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.

Free Church Cavers baptisms at Hawick from the 1840s and 1850

Many genealogists are familiar with the pre-1855 parish registers available at ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk. But, generally, these only include Church of Scotland parish registers. There were an awful lot of other churches in Scotland in the past. Some were of quite different kinds of Christianity, such as Episcopalianism (Church of England) or Catholicism. There were also some other religious or otherwise registers, such as Quakers and Jews. But probably the largest bulk of so-called non-conformist church records are those of breakaway sects of the Presbyterian faith, that splintered out of the Church of Scotland. Not all have surviving parish registers for everywhere they were active, but where they do they are often either in local archives around Scotland, or in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. Generally they are not included in the parish register indexes at ScotlandsPeople.

I’ve just received three transcripts of Cavers baptisms from Hawick Free Church. The Free Church was one of the most significant Presbyterian splits in Scottish religious history in the past, taking a huge number of people with it. And the Free Church was active in Cavers home territory in the Scottish Borders. Graham and Emma Maxwell are transcribing and indexing these non-conformist registers, and through the latest additions to their website indexes I was able to trace these new Cavers references, and buy copies of the transcripts from the couple.

The three new baptisms are all for children of Robert Cavers and Elizabeth McPherson. This was part of the extensive family of descendants of John Cavers and Elizabeth Hislop that I’ve blogged about here before. This line has living descendants. Here are the baptisms:

John, Son of Robert Cavers, Grocer, and Elizabeth McFerson his Wife, was born on the fourteenth day of August one thousand eight hundred and forty-six years, and baptised, in presence of the Congregation, on the thirteenth day of September, aforesaid year, by the Revd. J. A. Wallace, Minister of the Free Church Hawick.

Agnes Wilson, Daughter of Robert Cavers, Grocer, and Elizabeth McFerson his Wife, was born on the twenty-first day of January one thousand eight hundred and forty-nine years, and baptised, in presence of the Congregation, on the eleventh day of March, aforesaid year, by the Revd. J. A. Wallace, Minister of the Free Church Hawick.

James, Son of Robert Cavers, Grocer, and Elizabeth McFerson his Wife, was born on the twenty- third day of September one thousand eight hundred and fifty years, and baptised, in presence of the Congregation, on the twenty-seventh day of October, aforesaid year, by the Revd. J. A. Wallace, Minister of the Free Church Hawick.

EDIT: And here’s one more baptism, the last of this family, just forwarded on to me by Graham Maxwell. Again from the Hawick Free Church baptism registers.

Elizabeth Hislop, Daughter of Robert Cavers, Grocer, and Elizabeth McFerson his Wife, was born on the twelfth day of March one thousand eight hundred and fifty-three years, and baptised, in presence of the Congregation, on the twenty-fourth day of April, aforesaid year, by the Revd. J. A. Wallace, Minister of the Free Church Hawick.

FamilyTreeDNA seasonal sale ends December 31st 2013

Just a quick reminder to say that the current special sale prices on DNA test kits from FamilyTreeDNA, the company I’m using for the Cavers Y-DNA Project, end on 31st December. So if you’ve been thinking of getting your DNA tested, or (for example if you’re a female Cavers descendant) are considering encouraging a male Cavers relative to be tested, now is a good time to get it done. So long as kits are bought and paid for by December 31st the sale prices will apply. You will receive the kit through the post, and can return it at your leisure.

The Cavers Y-DNA project was only launched on 30th July 2013, so under 5 months ago. Already it has 4 members: 3 representing different Cavers lines (1 test kit still to be returned), and another with a different surname that’s matching the Cavers Y-DNA. Hopefully we will get more testers over time, allowing more different Cavers branches to have their DNA compared to see if they have common origins. But already, from the first two Cavers Y-DNA test kits sent out, we now know that two different Cavers lines are connected, which is very exciting.

For more information on the sale prices see my previous blog post about this, which includes instructions on how to sign up for the project. Y-DNA tests are suitable for direct male line descendants, so generally Cavers surname men, so long as there isn’t a female link e.g. illegitimacy in the direct Cavers ancestral line. Y-DNA is passed from father to son.

More on the Murray versus Cavers illegitimacy case

Recently I blogged about finding a previously unknown illegitimate Cavers birth. I’ve since received copies of the full case papers, which shed more light on the case.

The case was brought at Jedburgh Sheriff Court in 1832 by Elizabeth Murray against Thomas Cavers for support of the female child she apparently had with him. The papers record she was a residenter in Newcastleton, and she signed her name as Elisa Murray. Thomas was recorded as son of John Cavers, Joiner in Newcastleton, which identifies him as the son of John Cavers and Jane Douglas.

The language used in the case papers can be quite entertaining to a modern reader, but must have represented a very shocking family event. The decreet records that Thomas “prevailed upon the Pursuer [Eliza] to yield to his embraces and to admit him to a carnal connexion with her”, leading to the birth of the female illegitimate child on the 9th May 1831. Then though “the Pursuer has often desired and required the said Thomas Cavers Defender to filiate and provide for the said Child yet he refuses at least delays to do so”. She sought £1 Sterling for various expenses, and £1 10 shillings per quarter for the first 9 months from the birth for nursing fee, and £1 per quarter afterwards for aliment until the child reached the age of 10.

The next bit of the case papers includes Thomas’s responses to the charges. He declared that he was “not much acquainted with the Pursuer That she has resided for some years past with her Mother in the village of NewCastleton”. Then he says that he was in company with her on the night of Langholm Fair, in the house of Robert Elliot, but not alone with her. Various other apparently innocent meetings are admitted to, including another in the last summer or autumn when “he went into the Pursuers house along with the said Walter Oliver and there were in the house the Pursuer, her Mother and Walter Nichol Carter That this was after dark – That the Pursuer and Declarant left the rest and went round to the back of the house into a shade – That he cannot say while he was standing in the shade whether he had his arm around her Neck or Waist That he lay down in the shade with the Pursuer, but he had no carnal connection with her” And he further goes on to declare that he never had carnal connection with her, and is not the father of her child.

Thomas’s evidence is contradicted by Elspeth Elliot daughter of Robert Elliot in Newcastleton. She remembers the night of the Langholm Fair, and specifically that “the Defender came forwards and spoke to the Pursuer, after which he pushed her into the house, that after they were into the house the Defender took hold of the Pursuer and threw her into the bed, and went in beside her”.

Based on all this and other evidence the court’s judgement went in Eliza’s favour. But the case papers reveal that she believed Thomas was considering fleeing from Scotland to America “in order to defraud the Petitioner”. Thomas appeared before the court again, but denied that he had any intention of going to America “or else where out of Scotland” But the court didn’t believe him, and ordered the officers “to apprehend the said Thomas Cavers and Commit him Prisoner to the Castle of Jedburgh there to remain until he find sufficient Caution … that he shall present himself at the Sheriff Clerks Office in Jedburgh upon the fifteenth day of May next at Twelve oClock midday in order that he may be then and there accessible to the Diligence of the Petitioner against him for payment of the sums due to her as contained in the Decreet mentioned in the Petition”.

Thomas may not have settled in America, but he went to Canada, where he married and had many children. Meanwhile searching the 1841 Scottish census finds at Newcastleton 10-year old Janet Cavers living with 33-year-old Eliza Murray, 38-year-old George Murray (mealdealer), and 65-year-old widowed Janet Murray. Further research identifies these as Janet Cavers’ mother, uncle and grandmother.

Janet Cavers married at Newcastleton on 10th February 1855 to James Scott, a 28-year-old labourer. Because it was an 1855 marriage, in the first year of civil registration in Scotland, when all certificates recorded extra detail, the marriage certificate includes Janet’s birth details: she was apparently born 23rd July 1831 at Newcastleton. Her parents are named on the marriage certificate as Thomas Cavers, Labourer, and Elizabeth Cavers maiden name Murray. Obviously her parents never married, and the birth date differs slightly from the court case version, but the details otherwise fit.

James Scott and Janet Cavers had 5 children, all born at Castleton parish, probably Newcastleton:

  • Eliza, born 2 Dec 1855
  • William, b. 10 Mar 1858
  • Agnes, b. 8 Jun 1860
  • George, b. 25 Jul 1862
  • James, b. 23 Jan 1867

Janet Cavers died at Newcastleton on 25th September 1867, aged 35, cause of death typhoid fever. Again her parents are recorded on the certificate, and match the court case: father Thomas Cavers, farm servant, and mother Eliza Murray, domestic servant.

Her mother Elizabeth Murray outlived her, dying on 12th November 1894 at Newcastleton aged 84 years. Her death certificate records her occupation as domestic servant, and her parents David Murray, shepherd, and Janet Murray maiden name Murray. The informant was her son-in-law James Scott, who was present at the death. Eliza was living with her daughter and son-in-law in 1861, and the census records her birthplace as Canonbie in Dumfriesshire.

James Scott died on 16th April 1909 at Newcastleton, aged 82 years. The informant at his death was his son William. Two years later the 1911 census for 40 North Hermitage Street, where the family lived for a long time, records two of his children still living in the house: Agnes, a retired domestic servant, aged 50; and her brother George, “Farm Labourer (Cattle man)”, aged 48. Also living there then was Agnes’s daughter Nancy Scott aged 17 (Agnes was recorded as unmarried) and her granddaughter Nellie Scott aged 5. It’s quite possible that there are living descendants today of this family.

And just to add a little extra colour to the story, here are the signatures of the two parties at dispute before Jedburgh Sheriff Court, as recorded in the original case papers.

Signature of Thomas Cavers Signature of Eliza Murray