Alexander Hadden nor adopted daughter Minnie Alexander Gammie. Son Andrew’s renunciation instrument listed the same survivors.

However, just two and half weeks later on 29 Jan 1927, Peter Gammie signed his affidavit as executor that included an inventory of his father’s estate and a list of the surviving family members to whom the estate would pass. Those surviving family members were: his mother Helen who would receive as required by law one-third of the estate, Andrew Gammie Jr., Peter Gammie, Helen Gammie then Mrs. Harold Hardement, and Whilimena Gammie, adopted daughter. No mention of step-son Alexander Hadden.

The estate that they divided consisted of land valued at $7,000, the property described as West Half, Section 1 in Township 8, Range 11, West of the 3rd Meridian. The remainder of the estate consisted of a stove, kitchen cabinet, table, chairs, bed (valued at a combined $100), a wagon, two plows and a set of harrows (combined value of $135), and 6 horses at $60 per head (total $360). The total estate value was $7,595 of which Andrew’s widow Helen received $2,351.66.

And so, the Hadden family, just four years after leaving their home in Scotland appear to have been stranded, at least by circumstances on the prairies of Saskatchewan. Was this the cause of the tension my uncle had told me about? If it was, it seems entirely understandable to me. With apparently nothing for them in Saskatchewan, was this the reason the family moved to Toronto where at least there was some family support available? It seems entirely likely to me. 

52 Ancestors: William Mathieson (about 1794-1839)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

William Mathieson, my four-time great grandfather, was born according to family sources around 1794 and died in Fyvie, Aberdeen, Scotland on 28 Jun 1839. William was the son of William Mathieson (senior) and Elspet Mackie. 

I specifically mention the lack of sources of records for William because the database search engines for the records of Scotlajnd do not sufficiently allow for a detailed enough search to narrow the results down to ‘my’ William Mathieson. There are four William Mathiesons who were born in the 1790’s and who died after civil registration commenced in 1855. The Old Parish Registers that cover the period before civil registration tend to be spotty and a search of those records produces twenty-one William Mathiesons, three of whom died in the county of Aberdeen and none of whom died between 1835 and 1845. Looking at births, there were at least eighteen William Mathiesons born in Scotland between 1790 and 1815, six of whom were born in the county of Aberdeen. It’s a similar problem for the marriage records, both pre and post civil registration. At some point in my journey, I will examine each of these records, in turn, until I hopefully find ‘my’ William but for now, there is nothing promising about these records and the cost of examining each of the records is a factor.

In spite of my dismay at not locating ‘my’ William’s birth and death records, I do know of my connection to William because of the records about his daughter, one of my great grandmothers, Jane, or sometimes Jean, Mathieson. Jane’s death registration from 1887 tells me that she died at the age of 55 as a result of breast cancer and that she was the daughter of William Mathieson, a deceased farmer and his wife, Jane Scott.

Jane Scott’s death registration from 1867 tells me that William had predeceased her and that he was a crofter.

Although there isn’t as much evidence as I would like, and while the search for additional evidence continues, I know that William Mathieson married Jane Scott sometime in the first half of the 19th century. They had a daughter named Jane Mathieson who married Alexander Hadden and then several generations later I appeared. And I hope they know, someone still remembers them.

52 Ancestors: John Shand (1825-1906)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

The subject this week is one of my paternal 3X great grandfathers, John Shand about whom there is probably more I don’t know than I do know.

Scotland’s Old Parish Registers record that John Shand was born 20 Feb 1825 in Aucharnie, Aberdeenshire, the son of John Shand and his wife Jean Anderson. He was baptized at the church in Forgue, Aberdeenshire two miles north of his parent’s home one week later on 27 Feb 1825.

The records show that John was a worker, a farm servant specifically. By 1853, he was working on a farm in Fyvie, some 13 miles east of his parental home. In that year, John married Isobel (sometimes her name was recorded as Isabel or Isabella) Morrison. I have no idea as to how John and Isobel met or courted given that she lived in Huntly about 35 miles away from where John was living and working. For my sake, I am glad they did meet and marry – or there would not have been a ME! But meet and marry they did, on 22 Jul 1853 according to their marriage registration in the Huntly Old Parish Register.

John seems to have worked hard to support his family and rose from being a farm servant to being a tenant farmer or crofter by 1890. Over the course of the first twenty years of their marriage, John and Isobel welcomed into their family nine known children, the first born in 1854 and the ninth born in 1874. Their family consisted of seven boys and two girls. Their second daughter, Helen, born in 1864, would become my great great grandmother.

By 1900, John was running the Clinkstone Croft in the village of Insch. That is when life seems to have taken a real downturn for John. First, his wife of almost 47 years, Isobel (her death registration records her name as Isabella) died on February 10th due to bronchitis. John was approaching his 75th birthday at the time and I am certain that work would not have be easy for John. His death registration record shows this clearly. 

John died on 17 Apr 1906 in Aberdeen, his death the result of chronic heart disease. Sadly, it apears John was not surrounded by loving family members at the time of his death as many modern obituaries record. He died alone in the West Poorhouse which I suspect was not, even at the best of times, not a happy place to be.