A young Cavers family in search of Australian gold

I keep an eye on new datasets added to Ancestry. A recent one covers passenger lists to Victoria, Australia between 1839 and 1923. There aren’t many Cavers references in there, but most concern a single family, emigrating from Roxburghshire in the 1850s.

Robert Cavers was christened at Hobkirk, Roxburghshire in 1827, the eldest son of Adam Cavers and his wife Janet Clark. In 1847 he married Helen Hymers, and the couple appear in the 1851 census Fastcastle in Cavers parish. Robert was working as a labourer, and by this time the couple had two daughters: Margaret, aged 3, and Jessie, aged 1. A third daughter, Helen, would be born soon after.

On 1st July 1853 the family arrived on the ship “Genghis Khan” at Melbourne. I’d known they travelled to Australia, but did not know the exact arrival date before this new database went online. The passenger lists record that Robert was engaged by Mr Campbell at Richmond, now a suburb of Melbourne. This was the time of the Australian gold rush, and the family would soon become involved in this.

Sadly Robert died a year later, as the book Rulewater and its people records: “killed in blasting a rock at the gold-diggings”. His wife was pregnant at the time, and a daughter Robina was born in Australia after Robert’s death, named after her father. But the family did not stay in Australia, and made the long journey back to Scotland. The next census reference to them, in 1861, shows them at Ashtree in Southdean parish, Roxburghshire, staying with Helen’s parents Edward and Margaret Hymers.

The family can be traced forward in time, and has living descendants today.

Starting to research Cavers references in 19th century USA census returns

A partial gap – and rather a big one – in the Cavers one-name study so far is its coverage of the United States of America. Partly this is because the relevant records are so distributed, and often vary in survival and detail so much between different states and areas within the USA. But it’s also because Cavers people did not emigrate in huge numbers to there, unlike for example Canada. This is typical for a Scottish-originating surname, where emigration to North America was focused far more on north of the Canada-USA border, than south of it.

However I want to try to improve the situation, and now intend to systematically record and analyse Cavers references in the 19th century USA census returns. The aim is to piece together families, and also trace them back where possible, for example to Canada if they migrated south to the USA from there, or to e.g. Scotland.

I’m lucky that there aren’t too many Cavers surname references in the 19th century USA census returns, unlike for instance Canada where there are many more. This means that the project can be quite small in scale, but also probe families quite deeply.

I’m going to take as my model the table that Donald Grant used when researching Scoon (surname) references in the USA census returns. Again this is a Scottish-originating surname, with not too many emigrants to the USA. He tracked people across census returns, and also traced them back to the original countries where possible, just as I hope to do.

I will work on this steadily over the next few months, and will post the results here once available, including the resulting table/spreadsheet of references, and my analysis of the picture it presents.

A third Cavers branch matching in Y-DNA project results

I’ve blogged before about the Cavers Y-DNA project at Family Tree DNA. In November 2013 I blogged about preliminary results, including for two different Cavers branches. Now we have the results for a total of three different Cavers branches, and I can reveal those here.

These results are all from the Y-DNA for male line Cavers descendants. Y-DNA is passed down from father to son, generation after generation. This means that a modern-day male descendant should have inherited the Y-DNA from his distant male line ancestors. And if his family name i.e. surname is passed down from father to son over many generations, with no female illegitimacy links in the chain, this should be a guide to his distant ancestry in that surname line. And that includes Cavers.

We now have three Cavers lines represented in the results for the Cavers Y-DNA study. And as before I’m going to spell out the ancestral lines represented by each of the volunteers who has been DNA tested.

Volunteer 1 is descended from the mysterious Walter Cavers who was born in Roxburghshire circa 1795, before migrating to Nottingham in England, and having many living descendants.

Volunteer 2 descends from Thomas Cavers (ca1810-1879) who emigrated from Castleton, Roxburghshire to Lanark County, Ontario, Canada. This Cavers family can be traced back one further generation, to John Cavers and Jean Douglas, who married in Hawick in 1789 and lived in Castleton. But beyond that it is a mystery.

The new volunteer 3 descends from John Cavers and Margaret Cleghorn. This John was a son of John Cavers and Elizabeth Hislop who I have blogged in detail about before. Again this is a Roxburghshire family, and traces back to a couple who married in Hawick in 1793.

I am pleased to say that Y-DNA results for all three of these Cavers branches match, suggesting that all three branches have a shared origin further back in time. In other words these lines and their descendants are cousins of each other. There are a few small differences between the DNA results, but not enough to prevent a confident match being made. It is normal for some mutations in DNA to occur over many generations.

In addition in the project we have a couple of non-Cavers descendants (at least as far as we know) who have been Y-DNA tested and seem, intriguingly, to be pretty close matches to the Cavers results. Not sure what is happening there – it’s a mystery! But the more Cavers people we can get tested in future, the clearer the picture could become.

What I would really like to see is for more different Cavers branches to be tested. For example we haven’t yet had anyone volunteer to be tested from the extensive Berwickshire Cavers family, or the Cavers family including Adam Cavers and his many descendants and cousins, including a large number who settled in Ormstown, Quebec, Canada. Nor have I yet been able to identify a male line Y-DNA carrying living descendant of my own Cavers branch.

Basically the more Cavers branches we can get tested, the clearer the picture will become of how they are connected to each other. There will almost certainly be some Cavers Y-DNA results that don’t match others, but that in itself is useful information, and worth knowing.

So if you are a male line Cavers descendant who may carry Cavers Y-DNA, especially for a so far untested branch, I would love to hear from you. Or if you are a female Cavers descendant but have a brother or uncle or cousin who may be able to be Y-DNA tested for your branch then that would be great too. I can’t afford to pay for all tests, but have recommended before that cousins can club together to spread the cost of a DNA test. And DNA tests are now at a lower general cost than they have ever been. For more information on the testing process, see my earlier blog post about the project.

I will continue to report new results as they come in.

Retiral of a tourism coachman

This concerns George Cavers (1831-1900) of the John Cavers and Elizabeth Hislop line. He died six months later, of chronic bronchitis. The tourism routes he operated on are in Dumfriesshire and Selkirkshire.

Edinburgh Evening News, 1900 April 11
George Cavers, the well-known four-in-hand “whip,” who for nearly half-a-century has driven tourists on the Moffat and St Mary’s Loch routes, has laid down the reins in this capacity, and retired from the road.

An extensive Berwickshire Cavers family

Much of the focus of this one-name study involves gathering Cavers references from historic (especially pre 1900) records, such as BMD certificates, census returns, and parish registers. While doing this it became clear that there was an extensive Cavers family in Berwickshire, that single-handedly accounted for most pre-1900 Cavers references that I found in that county. Researching the family further I found that they traced back to Ashkirk near Hawick, but moved en-masse to Eccles in Berwickshire in the 1850s. This is a summary of their story.

This line probably originates with a family in Roberton parish next door to Ashkirk. This was John Cavers and Jane Scott, who had at least two children:

  • Margaret Cavers, born 1 Apr 1805 at Roberton.
  • John Cavers, christened 12 Apr 1808 at Roberton. Probably John who married Elizabeth Fiddes – see below. Parents John and Jane would fit with the naming patterns of the known children of John Cavers and Elizabeth Fiddes.

John Cavers married Elizabeth Fiddes, with the marriage recorded on 10th May 1833 at Melrose, Roxburghshire. John was variously an agricultural labourer, farm servant and toll collector. He was born circa 1807/8 at Ashkirk (birthplace from various census returns), and died on 15 Aug 1886 at Wark, Northumberland – just across the Border in England, which means his death certificate does not name his parents. In the 1851 census John and Elizabeth and their children were still living in Ashkirk parish, at North Sinton. But by 1861 they had moved to Belville in Eccles parish.

John Cavers and Elizabeth Fiddes had at least 8 children:

  • John Cavers, b. ca 1833/4 in France. Married Elizabeth Aitken. See below.
  • Jesse [or Jessie?] Cavers (a girl), b. cica 1834/5 (from 1841 census). Probably died young and had a younger sister named after her
  • Jane Cavers, b. ca 1838/9 at Ashkirk. Married 26 Dec 1862 at Kames East Mains, Eccles, to James Aitken, son of John Aitken and Agnes Brydon (brother of Jane’s sister-in-law Mrs Elizabeth Cavers).
  • Elizabeth Cavers, b. 1841 (aged 3 months in 1841 Ashkirk census). Or was this the same as the following sister?
  • Elizabeth Cavers, b. ca 1842/3 in Ashkirk (per age in 1881). Housekeeper for father in 1881 Coldstream census.
  • Andrew Cavers, b. ca 1843/4 (from age in 1881). Carpenter in Edinburgh. Married 20 October 1882 at Edinburgh to Margaret Sutherland.
  • Jessie Cavers, b. ca 1845/6 (from age at marriage). Married 29 Dec 1871 at Kames, Eccles, to John Flint, joiner in Glasgow, son of Robert Flint and Isabella Jeffrey.
  • Helen Cavers, b. ca 1846/7 at Ashkirk (from 1851 census return).
  • Walter Cavers, b. ca 1849/50 at Ashkirk (from age in 1881 census). Joiner in Fife/Edinburgh. Married 1877 at Edinburgh to Dona[ldina?] Sutherland.

Moving on to the next generation down, John Cavers married Elizabeth Aitken on 23 Jan 1857 at Belville, Eccles. Elizabeth was 19, daughter of farmer John Aitken and his wife Agnes Brydon; John was a 23-year-old agricultural labourer.

John Cavers and Elizabeth Aitken’s children were:

  • Agnes Liddell Cavers, b. 20 Feb 1857 at Eccles. Married in 1890 at Edinburgh to John Clinkscale. Had at least 1 daughter, Margaret b. ca 1896/7, a Public School Teacher who married her Canadian cousin John Leonard Cavers.
  • John Cavers, b. 19 Jan 1859 at Eccles. Almost certainly the saddler John Cavers who had an illegitimate son with Elizabeth Penny born 2 Feb 1885.
  • William Cavers, b. 7 Jun 1861 at Eccles. Married 1 Sep 1891 at Bedshiel, Greenlaw, Berwickshire, to Margaret Renwick. Almost certainly the groom William Cavers who had an illegitimate son with Mary Laing born 25 Jan 1878.
  • Andrew Cavers, b. 12 Jul 1863 at Eccles. A carpenter who emigrated to Canada and married 10 Dec 1888 at Toronto, Ontario. His wife Martha Green was born circa 1865 and died 25 Jan 1890 at Toronto. The couple had at least 1 son: John Leonard Cavers b. 18 Jul 1889 at Toronto, a chemist who married 25 Sep 1918 at Carriden Manse, Carriden, West Lothian to his cousin Margaret Clinkscale. I don’t know if this couple stayed in Scotland, or returned to Canada.
  • Elizabeth Cavers, b. 22 Sep 1864 at Eccles. Possibly died 21 Nov 1910. May have had a daughter Jessie who shows up in the census with the family.
  • James Cavers, b. 11 Jan 1867 at Eccles. Died 10 Jan 1937 at Crosshall. Married Christina Hastie Wood.
  • Walter Cavers, b. 29 Apr 1869 at Eccles. Died 15 Jan 1937 at Ploughlands. Married Elizabeth Laidlaw Bruce b. 1 Sep 1867 at Mertoun (daughter of James Bruce and Jessie Laidlaw), died 18 Jul 1921 at Pittlesheugh.
  • George Cavers, b. 28 Jul 1871 at Whitsome and Hilton. Died 6 Aug 1940 at Leitholm. Married Mary Elizabeth Robinson.

The family has many modern descendants, and farmed various farms in the Eccles area of Berwickshire. It should be possible to find more references to the 19th century members of this family in various historic records. It may also be possible to find out more about what happened to some members of the family, such as brothers John and William Cavers.

Two more Cavers paternity cases

I’ve blogged before (here and here) about a Cavers man defending a paternity case, where the mother of his illegitimate child went to the courts to seek financial support for the child. This was found thanks to Graham and Emma Maxwell’s index of Borders paternity cases from various sheriff courts. I now have details of two more Cavers men in trouble with the courts.

The first case is from 1878, and Duns Sheriff Court, when Mary Laing daughter of John Laing, tailor, Auchencrow, in Coldingham parish in Berwickshire went to court against William Cavers, Groom at Rumbleton, in Gordon parish, also in Berwickshire. Mary had an illegitimate male child born at Auchencrow on 25 Jan 1878, and said William was the father. I was initially puzzled about who this was, though suspected it was one of the extensive Berwickshire family of Cavers. And it probably is. He’s almost certainly William Cavers son of John Cavers and Elizabeth Aitken, who was born at Eccles, Berwickshire, on 7 Jun 1861. He married on 1 Sep 1891 at Bedshiel, Greenlaw, Berwickshire, to Margaret Renwick. At his marriage William was described as a gamekeeper. I don’t know what happened to him after this.

The second case is from 1887, again Duns Sheriff Court. This time Elizabeth Penny daughter of Alexander Penny sometime farmer at Abbey Park, Berwickshire, and later residing at Tweedmouth, and now in Canada, brought a case against John Cavers, Saddler and Ironmonger in Swinton, Berwickshire. Elizabeth had an illegitimate male child born on 2 Feb 1885, and asserted that John was the father. Looking in census returns for a possible John, the best match in 1881 was saddler John Cavers born in Eccles and living in Coldstream. He was another son of John Cavers and Elizabeth AItken, born 19 Jan 1859, and thus the above William’s older brother.

I plan to write a blog post soon about this extensive Berwickshire Cavers family, which traces back originally to Ashkirk near Hawick.

Mid 18th century Cavers sasine references from Hawick

Scottish sasine records are records of land transfer and ownership, and are particularly valuable where ancestors owned land, however small. But in many cases, particularly at a local level, they are unindexed, and voluminous to search, so essentially out of reach, unless you can spend a long time in archives in Edinburgh, or pay someone to search the records.

Very kindly Graham Maxwell spotted a couple of Cavers references during other research he was doing in local sasine records for Roxburghshire, and forwarded on images of the relevant documents to me. They concern a father and daughter: John Cavers, merchant in Hawick, and his daughter Isobell.

The first reference dates from 1739, when John Cavers merchant in Hawick seems to have been owed 14 pounds Sterling as an annualrent regarding a tenement of houses within the town of Hawick. Then in 1756 Isobell Cavers spouse to John Currer Skinner in Hawick had sasine of a tenement of houses in Hawick, presumably the same one, which she inherited as daughter of deceased John Cavers merchant there.

There’s no marriage that I could find recorded in the parish registers for Isobell Cavers and John Currer, but they had three children baptised at Hawick: Thomas, in 1742; Mary, in 1743; and Margaret, in 1745. Going back in time I suspect that Isobell may have been the daughter of that name christened at Hawick in 1720, with parents John Cavers and Marion Newbie. Certainly a mother called Marion would fit with Isobell naming her own daughter Mary, a variant of that. The Hawick parish registers in the early 18th century are detailed, including occupations for fathers. At this 1720 baptism the father was noted as John Cavers merchant in Hawick, which definitely fits with the sasine family. On the downside there are other children recorded for John and Marion Cavers, but perhaps they died young.

Hopefully more early Cavers sasine references will come to light, as the records hopefully become easier to access.