Category Archives: family history

The MacDonald-Robertson union…

Margaret MacDonald & John Robertson

If you noticed in my previous post on The Robertsons, my grandparents shared the same birthday… month and day anyway. They were both born on August 12th. Maybe grouse hunting has nothing to do with the moniker “The Glorious Twelfth”. Maybe it’s to do with John and Margaret. Not likely but it is a fun sort of fact.

The children were all born at Weets, Wardhouse by Insch (quite the address, eh?)

I’ll begin the oldest of John and Margaret’s children and work down to the youngest.

Thomas Robertson

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Thomas Robertson Sep 2, 1903-Sep 19, 1942

 

Thomas Robertson
Thomas Robertson Sep 2, 1903-Sep 19, 1942

Thomas was a Lance Corporal in the Canadian military and was killed in a motorcycle accident in British Columbia. He left a wife and an unborn child when he died.

William Robertson

William “Waddie” remained in Scotland his entire life and stayed in the area where he was born. He was born on Oct 7, 1904 and later on joined and served with the Gordon Highlanders during WWII. William died on Aug 9, 1977.

Benjamin Robertson

Benjamin was born on Nov 9, 1905 and came to Canada when he was 19 on the S.S. Montcalm bound for Winnipeg, Manitoba. The ship arrived in Quebec on May 3, 1926. Uncle Benji rode and raced motorcycles and won a number of championships. He died on Oct 22, 1990.

George Robertson

George was born on Jan 14, 1907. He was the oldest of the five Robertson children who were sent to the Orphan Homes of Scotland when it became too much for Grandpa Robertson (sometime between the time my grandmother died and 1917, he had a stroke) and children from his first marriage to cope. George came to Canada in 1922 on board the Cameronia and arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Mar 7th. He died on Apr 24, 1965 at his home in Moose Creek, Ontario.

Barbara Robertson

Barbara was born on Sep 10, 1908. She was the oldest of the two Robertson sisters sent to the Orphan Homes of Scotland. She sailed on the Letitia and arrived in Quebec on Jul 25, 1925. Despite the fact that she came to Canada the same year as her brother, Andrew, the children sailed in two parties. The boys were one group and they sailed earlier in the year when the seas would be rougher and the girls in the summer when weather would be more favourable. She was married across the river in Ogdensburg, New York and made her home in Brockville, Ontario. She died on Feb 21, 1990.

Andrew Knight Beattie Robertson

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Andrew Knight Beattie Robertson Dec 9, 1909-Jul 21, 1983

Until now, none of the children had middle names. Andrew was the first. And further back in the family history, there was an Andrew Knight Beattie. But I digress..

Andrew was born on Dec 9, 1909. He, too, was sent to the Orphan Homes of Scotland, coming to Canada in 1925 on board the Athenia. The ship arrived on April 4th. Andrew served in the military with the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. He died at his home in Brockville, Ontario on Jul 21, 1983.

Christina Mcdonald Robertson

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Christina Mcdonald Robertson Mar 25, 1911-Apr 13, 1982

Christina “Chrissie” as she was known as, was born on Mar 25, 1911. Although she had been sent to the Orphan Homes of Scotland, she didn’t emigrate to Canada for health reasons. She had TB and although it wasn’t active or infectious, she was deemed unsuitable to make the voyage. After she became old enough to leave the homes, she was taken on in employment as a domestic servant for the Superintendent at the time, a Mr Douglas. Chrissie married in Glasgow and died in Dundee on Apr 13, 1982.

Peter Robertson

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Peter Robertson Jun 23, 1912-Apr 1, 1988

Peter was born on Jun 23, 1912. It was the ‘middle’ children who were to be sent off to the Orphan Homes of Scotland which meant, he should go, and my father being younger should have stayed at Weets. From what I’ve been told, the son from the first marriage who took over the farm liked Peter more than my father. Sad but true. But then, had my father not come to Canada, he wouldn’t have met my mother and I would be here to tell you this story…

Peter remained in Scotland and worked on farms around Weets and Insch. When he retired from farm work, he moved to nearby Huntly and died there on Apr 1, 1988.

Robert Anderson Robertson

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Robert Anderson Robertson Jul 30, 1913-Apr 29, 1969
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Robert and Chrissie at The Orphan Homes of Scotland in 1930 shortly before my father sailed

Robert (my father) was born on Jul 30, 1913. In the paragraph about Peter, I mention the events that lead to my dad coming to Canada rather than Uncle Peter. Normally, in the Orphan Homes of Scotland the boys and girls were houses in separate accommodations. Boys even had to make appointments to visit their sisters with the house mother and even then it was done outside under supervision.

My father sailed to Canada on the Letitia, arrived in Halifax on Apr 6, 1930. From there he came the rest of the way to Fairknowe Home in Brockville by train.

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1930 Boys Party on the steps of Fairknowe Home. My father is first left in the second row

On June 18, 1930, the same day that he received his first placement in Canada, his father died.

My father served with the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders during WWII. He worked at Phillips Cables (Phillips Plant as we know it) until shortly before his death (result of a workplace injury) on Apr 29, 1969.

Angus Mcdonald Robertson

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Angus Mcdonald Robertson Jan 7, 1915-Feb 1984

Angus was also known as “Donald” which led to much confusion when researching the family. I always thought they were two different people. He was born on Jan 7, 1915 and lost his mother to complications from the measles in December of that year. I know he served in the military and I’m guessing it was the Royal Navy, given his uniform.

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Peter, Robert, Chrissie & Angus at the latter’s wedding

Angus got married in uniform and his three siblings who were able to, attended. My father was able to get leave to attend. And doesn’t he look dashing in his kilt?

After his time in the military, Angus worked for a cooperative. He died in Feb 1984 (note to self – I must get the exact date).

The Cottages at The Orphan Homes of Scotland

Hardly what I would refer to as a cottage. These places are enormous! Not quite as big as a mansion, but they are definitely villas. In their day, they would have had six to seven bedrooms and housed up to twenty children. Boys had a house mother and father. The girls a house mother.

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My father and his brothers, George and Andrew, stayed here in Broadfield Home (Cottage 1)
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My father’s sisters, Barbara and Christina (Chrissie), stayed here in Leven Home (Cottage 13)

With all these aunts and uncles, I’ve got plenty of cousins… and would you believe I’ve not met all of them yet.

 

The Robertsons (real ones not fictional)

The Robertsons – My Robertsons not the fictional ones

I suppose in a way, they are all mine. After all, I did create the fictional Robertson family.

We’ll start with John Robertson, my grandfather. When he married my grandmother, he had already been married once before and had ten children!

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John Robertson Aug 12, 1856 – June 18, 1930

John’s parents were John and Jane Robertson who made their home near Insch. She was a Robertson before she married my great-grandfather. Given that the surname was quite common in this part of Aberdeenshire in the 1800s, it’s not unusual that two people with the same surname got together.

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The Robertson headstone in St Drostan’s Kirkyard in Insch

The inscription on the bottom of this stone is interesting – “not dead but sleeping”.

Grandpa Robertson’s first wife (Susan Christie) died in 1899. Two years later, he married my grandmother, Margaret MacDonald.

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Margaret MacDonald (Aug 12, 1882-Dec 2, 1915)
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John and Margaret’s marriage certificate

Margaret’s surname has been spelled MacDonald, Macdonald, McDonald, etc. You get the idea.

When they got married, Margaret had already had one child – a son.

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Margaret’s death certificate

Ten children later,  Margaret passed away from the measles and pneumonia.

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The Robertson headstone in the Old Kirkyard at Kennethmont

Grandpa Robertson is buried here along with his first wife, Susan Christie, and my grandmother, Margaret MacDonald.

The copies of the marriage certificates were obtained through the help of a genealogist who had been recommended to me but now, amateur sleuths can look up these documents and more at Scotland’s People.

 

Photos and such…

This was first posted on Feb 26, 2011.

I posted a photo of my grandfather and his first wife that was taken presumably on their wedding day a few years ago. I’m reposting it along with two more from the family archives.

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Grandpa John Robertson with his first wife, Susan Christie

This photo was definitely taken in a studio setting and judging by their clothing and the way her hair is styled, it had to be a special occasion. Hence, the thought of it being a wedding photograph.

Grandpa Robertson was born in 1856 and married for the first time 20 years later. And yes, that is my grandfather, not great-grandfather or great-great-grandfather.

After looking carefully at the photo for a few minutes, close your eyes and imagine it in full colour, an oil painting of huge proportions… 6 ft by 8 ft (or larger still) and it’s hanging on a rich oak panelled wall. Can you visualize it in that setting?

That’s where it is in my novel. This is the Laird and Lady of Weetshill on their wedding day.

In my novel, the old Laird looks much more like this…

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Grandpa Robertson as an old man

This photograph of an older Grandpa Robertson was taken some time before his death in 1930. I’m thinking maybe between 1915 (the year my grandmother-his second wife) and 1917 (the year my father and four of his nine siblings were admitted to The Orphan Homes of Scotland). By that time, he’d had a stroke with loss of memory and was unable to keep up the farm.

This is how I envision the hero’s grandfather. White-haired, balding, mustache and beard.

The old Laird in my novel also walks with a cane.

And finally this photograph from the archives…

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Peter, Robert and Angus Robertson

This photo was taken on my Uncle Angus’s wedding day in Scotland. My father (Robert) was serving overseas with the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders at the time but was able to get leave to go back to Scotland for the occasion. It would have been the last time my father saw his brothers.

Now there’s no mistaking the men in this photo are related but look closely at the young man in the first photo, the old man in the second one and lastly (mostly Robert) the men in this photo. Perhaps, a natural progression of how my hero will age?