Sunday, 15 January 2012

What's in a name?

Oops, not doing so well on the New Year’s resolution to remember birthdays.... While I did help a friend celebrate her birthday on Wednesday night and I’ve bought a couple of cards, I haven’t sent them yet and on Thursday I failed to recognise the birth date of Jessie Cameron, my third great grand aunt. 

Born 11 January 1839 in Garmouth, Moray, Scotland, were she with us today Jessie’d be in the Guiness Book of Records and the Fire Department would be on stand by to put out the 173 candles on her cake!
Sadly, Jessie died 'in infancy' [1] but she holds a very soft spot in my heart because she was one of the first of our Robert’s relatives that I identified in the very early days of taking over the family archives.  

As I mentioned, Didi had been tracing the tree for quite some time before I got involved.  She had a pretty complete picture of the family born from Robert in Australia, after he married Betsy. However we didn’t know anything of his beginnings or family beyond the name of the town he came from, being “Garmouth”. (Even that was a mystery for a while because Didi had thought a reference to Garmouth in a Bible passed through the family was someone’s name!)

So, armed with his name and a town name I tried to find more.

Thanks to the wonders of the world wide web and digitization of old documents, with a few (paid) searches on Scotland’s People, I narrowed down two Robert Camerons born in the same area and within a few days of each other. I was able to determine which one was ours by locating our Robert’s marriage certificate to Betsy. Marriage certificates can be a wealth of information and Robert’s was no different, naming his parents as Alexander and Janet Cameron.

A couple of clicks later, I was looking at the beautifully handwritten entry in the old church records for the parish of Speymouth recording his lawful birth on 11 April 1827 to Alexander Cameron and Janet Cramond.  And who should be recorded on the same page but an older sister Jane (born 15 October 1823) and the much younger sister Jessy!

At some point In delving into the past I became aware of the interesting fact that Jessie is actually a nickname for someone called Janet, which in turn is a derivative of Jane [2]. Even more confusing is that all three names could be, and were, used interchangeably! A fact that became very apparent for me when I have the name “Jessy” as the official first name in the Old Parish Records but two years later a census collector noting down a 2 year old “Janet” in the Cameron household [3].

With all three names being used by three different people in the immediate Cameron family, I can only imagine the scenario, perhaps around the dinner table or in anger someone yelling “Jessie Cameron” and at least two heads looking up thinking they were in trouble!

Another interesting point to note about names is that it also wasn’t uncommon for first names to be passed on from generation to generation in Scotland [4] recognizing or commemorating the one before it. So, the first boy would be named after the father’s father and the first girl after the mother’s mother and the second son after the mother’s father. It seems our Cameron family followed this tradition quite well as our Robert is named for his mother’s father, Robert Cramond, and his older brother Alexander for his father’s father. Alexander and Janet ran into trouble with their third son who is traditionally named for the father! As Alexander was already taken, Robert’s next brother was named John (born 18 September 1831) and the youngest boy James (born 24 October 1833).

So now you know a little more about the family from where we came. Let the journey continue!

[1] As recorded on the family gravestone in  Urquhart Old Churchyard, Station Road, Urquhart [photo above] which also has the spelling “Jessie”. The gravestone reads:

To the memory of her
Beloved husband
Ship Carpenter Garmouth
who died 19th April 1840
aged 47 years
their daughter  JESSIE who died in Infancy.
Also their Sons
who died the 10th Sept 1852
aged 21 years.
who died 23rd Feb 1858
aged 24 years.
Also the above  JANNET CRAMOND
who died the 4th April 1883
aged 83 years.

[3] 1841 Scotland Census – this was conducted on the night of 6 June 1841 and while only basically factual detail was recorded it has helped shed light on Cam’s Fam like that our Robert’s brother Alexander was a Shipwright. It also tells me Jessie survived to at least 2 years of age and that their  father Alexander was not counted in the census and therefore may have died before 1841, consequently confirmed when I found the gravestone.  What confuses me is the reference to a 12 year old Elizabeth. I haven’t been able to find any other record of her as one of Alexander and Janet’s offspring.

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