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: Martha (Wilson) McKenzie 1778-1859

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.

This week I am going back more than 230 years to the birth of my 4X great grandmother Martha McKenzie (nee Wilson). The records of Martha that I have found are few but those detailing events of some significance do exist.

I know that on November 3, 1778 “Peter Wilson in Tillyreach and Isabel Emslie his wife had a daughter baptized, called Martha: witnesses James Bruce and Arthur Watson both in Tillyreach.” The preceding is my transcription of the entry found in the Old Parish Registers of Scotland and it is the first record of Martha and her christening in the Kirkton of Tough in the County of Aberdeen, Scotland. According to Wikipedia, this tiny hamlet is where the famous Aberdeen Angus breed of cattle was bred. I’m not sure how I feel about descending from the place known for good meat?

Martha’s father, Peter, was a farmer and on July 6, 1806, Martha married a farmer, Lewis McKenzie in Glenmuick, Aberdeen, Scotland. Although Martha was a farmer’s daughter who married a farmer, her life was not entirely spent on the farm for at least by 1841 when the first census of Scotland was taken, Martha’s husband Lewis was an innkeeper. I suspect that there was some land attached to the inn however, as in subsequent census records Lewis’ occupation is listed as innkeeper and crofter.

Together Lewis and Martha reared seven known children, born from 1810-1823.

As she eased into her 80’s, if ‘easing’ was even possible in the highlands during the late 1850’s, Martha developed dropsy or as it is known today, edema. She suffered with the dropsy for twelve months according to the doctor who certified her death on May 11, 1859 in the Parish of Cluny. Lewis, her husband of more than fifty years was the informant for the registration of her death. He knew Martha’s parents were deceased but he could not remember the name of his mother-in-law, at least not accurately as he offered up the surname Christie. 

Martha’s husband Lewis, my four times great grandfather signed the death registration and I always find it interesting to see the signatures of my ancestors, particularly those who lived so long ago.