Who Do You Think You Are?

Where was Thomas Gavin born?

- Grace Smith Steven Smyrl

QMy great grandfathe­r was Thomas Gavin. The only informatio­n I have about him is from his marriage certificat­e and the census. He married Mary Callan on 3 September 1875 in Lesmahagow, Lanark, and his parents are recorded as Peter Gavin and Helen Blackburn. The age he gave suggests a birth year of 1851. According to the 1891 Scottish census on ScotlandsP­eople ( scotlandsp­eople.gov.uk), his birthplace was Ireland. I can find no informatio­n of his birth or references to his parents.

AThe fact that Scottish civil marriage and death records note parents’ names should have made your search quite easy. When Thomas Gavin (labourer) married Mary Callan in Lesmahagow parish, Lanarkshir­e, in September 1875, he gave his parents’ names as Peter Gavin (labourer, deceased) and Helen Blackburn. He was aged 24, thus born about 1851. You found that Thomas was residing in Mid Calder, Midlothian, by the time of the 1891 census when his place of birth was recorded as Ireland. Not knowing his county of birth, I checked RootsIrela­nd ( rootsirela­nd.ie) for baptismal records for issue to a Peter Gavin and Helen Blackburn, but found none. This may be because the church register is not extant, it has not been indexed, or the names of Thomas’ parents are not recorded correctly.

You identified a death record for Thomas Gavin in March 1926 in Mid Calder. However, I was not initially convinced that this was the correct record until I dug a little deeper. It notes Thomas’ parents as Robert Gavin (farm labourer) and Helen McCluskey, both deceased. But confusingl­y Thomas’ wife’s name was also given as Helen McCluskey, deceased. The informatio­n was provided by Thomas’ son Robert, and it contradict­s that given by Thomas himself at the time he married Mary Callan in 1875.

The Mid Calder 1891 census return for the Gavin family indicates that Robert Gavin was born in the village of Wiston, Lanarkshir­e, which is only a few miles away from Lesmahagow. I was able to identify Robert’s birth record (under the surname Gavan) and it confirmed his parents as Thomas Gavan (sic) and Mary Callan. I also found Thomas and Mary along with their family in the 1881, 1901 and 1911 censuses in Mid Calder, where again Thomas stated his place of birth as Ireland. However, Thomas’ wife Mary was not listed with the family in 1901 or 1911 and I subsequent­ly found that she died in Edinburgh in April 1913 aged 52, daughter of Robert Callan and Helen Carruthers. Her death was registered by a William Wood, described as a “friend”, who was present at her death. I then identified Mary in the 1911 census where she was residing in the household of William Wood in Canongate, Edinburgh. The box where Mary’s relationsh­ip to William should have been completed had been left blank and then later filled in with “housekeepe­r?”, presumably by the enumerator. Perhaps this is why Robert Gavin was either economical with the facts or muddled when registerin­g his father’s death in 1926.

What next? Start over and use the superior Scottish civil registrati­on records to your advantage. The census returns note several Gavin (sic) families in Mid Calder and the local area, and all of the most senior members give Ireland as their place of birth. Buy some credits from ScotlandsP­eople ( scotlandsp­eople.gov.uk), identify these census returns – transcript­ions are on Ancestry ( ancestry.co.uk) and Findmypast ( findmypast.co.uk) – then seek out the relevant marriage and death records in the hope of references/links to Peter Gavin and Helen Blackburn AKA McCluskey.

 ?? ?? The deaths of Thomas Gavin in 1926 and (bottom) Mary Gavin in 1913
The deaths of Thomas Gavin in 1926 and (bottom) Mary Gavin in 1913
 ?? ?? GRACE SMITH hit a brick wall with her research into her great grandfathe­r Thomas Gavin
GRACE SMITH hit a brick wall with her research into her great grandfathe­r Thomas Gavin

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