3rd Great-Grandfather, Who Wert Thou?
October 22, 2020 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I've hit a roadblock in my genealogical research, specifically on my Scottish-born 3rd great grandfather. How can I get around it?

I've been doing some genealogical research over the past few years and have found out some amazing things about my family history. But I am hitting a roadblock on the patrilineal line.

I get back as far as my 3rd great-grandfather, James Rae, who was born in Dumfriesshire, Scotland in 1803, and immigrated to Canada in 1827. He married my 3rd great-grandmother Jane Johnston [year and location of their marriage unknown], born 1801, whose ethnicity is given as English in the Ontario censuses, and I've been able to piece together an outline of their lives in Canada -- they lived first in New Brunswick and later in Ontario. But though I have done a lot of googling, I can't find out the names of James' parents or siblings and thus can't trace the Rae line back any further.

My 82-year-old dad is interested in hearing about all I've learned, but he's most interested in hearing about the Raes, and I'd really like to find out more about it for his sake. What resources are there for finding this kind of information out, short of my going to Scotland to look at records there? I also can't afford to put any money into this.
posted by orange swan to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Contact people in Scotland! There are people who, for instance, take photos of grave sites out of the goodness of their hearts.
posted by aniola at 9:08 AM on October 22, 2020

Have you been to Scotland's People? Searching is free, and there is usually enough information returned on the search to give you a good idea if it is the person you are looking for. There is a charge to download digital images of the records...I know you said you can't put money into it but I'm hoping the fees are doable for you (e.g. 1.50 for a church register).
posted by Preserver at 9:10 AM on October 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also, in this time of COVID, many libraries are making their Ancestry.com databases accessible from home. You might want to check with your local library if this is the case.
posted by Preserver at 9:14 AM on October 22, 2020

Ask in the Reddit r/genealogy forum: people there are helpful & welcoming.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:22 AM on October 22, 2020

If the leads above don't help, memail me; my brother's a part-time genealogist and full-time database nerd in the UK. I'm not sure if he's taking clients right now, but he's good on finding resources for people's further study. Also, our people come from this approximate area.

The area around Annan is hoaching with Raes, and like everyone else around there since the 17th century we've all been strenuously denying knowing anything about being reivers, nope nope, not us, some other bad guys done it and run away …

Given that this part of Scotland is but a short but muddy squelch across the Solway from England, they could have met and married before they left.
posted by scruss at 9:35 AM on October 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

From Ancestry: James Rae
BAPTISM DATE: 03 Feb 1804 (3 Feb 1804)
BAPTISM PLACE: , Middlebie, Dumfries, Scotland
FATHER: William Rae
MOTHER: Jane Eagar
posted by molasses at 9:49 AM on October 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

James Rae
September 11, 1831
EVENT: Mariage (Marriage)
RELIGION: Catholique
CITY: Bureau de Santé; Frédéricton
PLACE OR CHURCH NAME: Frédéricton (Bureau de Santé)
PROVINCE: Acadie (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick)
SPOUSE: Jane Johnston
posted by molasses at 9:57 AM on October 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Looks like James Rae married Jane Johnston on 11 Sep 1831 - Fredericton NB - image of their marriage record from New Brunswick Provincial Marriages 1789-1950. (free sign-in required)

I have a bunch of genealogical information on a similar family (a James Rae who immigrated from Dumfriesshire to New Brunswick in the same timeframe) that I'll share in case it helps you putting together pieces. From my info, my James Rae (1782-1851) is born in Dumfriesshire. He immigrates about 1818 (according to the 1851 census), and in 1836, he's married to a Lucy Robinson who's 18 years younger than he is, they're having a son in Pennfield NB; by 1851 they have 6 sons, he's a cooper in St George NB. Focusing back to Scotland - James 1782's parents were George Rae (1751-1797) and Grizel Gilbert (1763-1797), married 27 Dec 1779 at Canongate, Edinburgh. Here's their gravestone on findagrave. It's a big family so I wonder if your James (b. 1803) is his nephew or similar (or even a son from a first marriage that we don't have records of?). In case it helps in tracking back, George Rae 1751's parents were John Rae (1718-1784) and Barbara Johnston (b 1718); John Rae 1718's parents were John Rae (1680-1742) and Elizabeth Mulligane (1685-1767). (From what scruss says, maybe there are so many Raes in Dumfriesshire at that time that it's not a strong connection? I don't know.)

-ancestry.com can be really good, if you want something specific ask me and i'll see if i can find it for you
-scotlandspeople is good
-findagrave and other gravestone sites can be good
-familysearch can be good - they have a lot of content that is just images, sometimes not yet transcribed into searchable form, so if you can narrow down the records you want to look at, it's sometimes possible to brute-force a search.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:11 AM on October 22, 2020

(a little tip on lowland Scotland historic names: they get recycled a lot. Eldest grandparent, parent and child of the same gender may likely have the same given name. On one side of my family, we have five generations of the eldest son being given the same name [we have no imagination]. It's really easy to get confused by generation, and my brother has fixed that in several people's trees, including ours. It can get really complex with later life remarriages where a second spouse has the same given name as the deceased one. Aargh.)
posted by scruss at 11:47 AM on October 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I had found the marriage record of a James Rae and Jane Johnston in Fredericton, New Brunswick in 1831 (that molasses and LobsterMitten both refer to) before, and while it certainly could be them, a sticking point was that it was a Catholic ceremony and James and Jane's son Matthew (my 2nd great-grandfather) was a Methodist, so I'm hesitant to assume it's them. Certainly it could still be them, and one or both of them, or Matthew, could have converted.

James and Rae are both such common names, especially in Dumfriesshire where the Raes have a family seat, that it's going to be difficult if not impossible to know if I have the right one when it comes to identifying his parents. The baptism record molasses provides could totally be him, just baptized a few months after his birth... or could just as easily not be him.
posted by orange swan at 11:50 AM on October 22, 2020

a little tip on lowland Scotland historic names: they get recycled a lot

Quoted for truth. My Scotland to Ontario relatives recycled the same names in every generation, so there are multiple cousins of similar ages with the same names, and they are all common ones like James, George, Elizabeth, etc. It's maddening.
posted by Preserver at 12:29 PM on October 22, 2020

The FamilySearch wiki is my go-to resource for figuring out which records are available for various countries and time periods (and which have been digitized). The wiki pages aren't always 100% up to date, but they're a good place to start.
posted by toastedcheese at 12:57 PM on October 22, 2020

Response by poster: a little tip on lowland Scotland historic names: they get recycled a lot. Eldest grandparent, parent and child of the same gender may likely have the same given name

That seems to have been a thing in English-speaking cultures in general in the 16th to 19th centuries. These days people tend to decide that they want a distinctive name for their child, and they won't deliberately use a name that's been already used in their immediate family. But back then? There weren't that many given names in use, people didn't have baby name books as they did even in my parents' generation, and it was a free for all of Johns, Marys, Georges, James's, and so forth. My great-great grandparents William and Mary Ann Hall named their son William, and he grew up to marry a Mary Ann himself, and then to name his own firstborn son William. My great-grandfather Newton Rae had a mother and sister both named Frances Rae, an uncle named Francis Rae, and a father-in-law named Francis Ward. When you also consider there usually weren't that many surnames at play in any region, it gets confusing fast.

In L.M. Montgomery's books she documents the PEI custom of assigning nicknames to people to distinguish one identically named person from another, often to ludicrous effect. In Rilla of Ingleside, for instance, there is a minor character named "Mrs. Dead Angus Milgrave", so-called to distinguish her from another Mrs. Angus Milgrave whose Angus was still alive.
posted by orange swan at 1:08 PM on October 24, 2020

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