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 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.