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.

But I Thought They Were Wealthy Land Owners! – The 1915 Scottish Valuation Rolls

Around the same time as the excitement of the 1940 U.S. Census release was the much quieter release of the 1915 Valuation Rolls for Scotland (available on a fee basis through the ScotlandsPeople website). As described by the ScotlandsPeople website, “The Lands Valuation (Scotland) Act, 1854 established a uniform valuation of landed property throughout Scotland, establishing an assessor in each of Scotland’s 35 counties and 83 royal and parliamentary burghs (eventually 90 burghs produced valuation rolls). The assessors compiled annual valuation rolls listing every house or piece of ground, along with the names and designations of the proprietor, tenant and occupier, and the annual rateable value.”


Unlike a census record, the Valuation Rolls do not list all occupants of a property but just typically the head of the household. However, like a census record, the valuation rolls are terrific for seeing where your Scottish ancestors were living and under what circumstances.
I looked at two of my ancestors (with many more to find) and was actually surprised by some of the results.

First, my great grandfather, Alexander Shand Hadden can be found on Page 591 of the city of Aberdeen valuation rolls. He is listed as being a tenant at 42 1/2 Charles Street which is described as being a house. His occupation is listed as ‘seaman’ (he was in fact a steam engineer on numerous ships in the merchant marine) and was paying an annual rent of 7 pounds for what was likely a flat or apartment. I noticed in particular that the rent being paid was slightly higher than that paid by the other tenants perhaps indicating that the Hadden apartment was a bit larger than average. Or perhaps there is another explanation? Below is a photo of what Charles Street looks like today (captured from a screen shot on Google Maps – street view). Although the location of No. 42 1/2 is the newer looking building in the photo, I suspect there was an older building, more closely resembling the building further down the lane, that was the home of the Hadden family in 1915.


Next, I looked at the 1915 Valuation Rolls listing for John Gaull, my great great grandfather, an Aberdeenshire dairy farmer. More than 30 years ago, I interviewed a great uncle who had spent considerable time on the Gaull farm, visiting his grandparents and apparently being mischievous from time to time. I have photos of John Gaull and his family from the 1920’s taken at the farm so I thought I knew a lot about John and his farm. What I didn’t know was that he didn’t own the farm, he rented it! I confess I hadn’t even considered that possibility.

The listing for John Gaull in 1915 can be found on line 72 for the parish of Kemnay in the valuation rolls. The property was owned by John Alexander Burnett of Kemnay and John rented the croft and house at Glenhead for 27 pounds, 16 shillings, and 9 pence annually. The size of the farm is not listed however based on a comparison of the rents paid by John and his neighbours, the Gaull farm was one of the more substantial, but far from the largest, pieces of property occupied in the area. John’s occupation is not given in the listing which for the parish of Kemnay is typed and not in what I should think was it’s handwritten original form.

Just like a census record the valuation rolls provide a glimpse of the state on ancestral residence almost 100 years ago, including a look at who your Scottish ancestors neighbours and friends (or enemies?) might have been. Well worth the look if you have Scottish ancestors living in Scotland in 1915.

The URL for this post is: http://ianhaddenfamilyhistory.blogspot.ca/2012/04/but-i-thought-they-were-wealthy-land.html