About vivdunstan

Academic historian, genealogist, former computer scientist, and Doctor Who fan.

Goals for my Cavers one-name study in 2018

Looking ahead to the New Year I thought I’d jot down things that I’d like to tackle in this area in the next 12 months.

I’m tempted to work on a new WordPress-based website for my one-name study, as I did for my Coldingham and Melrose one-place studies. But at the moment I’m not sure that’s a good use of my limited energy. Not least because my existing Cavers blog is also acting well as a repository for ideas / sharing.

I’d definitely like to blog more Cavers family lineages, and also stories of interesting people, references to Cavers people in early newspapers etc. That should become easier as more Scottish Borders papers are added to the British Newspaper Archive in digital form online.

The Cavers Y-DNA Project continues, and I’d like to do at least a couple more DNA blog posts. The first will consider the issue of comparing Douglas vs Cavers DNA – not quite as my first impressions suggested, and more complex a story. And I very much want to blog about the potential of autosomal DNA testing for the Cavers one-name study, given my recent successes. I may well widen the DNA study to accept autosomal tests next year.

It would also be nice to blog more provocative articles which raise questions, or throw up suggestions for further research. For example I did a medical blog post in the last year, which led to quite a bit of discussion. It would be good to see more along these lines.

Many ideas anyway. Looking forward to it!

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Cavers surname and health conditions

This blog post has been suggested by a few Cavers descendants who have histories of specific health conditions in their particular Cavers families. Usually auto immune diseases, like arthritis, eczema, thyroid problems, ME/CFS etc. In my own family tree, on the line that does trace back to Cavers some generations back, we have various auto immune diseases, such as arthritis, eczema, multiple sclerosis, and my own cerebral vasculitis.

I’m just throwing this out there wondering if any other Cavers lines have particularly strong family histories of any particular medical conditions or types of conditions, that may have a genetic element (in addition to other possible factors, like environmental issues, chance, infection etc.). My one big proviso is that Cavers – for every living descendant – is just one of many ancestral lines. Even for people who have the surname Cavers by descent if you trace back to e.g. your great-grandparents then 7 of the 8 probably aren’t a Cavers by birth, and all 8 great-grandparents’ genes contribute to your medical history.

However, that said, I still think it’s an interesting question, and am throwing it out there. It would also be possible to study the causes of deaths of various historic Cavers, in Scotland and elsewhere, which might throw up any particular patterns. Although I expect that the general trend wouldn’t be too dissimilar from the wider population.

Theft of fruit in Hawick in 1889

Hawick News, 1889 September 21

BURGH POLICE COURT
THEFT OF FRUIT
Alexander Forbes, Backdamgate, and John Moore, Baker Street, schoolboys, for stealing plums, pears and apples from the shop of George Cavers, High Street, were fined. Forbes 2s or 4 hours and Moor 3s 6d or 6 hours.

George Cavers (1847-1912) married Janet Bruce at Wilton in 1886. He was the son of John Cavers and Janet Graham, and has living descendants. As a young man George was the Cornet for Hawick.

Cavers references in the London workhouse records

Ancestry have recently added a searchable database of London workhouse admission and discharge records between 1738 and 1930. The original paper records are held by the London Metropolitan Archives.

Unsurprisingly, given that there was a London cluster of Cavers in the 19th century, there are Cavers references in there. All concern the same family, which I’ve covered on this blog a number of times before.

For example on 19th March 1869 a large Cavers family was admitted to Cleveland Street Workhouse. This was 48-year-old William Cavers, a gun maker, his wife Sarah aged 39, and their children George Edward (10), Earnest F. (9), Grace (6), Alice (4), Edith (3) and Kate (2). Some of the family were only in the workhouse for a day, but Sarah and her youngest daughters were there for several weeks. And some of the children appear back in the same workhouse a couple of months later. George Edward, Ernest Frederick, Alice and Grace were all admitted on 22nd May, but discharged that same day to their parents.

Decades later the father William Cavers appears again in the workhouse records. By now it was 1902, and he was a 81-year-old man. On 5th March 1902 he was recorded still as a gun implement maker, and admitted to the Westminster Union Workhouse. His nearest relative was noted as his son William. This time he stayed in the workhouse until 11th March, when he was discharged at his own request. But that’s not the end of the story. There’s a record for the workhouse on 18th March, of William being discharged to Colney Hatch Asylum, which in its day was the largest lunatic asylum in Europe.

Intriguingly I’d previously thought that William had died between 1881 and 1891, because his wife Sarah appears in the census of 1891 described as a widow. But I’m now guessing that the marriage had broken down, and they were living apart. He was certainly still alive in 1902, as these records show.

Finding another Cavers, this time a young married woman, in the mental health records

About a week ago I blogged – originally on my own genealogy blog, and then reblogged here on the Cavers blog – about my Cavers ancestor who appears in the Scotland-wide records of patients admitted to asylums. In that original blog post I explained more fully about these records, and what they record, and how to access them. Do check out that original blog post for more details of all of this.

Since then Graham and Emma Maxwell have kindly sent me details of another Cavers reference in these records. This concerns Elizabeth Cavers of the Lilliesleaf family, daughter of Charles Cavers and Martha Cathrae. I’ve blogged here about her brother William (see here) and also her father Charles (see here).

She’s recorded in these mental health records as Betsy Cavers or Turner, having married in 1847 weaver Thomas Turner. She was admitted to Newbigging House asylum at Musselburgh in 1858. She was then 34, living at Dunsdalehaugh at Selkirk, with occupation recorded as “Superintending her family”. Her first attack happened when she was 23, but she didn’t receive treatment then. Her latest attack had been going on for one week, and she was observed among other things to be talking incoherently, and under delusions that her house would be taken from her. Her husband also reported that she had threatened to injure the children and others.

At the moment I don’t know how long Betsy was in this asylum for, or what treatment she received while there. I hadn’t previously found any evidence of children for her, and struggled to find her in various census returns. But this record expands the picture. And it’s prompted me to recheck for children. After 1855 there were Thomas (1855) and Margaret (1859) both born at Selkirk. Thomas’s 1855 birth certificate – the first year of civil registration in Scotland, when extra details were recorded – notes that the couple had 4 boys and 1 girl living then. And I’ve now found the family in 1861. They were still at Dunsdalehaugh at Selkirk, and as well as Thomas and Elizabeth were their children John (13), Charles (11), Martha (9), James (8), Thomas (5) and Margaret (1). I’ve traced Betsy’s husband’s death in 1902, and his second marriage in 1865 to Isabella Dickson. And that’s helped me finally locate Betsy’s death: recorded as Elizabeth Turner, wife of Thomas Turner weaver, and daughter of Charles Cavers and Martha Cathrae, both deceased. Sadly she died in the Millholme House asylum at Musselburgh in 1862. She was just 38, described on her death certificate as a pauper lunatic, and died from general paralysis. How sad.

Betsy Cavers or Turner can now be found in Graham and Emma’s online indexes of Scottish mental health records, which will grow over time to cover more and more years, and I expect will throw up more Cavers references for me to follow up and blog about.

Finding an ancestor in the mental health records

Reblogging the story of my g..uncle William Cavers, as revealed by mental health records.

Viv's Ancestry Blog

Graham and Emma Maxwell have started looking at mental health records of Scots admitted to various asylums (National Records of Scotland records MC2 and MC7), with a view to indexing these by name of patient, thus opening them up more to family history researchers. They knew of my Cavers one-name study, so when they stumbled across a Cavers reference they kindly sent me the images. And it turns out to be a relative of mine.

William Cavers (1798-1873) was my distant g..uncle, son of Francis Cavers and Euphemia Hogg, and younger brother of my 4xg-grandfather Thomas Cavers. Like most of the men in his immediate family William worked as a shepherd, moving about various parts of the Borders and other parts of southern Scotland. By 1859 he was at Ancrum, living with his wife Mary and some of their children.

At this time, before Dingleton Hospital opened at Melrose…

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Hoping to get some old Hawick papers digitised

I’ve just asked the British Newspaper Archive to add a Hawick paper to its archive of digitised papers. More votes supporting this would help. For ages they had no Scottish Borders published papers at all. Then they added the Southern Reporter, but it has very little content re region’s then largest town, Hawick. If we can get a Hawick paper digitised then I will be able to pull out lots more useful Cavers surname references from Hawick and surrounding areas (including Cavers itself). To vote see here. Thank you.

EDIT: Happy to say that the British Newspaper Archive now plans, newspaper condition permitting, to digitise old issues of the Hawick News. See here.