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.