New clues to a Cavers family’s brief time in France in the 1830s

Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive‘s online digital editions of old newspapers I just uncovered a useful clue to a Cavers family’s brief time in France, which had puzzled me before. The obituary below is for John Cavers (ca1833-1920) who was born in France, son of John Cavers and Elizabeth Fiddes. For more details of their family tree see my blog post about this family that moved from Ashkirk near Hawick to farm in Berwickshire.

Berwick Advertiser, October 15 1920

Noted Border Farmer Dead – There passed away at Belville last week one of the ablest and most successful farmers of the Merse, in the person of Mr John Cavers. Born 87 years ago in Alsace, where his father was a gardener for a time, he started work at eleven years of age. At various times he acted as hind (at Belville among other things), as miller at Ednam, and as steward at Highridge Hall, Swinton Quarter, Whitsome Langrig, and Broomdykes. His first venture as a farmer was made at Heriot Bank 28 years ago. After five years he came to Belville as farmer, and there he succeeded so well that he and his sons have since been able to take over Heiton Mains, Kelso, Pittlesheugh, and Thorneydykes (since given up). Mr Cavers, whose wife, as sister of the late Mr James Aitken, of Springwells, died ten years ago, had two daughters, Elizabeth, who died within six weeks of her mother, and Mrs Clinkscales, now of Bo’ness; and six sons, one of whom, John, died abroad; a second Andrew lives in Canada, William, farmer of Heiton Mains; Walter, farmer and proprietor of Pittlesheugh; James, lately farmer of Thorneydykes, but now living at Bank House, Greenlaw; and George, who farms Belville. The late Mr Cavers, whose farming was probably unsurpassed in the County, was for some years a member of Whitsome School Board, and for a longer period a trusted manager of Leitholm U.F. Church. The attendance at his funeral on Saturday – one of the largest seen in this neighbourhood – was a tribute to the respect in which he was held.

And as a postscript to this, Jean Le Youdec has since traced the birth record for John Cavers in France. Quoting from Jean on Facebook:

I have discovered a trace of the birth of this John Cavers in Alsace. His birth was registered in the commune of Hayes in the Moselle on 20th October 1833. His parents are given as John Cavers and Elisabeth Sidder – perhaps a mis-spelling of Elizabeth Fiddes?

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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.