An unusual funeral in Hawick

Among the recent additions to the British Newspaper Archive was this Hawick Express issue of 29 November 1879.

FORESTERS’ FUNERAL – On Sunday last a large number of the brethren of Court Flower of Teviotdale turned out to attend the funeral of their deceased brother, George Cavers. Preceding the coffin, which was borne shoulder-high by four of their number, they went by way of High Street to Wellogate Cemetery, where, after the body had been committed to the grave, Bro. R. Waddell, C.R., impressively read the service for the dead prescribed by the order. Large numbers congregated at various parts to witness the cortege, and at the cemetery many gathered together to hear the service read.

From this report we know that the deceased man was a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters. This was established in 1834, and was a mutual aid society, providing financial support and savings options for members, in an era long before the British welfare state or readily available banking facilities.

A little genealogical digging identified the deceased man as 24-year-old waiter George Duncan Cavers, son of master tailor John Cavers and his wife Sarah Duncan. George had died of tuberculosis on 25 November 1879 at 2 Howegate, Hawick. He grew up in Hawick, but was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, USA in 1855, where his parents had emigrated to. Sadly his father died not long after, and the widowed Sarah returned to Scotland and Hawick with her four surviving young children.

By the 1861 census widowed Mrs Sarah Cavers and her children were living in Langlaw Place, Wilton parish, Hawick. All but the eldest child had been born in America. Sarah Duncan or Cavers later married again, to a Thomas Rattray, engineman. Her daughter Janet Cavers returned to the United States, and married English-born Thomas Binns at Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1876.

This Cavers family was one of those descended from James Cavers and Isabella Coltherd, part of the line of their grandson Thomas Cavers (b. 1791).

Cavers brothers in 1891 Argyll

Although Cavers people frequently turn up in the Hawick area and elsewhere in the Scottish Borders the surname rarely appears in much more distant parts of Scotland. So along those lines I was rather surprised to find a large Cavers household in 1891 Dunoon in Argyll, on the west coast of Scotland.

The household was living at a house called Ingleston in James Street, Dunoon. Living together there were two brothers and their families. Firstly William Cavers, aged 33, a boot salesman born in Yorkshire, his wife Georgean, and their children Francis and Agnes. Then also in the household were William’s younger brother John Cavers, a gardener aged 31, born Lincolnshire, plus his wife Sarah and their son Francis.

Although both brothers were born in England they grew up in Hawick, two of the children of gardener Francis Cavers and his wife Agnes Scott. I’ve blogged about this family before, including the circumstances of Francis’s death, and more recently discovering his illegitimate daughter.

William and family were still living in Dunoon in 1901 but John and family by then were in Leith, by Edinburgh. I have not traced either family further forward, though it should be possible to discover more about what happened to them afterwards.

Searching for Cavers references in the British Newspaper Archive

I’ve often posted articles found in old newspapers. Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive these are some of the easiest sources to check quickly online, at least for Scotland and the UK. As I write the British Newspaper Archive already holds over 35 million pages from old British newspapers. Now to be fair the archive doesn’t contain all old British newspapers, though it certainly has a lot, and is adding more all the time. And there were few local newspapers, including in the Scottish Borders homeland of the Cavers surname, before the early 1800s. However the archive already has good coverage for Hawick. As well as many years of the Hawick News (started 1882) and the Hawick Express (started 1870), it includes a number of surrounding area papers, as well as many years of the Borders-wide paper the Southern Reporter (started 1855). Elsewhere the archive has good coverage of newspapers in Edinburgh and Fife, as well as in many parts of England.

Having said all that, searching for surname Cavers can be somewhat fraught. Searches are by keyword, not specifically surname, and the word “Cavers” can match both the surname and the parish of Cavers near Hawick that gave rise to the surname. Usually parish references predominate by far. Adding a forename can narrow it down, e.g. searching for “James Cavers”, “Francis Cavers” etc. Another tactic is to restrict the place of publication (an option in the search results form) to just Hawick published papers. Though even then you still have to wade through lots of Cavers parish results.

The quality of the OCR automated character recognition used in the archive text searches is not perfect, and there are often mistranscriptions. This does mean you may miss sought articles when searching by text keyword. But often the search does lead to something you want, the transcript (even with faults), can be good enough to judge an article’s relevance, and you can then click through to read the original newspaper page directly. Note it is also possible to browse newspaper issues directly, without using a keyword search, if you want to access the archive that way. Keyword searches, however, make searching the mass of pages quickly practical, that would be impractical to read fully.

The newspaper references I am posting online in the opening months of 2020 were found by searching for pages added to the online archive in the last 30 days – another handy search option available. This found old Cavers newspaper articles new for me, and hopefully of interest to the blog’s readers.

I love the variety of references that turn up. Obviously reports of births, marriages and deaths. But also advertisements from businessmen, court cases and crime reports, school prize lists and so much more. The content evolves over time, to be more varied and less about elite people later. It is always worth me checking the archive for interesting new Cavers content.

If you are interested in trying the British Newspaper Archive do check out their site. It is a subscription site, but you can subscribe for as short a period as a month, as well as longer. Alternatively the newspaper archive’s database is included in many FindMyPast subscription packages, alongside the other datasets FindMyPast provides access to.

A mystery Cavers girl from Selkirk

While browsing through the Scottish birth, marriage and death certificates again I looked at the 1861 marriage of “Isabella Scott or Cavers”, a 21-year old mender in a wool hosiery factory, living at 4 Fore Row, Hawick, daughter of Barbara Moyes maiden name Scott. Isabella married wool sorter William Spalding, also aged 21, of Wilton Place, Hawick. Very sadly Isabella died just over a week after her wedding. Her death certificate names just her mother again, no father noted. Who was he?

My working presumption is that he was a Cavers man, hence the two surnames that unmarried Isabella used when she married. Looking in the census finds her mother Barbara (who died in 1869 aged 51) was born at Selkirk. And a bit more digging finds mother and daughter together in the 1841 Selkirk census, living at Edinburgh Road, Selkirk, in the large household of Alexander and Jane Scott. Sadly the 1841 Scottish census doesn’t record relationships, but from their ages (44 and 40) this couple are likely to have been Barbara’s parents, with others in the house her younger siblings. Alexander was a stocking maker and Barbara a woollen factory worker. Barbara’s daughter was recorded as “Isabel Cavers” in this census, aged 1, born Selkirkshire.

Barbara Scott next appears in the 1851 census, by now wife of James Moise, stocking weaver and keeping of a lodging house, and living at Back Row, Selkirk with their children and some members of her Scott family. No sign of Isabel Cavers. By 1861 the “Moyse” family appear in Hawick, living at Mill Port, Hawick, James a wool framework knitter. In both 1851 and 1861 census returns Barbara is noted as born Selkirk. Again no sign of Isabel or Isabella Cavers living with her.

And then it gets very strange! Because the only possible glimpse of Isabella Cavers in the 1861 census is the 21-year-old “Isobella Cavers”, wool hosiery warehouse girl, living with her granny Helen Scott or Cavers at Roadhead, Hawick. Helen Scott was the widow of Thomas Cavers, and my gggg-granny! I’ve never known who this granddaughter Isobella was. She’s born in Selkirk per this census. Might she be Barbara Scott/Moyes’ daughter, and the illegitimate child of one of the sons of Helen Scott/Cavers? There’s also a mysterious 10-year-old Isabella Cavers living with the same Helen Scott/Cavers at Burnfoot, Wilton in 1851. Supposedly born Selkirkshire, and Helen’s daughter, but could that again be a granddaughter really born in Selkirk?

Helen Scott had 5 Cavers sons: Francis, James, John, Thomas and William. Francis Cavers was probably the most likely of these sons to have been Isabella’s father, close in age to Barbara, and I know that he gardened for a time in Selkirkshire. A paternity case might prove it, whether in the courts or the kirk session minutes. But for now I have one final clue. Guess who shows up as a witness at Isabella’s 1861 marriage per the certificate. Francis Cavers, almost certainly this same man. So I think this mystery is now pretty much solved, barring final 100% confirmation. And to think when I first looked at Isabella’s marriage certificate earlier I had absolutely no idea who she was …

A large cabbage

The British Newspaper Archive has recently been adding more pages from the Hawick Express newspaper. Here is a Cavers reference from there, from the 14 October 1876 issue. George Cavers was born at Hawick in 1848, son of John Cavers or Irvine and Janet Graham. George married Janet Bruce in 1886. He died at Hawick in 1912.

LARGE CABBAGE – Mr George Cavers, green-grocer, &c., received yesterday a very large cabbage, measuring 57 1/2 inches in circumference, and weighing 38 lbs. It is now exhibiting in his window, 30 High Street.

Remembering an Australian Cavers soldier on Anzac Day

Today, 25th April, is a day of remembrance for the many soldiers from Australia and New Zealand who served in all wars, but perhaps especially, and at least originally, those who fought at Gallipoli in World War 1.

One of these Australian soldiers was Francis Cavers (1894-1918). Born at Hobkirk near Hawick in Scotland, son of William McLean Cavers and Margaret Robson Jepps, he was a gardener before he emigrated to Australia. He joined the Australian Imperial Force and served at Gallipoli before being invalided out with dysentery. Patched up in time to serve at the Battle of the Somme he received several injuries there, which again saw him invalided out. He returned to the war in late 1917, and was killed in France on 5th April 1918, aged just 24, leaving a widow Elizabeth and young daughter Mary. His younger brother John Jepps Cavers had died in 1915, on the way to Gallipoli.

Francis Cavers (1894-1918)

Thanks to Derek Robertson of Hawick and the Great War for some of this information, including the photo of Francis’s grave in France which he has just sent me.

Grave of Francis Cavers

Theft of fruit in Hawick in 1889

Hawick News, 1889 September 21

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.

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.

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.

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.