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.

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.