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?
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.
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.
Some time ago I blogged about Cavers references in the apprenticeship records that recently went online at Ancestry.co.uk. These include Robert Cavers, shoemaker at Lauder, Berwickshire, who was one of a Cavers family living there for several generations. I commented in that post that I didn’t know where they came from before then. I do now.
Graham and Emma Maxwell are indexing baptisms, marriages and burials in non Church of Scotland parish registers. More specifically that means non-conformist (i.e. not Church of Scotland) parish registers, and Church of Scotland kirk session records – the other records kept by the local church authorities for each parish in Scotland. And searching their database I found lots of Cavers burial references in Lauder. I bought a few, and Emma revealed that they were all on the same page of the parish’s kirk session records, all burials for the one family. Result! Here’s what it says:
Records of Funerals in Lauder Beloning to the Faimely of Robert Cavers since the year 1785.
John Cavers His Sone Departed this life 1785 Aged 3 years.
William Sone to Robert Cavers Departed this life June 11th 1794 Aged 23 years.
William Father to Robert Cavers Departed this life September 1798 Aged 79 years.
Ebenezer Sone to Robert Cavers Departed this life December 25th 1801 Aged 24 years.
Christean Daughter To Robert Cavers Departed this life March the 6th 1806 Aged 24 years.
Marrion Tweedhope 2d Spouse to Robert Cavers Departed this life May 29th 1819 aged 71 years.
John Waddel Sone to Christean Cavers Departed this life Febuary 13th 1825 Aged 24 years.
Robert Sone to James Cavers & Agnes Waddel Departed this life June 28th 1806 Aged 2 years 3 m.
Robert Cavers Departed this life June 20th 1827 Aged 80 years.
Margreat Cavers daughter to James Cavers & Agnes Waddel Departed this life July 13th 1831 Aged 2 years 10 months 2 Weeks.
James Waddel Sone to Christean Cavers Departed this life July 18th 1832 Aged 29 Years.
John Cavers Sone to James Cavers and Agnes Waddle Born 13 octr. 1830 Departed this life 4th May 1849 Aged 18 years 6 Months 3 Weeks.
The most interesting ones for tracing the family back in time are the burials for the first Robert Cavers, buried in 1827 aged 80 years, and his father William Cavers, buried in 1798 aged 79 years. I hadn’t known the first Robert’s father was William. Both of these burials can be confidently linked up to earlier baptisms, in Galashiels, Selkirkshire. Robert Cavers was christened on 9th August 1746 at Galashiels, son of William Cavers and Christian Currer. And his father William Cavers was christened at Galashiels on 21st January 1719, son of Robert Cavers and Margaret Easton. So that takes the family back in time confidently. At the moment it isn’t possible to trace further back than this, though there are other references to both families. For example I know that William and Christian Cavers had a son John christened in 1749 at Melrose parish in Roxburghshire, which lies somewhat on the way from Galashiels towards Lauder, so perhaps the family were already started on their gradual move from Selkirkshire to Berwickshire.
I plan to research the family further, and write up my findings in a future blog post. As far as I can recall I haven’t been contacted by a descendant of this family before, but I may be in future. In any event I want to research it as much as any other Cavers family in the past.
I’ve recently been studying the new database of apprentice indenture duties available on Ancestry.co.uk. This is based on records held in The National Archives at Kew in Surrey, and includes the names of many masters, apprentices and details of the trades they were pursuing, across the UK, between 1710 and 1811. By studying the original document images I’ve already extracted the details of apprentices in Melrose parish in Roxburghshire, 201 pairs of master-apprentice names between 1734 and 1804, and I will be doing a similar extraction for Coldingham parish in Berwickshire, my other one-place study.
However it’s also possible to search for apprentices or masters with the surname Cavers. There are very few, just three.
The earliest recorded is Robert Cavers at Lauder in Berwickshire in 1762, who was apprenticed to shoemaker Robert Romanus. This may be Robert Cavers who married Mary Tweedup at Lauder in 1784 and had descendants. There was certainly a Cavers cluster at Lauder around then, though I don’t know where they came from originally.
Then in 1793 there was a payment for James Cavers who was apprenticed to John Lydon junior taylor at Denholm, in Cavers parish. It’s difficult to be sure about this, but from the date, and the likely age at which he would have been apprenticed it’s possible that this was the son christened in 1780 at Cavers parish to father Robert Cavers. If so that would match up with James Cavers (1780-1866) husband of Margaret Blackburn who emigrated to Ormstown in Quebec, was a farmer there, and had many descendants.
I’m most confident about the third Cavers apprentice. This was Charles Cavers whose apprenticeship dues to Adam Hart weaver in Lockieshedge in Wilton parish were paid in 1800. This has to be Charles Cavers (ca1784-1864) son of Thomas Cavers and Janet Scott who had other children christened in the Wilton/Hawick area. Charles was known to be a weaver, and also a soldier, married at Wilton in 1805, and later settled in Lilliesleaf.
I had hoped to find a reference in the records to William Cavers the gunsmith in London, which might have helped me identify his origins more. It’s possible he was apprenticed, but his name could have been misrecorded or mistranscribed. As it is there are only these three Cavers apprentices that I can confidently identify as part of the one-name study.