52 Ancestors: Mary Jane Glennie (nee Gaull) 1837-1925

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.

Mary Jane Glennie (nee Gaull) is my 3X great grandmother and one of several ancestors that I would love to have had a chance to meet. Mary didn’t invent anything for the betterment of mankind; she wasn’t famous at all but I have always had an impression that Mary was one of those ‘tough-as-nails’ on the surface but marshmallow interior individuals who all of us likely know at least one of. There is no singular incident that leads me to this impression. It based purely on my view of her life in it’s entirety.

Mary Gaull was born around 1837 in Broomhill, Kintore, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She was the daughter, and unusually it appears the only child, of John Gaull, a farm overseer, and his wife Mary Christie. It is likely that Mary’s upbringing was comfortable for the times, but by no means extravagant, given her father’s farming abilities. But her upbringing was also likely rather strict as her father appears to have maintained high moral standards.

Life for Mary Gaull thus became more difficult when she gave birth to twin boys, out of wedlock, in February 1860. Mary named her sons George and John but the name of the twins’ father has not been found in any record to date. As was the practise in Scotland at the time, the birth registrations for the twin brothers clearly and boldly labels them to be “illegitimate” children. Mary’s father, John Gaull even decades later in his will referred to them as his “illegitimate” grandsons.

I have commented previously that I do not know the reason but it is clear from all records that Mary ‘gave’ one of her twin sons, George, to the family of James and Isabella Hoey (or Hooey or Howie) who lived in Inverurie. George would later change his surname to Irvine. Mary raised her remaining son John (one of my great great grandfathers) in her parents home, but only for a few months, for in August 1860, when the twins were just six months old, Mary married Alexander Glennie at Chapel of Garioch. 

Alexander Glennie was a farmer who settled his wife, her son, and eventually the five known children that Alexander and Mary had together on a 60 acre farm at Tillyfro, Cluny, Aberdeenshire. Was it possible that Alexander Glennie was the father of the twin boys? Absolutely, but there is no evidence found to date other than the circumstance suggested by his marrying Mary so soon after she gave birth to the boys.

Sadly, Alexander died in February 1879 leaving the farm to his wife. Mary was aided in the running of the farm with monies from her husband’s estate along with monies subsequently inherited from her father’s estate when he died in 1892. 

When John Gaull died, according to his estate file, he left money for his grandson George Irvine and ‘liferent’ on the Gaull farm at Cairnley to his other grandson John Gaull. The residual of the estate went to his daughter Mary Glennie, minus the amount of 250 British pounds which John claimed in his Will that Mary had borrowed to aid in settling her husband Alexander’s estate. Mary denied that she owed her father the money and John Gaull’s estate executors finding no “voucher” nor other corroborating documentation of any such loan noted their finding in the estate inventory, deducting a single shilling from the estate seemingly as a token gesture to John’s wishes. 

Mary thus continued to run the farm at Tillyfro, hiring farm hands as needed, until her own death at the age of 88 on the 30th of March 1925.  Mary Jane (Gaull) Glennie was laid to rest in the kirkyard of the church in Cluny, Aberdeenshire, in the same grave as her son James who had died six years earlier at the age of 51.

52 Ancestors: John Gaull (1860-1942)

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 first took a keen interest in my family history, just over 30 years ago, I turned to my great uncle Alexander Gaull Hadden, or ‘Uncle Alec’ to me. I knew some of the very basics of family history research (and I do mean some of the very basics, nothing clever or scholarly). I started with myself and my late wife, Karen. We had one child at the time. I knew who our parents were, and our siblings. I knew who our grandparents were and learned, from questioning our parents, who the grandparents’ siblings were. That’s about where the trail ended.

Uncle Alec offered to help me go a little bit further back to his parents and grandparents. We spent a weekend together at his home in the summer of 1981. I brought a few old photos with me, the photos of people I didn’t know and couldn’t identify and, of course, there were no helpful little notes on the back of the photos to offer me assistance. But Uncle Alec knew these people so I found out.

That weekend, I was regaled with family stories: life on the Canadian prairie after the family had immigrated to Canada, and tales of the Gaull family farm in Scotland. Most of the people in my few photos were identified: my great grandparents, friends of my grandparents, and perhaps my favourite, a photo of John Gaull, my great great grandfather. The stories I listened to transported me back in time and put me in a different era and with members of my ancestral family. The stories gave me a history.


John Gaull, my 2X great grandfather, seated and wearing the cap in the centre of this 1924 family photo


John Gaull was presented as having a unique business savvy, stern at times, but generally fun loving disposition in these stories.


John Gaull was born on 8 Feb 1860. John was a twin with his brother George Gaull (later known as George Irvine). Both boys were identified as being of “illegitimate” birth with no father named on their birth registration. Sometime after the birth of the twins, John’s mother, Mary Gaull for reasons unknown to me ‘gave’ George to Isabella and James Hoey, with whom George can be found living as a “boarder” in the 1861 Census of Scotland. John remained with his mother who a few months later on 11 Aug 1860 married John and George’s suspected father, Alexander Glennie.

On 15 Jun 1883, John, then a farm servant, married Harriet McKenzie, herself a domestic servant, at New Inn in Cluny, Aberdeenshire. Before long, John had established their family at the Cairnley farm in Monymusk, Aberdeenshire. On their farm, where John raised dairy cattle and a few chickens, John and Harriet raised their family that came to include eleven known children.

John sold milk locally which he would cart around the Monymusk area in barrels. Perhaps my favourite John Gaull story was of his stopping by a local stream to ‘top up’ his barrels of milk if sales were especially brisk. As a salesman, it seems he knew it was perhaps better to sell watered down milk rather than to miss a sale because he had no milk.

For my uncle, there was a glint in his eye as he recalled being banished from his grandfather’s farm for mistaking the hens roosting on their perches as targets for stone throwing. It seems his banishment didn’t last very long, probably at the insistence of his grandmother.

Harriet passed away in 1925, while John died on 6 Jul 1942 in Kemnay, Aberdeenshire where today, he rests in peace in the local churchyard cemetery.

Gaull Family Information From A New Cousin Connection


My great great grandfather John Gaull had eleven children. He was one of seven children born to Mary Jane Gaull. With that level of proliferation, I shouldn’t be surprised that I would have many Gaull family cousins and relations. I’ve had the great fortune to not only make a connection with a number of my Gaull cousins but also to spend some time with a couple of them. Still, I am thrilled that I have made another connection within the family.
I was recently contacted by Robert Stables, a second cousin twice removed. Robert is the great grandson of Mary Jane. I was also subsequently contacted by Sandra Stables, Robert’s sister-in-law, wife of Robert’s brother Alan. In addition to the excitement of the new connections, Sandra, who has been doing some family history research, provided me with photos!

Never before had I seen the grave and headstone of Mary Jane, who died in 1925 and is buried in the Cluny Cemetery, Cluny, Aberdeenshire, Scotland along with her son James who died in 1919.



The generational difference between Robert, Alan and I is easily explained. While we share Mary Jane Gaull as our common ancestor, I am descended from Mary Jane’s eldest son John Gaull (born 1860) and Robert and Alan are descended from Mary Jane’s youngest son John Glennie (born 1873). The age difference is expanded again as I am descended from John Gaull’s eldest daughter, Jessie McKenzie Gaull, while Robert and Alan descend from John Glennie’s second youngest daughter, Elsie Ann Glennie who was born just a couple of years earlier than my father.

In addition to the headstone photos that Sandra sent to me, I received the wonderful photo of Tillyfro (below), the farm in Cluny that was the home of Mary Jane Gaull and her husband Alexander Glennie. There really something about seeing an ancestral home and being able to imagine your ancestors walking the property and working the fields. I have read the name ‘Tillyfro’ on many family records over the past 30 years but seeing it is such a bonus!



(Photos provided by Sandra Stables, copyright 2011. Used with permission)