Cavers people in Massachusetts, USA

Ancestry has recently added Massachusetts parish registers to its online indexes and digital images. Part of my own personal Cavers line has a Massachusetts connection, so I was really pleased to see these new online records.

John Cavers son of Thomas Cavers and Helen Scott emigrated from Hawick to Massachusetts with his wife Sarah Duncan. John was a tailor. John and Sarah had children in Massachusetts, then after John died Sarah returned with her children to Hawick. At least one of her children went back out to marry in Massachusetts. And now I know so much more.

Children that I’ve been able to establish for the couple are now:

  • Thomas Francis, b. ca 1848; d. 1861 at Wilton, house painter
  • Janet, b. 2 Jul 1850 at Boston, Massachusetts; m. Thomas Binns (b. England, son of George & Martha), on 21 Jun 1876 at Lowell, Massachusetts, and had children
  • Ellen, b. 30 Apr 1852 at Chelsea, Massachusetts; d. 15 Oct 1855 at Chelsea, Massachusetts, cause of death “Lung Fever”
  • Sarah F. (or Sarah E.), b. 1 Feb 1854 at Chelsea, Massachusetts; d. 13 Oct 1854 at Chelsea, Massachusetts, cause of death “Disease of Bowels”
  • George Duncan, b. 14 Jul 1855 at Chelsea, Massachusetts; d. 1879 at Hawick
  • Allen (male), b. 1 Oct 1856 at Chelsea, Massachusetts; presumed to have died young
  • Helen, b. ca 1857 at USA; d. 1890 at Wellington Street, Hawick. Executor for her testament was her first cousin Thomas Cavers Hall (my gg-grandfather)

The father John died at Boston on 25 Mar 1858, recorded as aged 29 years 8 months (there is no trace of his birth in the Scottish parish registers), cause of death consumption, married, born Scotland, parents Thomas and Allen (Ellen/Helen?). His widow Sarah remarried in 1871 at Edinburgh to Thomas Rattray. He too was from Hawick: an engineman from Wilton. At the time of this marriage Sarah was living at Silver Street, Hawick, and her marriage certificate names her parents as George Duncan and Janet Thorburn. Census records indicate that Sarah was born circa 1827 or 1829 in Hawick.

The Massachusetts databases on Ancestry throw up some other Cavers references, but checking the original parish registers pages they almost all look as though they are other surnames mistranscribed. The only one that *may* be a Cavers is Mrs Ann Young who died in 1904 at Winthrop, Massachusetts, aged 71, widow of John Young, born Canada, daughter of George and Esther ?Cavers? {that name is hard to read}. But even that one may be another surname really. I can’t find her in my Canadian Cavers records so far.


More details about Francis Cavers who died after being assaulted in 1874

Previously I blogged about the death of Francis Cavers, after being assaulted. I’ve just found another newspaper report which gives more details, particularly of his life and character:

Southern Reporter, 1874 May 28


Mr Francis Cavers, a native of Tweedside, and for many years gardener at Ashiestiel, and latterly jobbing gardener at Galashiels, and who also acted as sexton at Ladhope, has died from the effects of injuries received in the neighbourhood of Hawick. He was set upon one evening by a party (now in custody) on the way from Hawick to Wilton Dean, and so brutally maltreated that he died on Saturday last. He was interred yesterday. He was a quiet, industrious man, very peaceable and obliging in disposition; and much regret is felt for his widow and family.

Francis has descendants living today. I descend from his younger sister Margaret, Mrs Hall, who lived not far from Francis when he died. Both were great-grandchildren of James Cavers and Isabella Coltherd.

Painting of James Cavers (1765-1863) “Old Dunneram”

I wrote a blog post some time ago about a newspaper report regarding the 97th birthday of James Cavers. He was my 6xg-uncle, and has direct descendants still living today.

I knew there was a painting of him in the Hawick Museum in Wilton Lodge Park, though I’d never seen the original, just a photograph of it. It’s now been digitised and can be viewed online. Take a look, for a glimpse into the past and an interesting Cavers character.

It’s part of the BBC’s Your Paintings website which is related to a project to digitise the UK’s paintings. You can search by keyword, and it’s worth looking at the results for searching for Hawick, to see what the town so many Cavers people lived in looked like. Click on any of the small thumbnails to see bigger versions and more details about them.

Family of John Cavers and Elizabeth Hislop

This family shows how incomplete references in Scottish parish registers can be. Of the known earliest children of the family, none have baptisms in the parish registers, and all can only be identified from later death certificates, sometimes combined with other records. Even these death certificates can sometimes be misleading, with wrong information recorded for one parent, which has to be carefully teased apart, to piece together the family. It’s also possible there were more children of the early family, but only the ones outlined below have been reliably identified.

A marriage between John Cavers and “Betty Haselhope” is recorded in Hawick parish registers on 17th May 1793. The groom was of Hawick parish, and the bride of Yarrow parish. Note this wasn’t the date of the marriage ceremony, but the giving up of names for proclamation of banns prior to the ceremony: often the only record of a marriage that survives in Scottish parish registers.

There are no baptisms in the parish registers for children of this couple. On the death certificates of the couple’s children John’s occupation is variously recorded as groom and shepherd, although more commonly the latter, suggesting that was probably his main occupation.

Here are outline details of the four known children of John Cavers and Elizabeth Hislop, as far as I and descendants of the family have been able to piece things together:

1. Elizabeth Cavers, b. circa 1794 at Teviothead. Died 31 Dec 1881 at Craick Cottage, Roberton. Married James Nichol. Her death certificate names her parents as John Cavers, Shepherd, and Elizabeth Scott. But she can be identified as a daughter of John Cavers and probably Elizabeth Hislop because in the 1871 census James Cavers son of Robert Cavers and Elizabeth McPherson (see below) was living with James and Elizabeth Nichol in Hawick and described as their nephew. Also in the 1841 Hawick census Robert Cavers (prior to his marriage) had 20-year-old Jean Nichol and 12-year-old Barbra Nichol living with him, almost certainly his two nieces.

Elizabeth and James’s children were:

  • Elisabeth Nichol, c. 30 Nov 1813 at Roberton
  • Janet Nichol, c. 24 Dec 1815 at Roberton
  • Margaret Nichol, c. 20 Nov 1817 at Roberton
  • Jane Nichol, c. 25 Mar 1820 at Roberton
  • Christian Nichol, b. 11 May 1822 at Roberton
  • Joan Nichol, b. 22 Aug 1824 at Roberton
  • John Nichol, c. 27 May 1827 at Roberton
  • Barbara Pott Nichol, c. 15 Feb 1829 at Roberton
  • Walter Nichol, c. 28 Jan 1831 at Roberton
  • Mina or Williamina Nichol, c. 3 Feb 1833 at Roberton, married George Nichol, 3 Aug 1855 at Borthwickshiels Lodge, Roberton. Husband was agricultural labourer, who acted as informant at her mother’s death.
  • Jemima Nichol, b. 7 Apr 1836 at Roberton

2. John Cavers, b. circa 1799/1800 at Teviothead. Died 28 Apr 1865 at 14 Buccleuch Street, Hawick. His death certificate names his parents as James Cavers, Shepherd, and Elizabeth Hislop; almost certainly a mistake for father John, which fits with the known 1793 marriage, and the name given to his eldest son. John’s occupation was groom or ostler, and he lived for much of his married life at Teviothead. He married Margaret Cleghorn (recorded 20 Nov 1820 at Mertoun parish, Berwickshire) who was born circa 1802/1803 at Ancrum, daughter of George Cleghorn and Mary Hills, and died 8 Jul 1863 at Change House, Teviothead.

John and Margaret’s children were:

  • John Cavers, c. 5 Mar 1820 at Hawick, d. 4 Mar 1873 at Burn Lady part field, Whitelaw farm, Lauder in Berwickshire. Occupation variously: horse breaker and coachman. Married 1852 at Hobkirk (per daughter’s 1855 birth certificate), also recorded 20 Aug 1852 in Southdean parish registers. Married to Catharine Allan, b. ca 1852 at Haddington, daughter of John Allan and Helen Sandilands. She d. 16 Feb 1887 at Hawick, then described as “Keeper of a Temperance Hotel”. The couple had 2 children (John, Helen Allan).
  • Mary Cavers, c. 4 Jul 1822 at Hawick. Died 15 Jan 1881 at 27 Douglas Street, Galashiels. Married Andrew Harvey, wool factory worker, marriage recorded at Hawick, 2 Dec 1844. Had at least 9 children (Margaret, Agnes, Mary, Wilhelmina, a girl between 1851 and 1855, Charlotte, Elizabeth Hammond, Thomas, and John Cavers).
  • Elizabeth Cavers, b. ca 1822/3 at Jedburgh. First husband was a Mr Wright, possibly John Wright who married Betsy Cavers, recorded in Minto parish registers, 3 Sep 1842. Sons John Wright and Alexander Mein Wright were born 1847 and 1849 with these parents and baptised at Hawick Free Church. Second marriage (as “Elizabeth Cavers or Wright, Widow”) 8 May 1871 at Cowcaddens Street, Glasgow, to James Robertson, Ostler or Groom, son of James Robertson and Margaret Robertson. On the marriage certificate Elizabeth’s mother is noted as “Elizabeth Cavers M.S. Cleghorn” but this is probably a slip for Margaret. Elizabeth would fit this family well.
  • Margaret Cavers, c. 26 Feb 1826 at Jedburgh. Married Robert Kerr, joiner from Newcastleton, 4 Dec 1846. Had at least 9 children (Margaret, Robert, another daughter before 1855, John, Walter, John Cavers, Helen, Janet, and Francis Napier). Emigrated to Manitoba, Canada, with her family.
  • Jeanie or Jane Cavers, c. 22 Jul 1827 at Jedburgh. Probably 21-year-old Jane Cavers from Jedburgh recorded in 1851 census at Buccleuch Street in Melrose, servant in home of James B. Clarkson, General Medical Practitioner. Probably married James (Mc)Hen(d)ry, a coachman from Galway, Ireland, marriage recorded 29 Sep 1851 at Melrose, with at least 9 children (Jane, another girl, John, William, Margaret Stevenson, Mary, Mary Frances, Janet Reid Ovens, Isabella Park, and Ann).
  • Charlotte Cavers, b. 30 Jul 1829 at Jedburgh. Probably 19-year-old in 1851 census working as house servant in home of William Currie, retired gamekeeper at St Boswells. Seems to have had at least 2 illegitimate children (Jane, and Janet), before marrying John Rodgerson, labourer, 7 Oct 1859 at Teviothead. Couple had at least 5 children (Robert, David, Margaret Cleghorn, John Cavers, and Andrew).
  • George Cavers, c. 9 Jan 1831 at Jedburgh. Married Annie Richardson, Jan 1854 at Hawick (per son George’s birth certificate). Worked as coachman, although was also recorded as fire brigade driver in Glasgow (1856). Had at least 8 children (John, Walter, George, Margaret, Robert, Annie, James Richardson, and Thomas).
  • Agnes Cavers, c. 1 Aug 1832 at Jedburgh. Probably 18-year-old in 1851 Hawick census at Silver Street working as cook for innkeeper James Sheil and his family. Probably married John Grieve, recorded 17 Dec 1852 at Roberton. Couple had at least 11 children (Thomas S., Margaret, Robert, John Cavers, Christopher, John, Walter, Agnes Hislop, Christopher Cavers, Mary Cavers, and Esther). Children born variously in Dumfriesshire, Roxburghshire, Ross & Cromarty, and Lanarkshire. By 1881 the family was at Kirk Yetholm Mains in Yetholm parish, Roxburghshire.
  • Janet Cavers, b. ca 1834/5 per 1841 census, assuming the 6-year-old Janet Cavers in the family of John Cavers and Margaret Cleghorn was their daughter.
  • Robert Cavers, b. 5 Sep 1837 at Teviothead. Married Agnes Mather, 9 Oct 1857 at Hawick. Died 29 Aug 1859 at Path, Wilton. Occupation on death certificate Tailor (Journeyman). Buried in Wilton Churchyard. Had 2 children (John, and Robina Janet).

3. Robert Cavers, b. circa 1801/2 at Hawick. Died 2 Jan 1871 at Wellington Street, Wilton. His death certificate names his parents as John Cavers, Shepherd, and Elizabeth Hislop. Robert’s occupation was grocer and spirit dealer. He had married Elizabeth McPherson who was b. circa 1819 at Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire, daughter of James McPherson, agricultural labourer, and Mary Bell. Elizabeth died 4 Aug 1864 at Howegate, Hawick.

Robert and Elizabeth’s children were:

  • John Cavers, c. 10 Sep 1846 at Hawick. Listed with parents in 1851 census. Emigrated to Manitoba, Canada.
  • Agnes Wilson Cavers, c. 4 Mar 1849 at Hawick. Not listed with parents in 1851 census, so may have been dead by then.
  • James Cavers, c. 27 Oct 1850 at Hawick. Listed with parents in 1851 census. Emigrated to Manitoba, Canada.
  • Elizabeth Hislop Cavers, b. 12 Mar 1853 at Hawick. Died 24 Mar 1863 at 11 Howegate, Hawick.

4. Jane Cavers, b. circa 1803 at Hawick. Died 18 Feb 1861 at Hope Park, Wilton. Her death certificate names her parents as John Cavers, Shepherd, and Elizabeth Hislop. Jane had married John Howison, Wool Frame Work Knitter, born circa 1804 at Hawick or Wilton, who survived her.

Jane and John’s children were at least:

  • Isabella Howison, b. circa 1832 at Hawick
  • Robert Howison, c. 20 Apr 1834 at Hawick
  • Elizabeth Howison, c. 22 Sep 1835 at Hawick
  • Robert Howison, c. 23 Dec 1838 at Hawick
  • Jane Howison, c. 26 Sep 1841 at Hawick
  • John Cavers Howison, c. 7 May 1843 at Hawick, m. Agnes Scott, 1867, Hawick, with at least 4 children (Mary, Jane, John, and Jane)
  • Adam Howison, b. 24 Jun 1845 at Hawick, baptised 12 Oct 1845 at Hawick Free Church. Wool sorter. Married 31 May 1867 at 55 High Street, Hawick, to Jean Welsh.

There may have been additional children of John Cavers and Elizabeth Hislop. One likely candidate is a man who appears in the 1851 census, but, frustratingly, his first name is not recorded:

1851 Hobkirk census, enumeration district 2, pages 11 and 12, schedule 46
Wolflee Farm:
________ Cavers, 44, U. Horsebreaker, born Hawick. He was in the household of John Murray, 43, Farmer of 145 arable & 3300 pasture, with his wife, 2 sons & cook, housemaid, 3 Ag. servants, & the Horsebreaker Cavers.

Another possible child of this family is Isabella Cavers, who d. 23 Nov 1871 at Newton, Bedrule. Census returns variously give her birthplace as Teviothead and Hawick, around 1796. Her death certificate names her parents as John Cavers, groom, and his wife Mary Lillico, both deceased. But given how unreliable death certificate information can be, and the mention of a groom occupation, plus Teviothead as a possible birthplace, she may have been another child of John Cavers and Elizabeth Hislop, born between Elizabeth and John. I will outline Isabella’s family in another blog post.

As for tracing the line further back in time, at the moment I don’t think that would be possible. There are plenty of possible Church of Scotland christenings for John, but there is as far as I know no way to identify any as “the” one. Plus enormous proportions of Scottish births are not recorded in any surviving parish registers. Like the births of his children, his birth might be one of those.

A Cavers celebrating his 97th birthday in 1862

I’ve been searching the newly-launched British Newspaper Archive. Few Scottish Borders papers have been digitised yet, but I’ve still been able to find lots of useful Cavers references, which I plan to share here over time. To start with here is the report of the 97th birthday celebrations of James Cavers (1765-1863), son of James Cavers and Isabella Coltherd. This report was almost certainly originally published in a Hawick newspaper, but was reproduced throughout Britain. This extract comes from the Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser on Friday 16 May 1862, p6:

AN ANCIENT STATIONER – James Cavers, better known as “Old Dunneram,” plies about the streets of Hawick, selling stationery and almanacks, and the other day attained his ninety-seventh year, and is in the enjoyment of excellent health. Some of the Hawick people kindly collected a purse of money and presented it to him on his birth-day. The old man was much gratified with the present, and assured his friends he “had gane lang aboot, and wad gang langer yet, and though now gotten somewhat stiff in the joints, he hadna a pain in a’ his body.”

Cavers death after assault in Hawick, 1874

Only recently I discovered that my distant g..uncle Francis Cavers in Hawick had died from injuries sustained in an assault in 1874. His death certificate, which I’d checked previously, gave the cause of death as “inflammation of Brain, 8 days”, which didn’t strike me as anything unusual. But it was only through a search in the online Scotsman newspaper archive that I discovered the fuller story:

The Scotsman; 1874 July 7. JEDBURGH-JURY COURT-At a Jury Court at Jedburgh yesterday, Walter Murray, labourer, Wilton-dean, was charged with assaulting Francis Cavers, gardener, Wilton Lodge, by knocking him down with his fist, and attempting to strangle him. From the evidence it appeared that each party had given the other the lie before the assault took place. Cavers had been so seriously maltreated that congestion of the brain set in, and he died three weeks after the assault. The jury, by a majority, found the charge proven, but considering that there might have been provocation, recommended the prisoner to the leniency of the Court. The Sheriff sentenced Murray to two months’ imprisonment.

Sometime I plan to check local newspapers in Hawick, to see if they say any more about the incident and subsequent death and trial. I’d also like to check the trial papers, if they survive, but I’m not sure if they’d be in Edinburgh, or in Jedburgh. The death must have had a big impact on the family at the time. Francis Cavers was married, with six children, and also had many surviving brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces. He was the oldest son of Thomas Cavers and Helen Scott, and a great-grandson of James Cavers and Isabella Coltherd.

Mystery Francis Cavers and family in early 1800s Hawick

A previous blog entry outlined the descendants of James Cavers and Isabella Coltherd, including their son Francis Cavers who married Euphemia Hogg, and had a gravestone in Wilton churchyard in Hawick, Roxburghshire.

There’s a gravestone for another Francis Cavers in another Hawick churchyard, St Mary’s, but I don’t know yet where this other Francis fits in to the wider Cavers jigsaw puzzle.

1936 Hawick Archaeological Society Transactions p46
St Mary’s Churchyard, Hawick
H.S. [Headstone]
In Memory of FRANCIS CAVERS who died on the 20th May 1811 aged __ years also of his spouse … who died 27th Decr 182_ (aged __ years also) FRANCIES CAVERS who died 8th Feby 1817 aged 11 years and 6 months.

This Francis and family are missed by Church of Scotland parish registers: no trace of a birth for Francis, or any child, or a marriage. If it wasn’t for the dates and ages given he might have been a candidate for Francis Cavers son of Francis Cavers and Euphemia Hogg christened in 1793, but the grave’s numbers would have to be extremely muddled for this to match. Alternatively he could have been an illegitimate son of Francis Cavers, born before Francis married. Certainly the only other known Cavers family using the forename Francis around this time is that of Francis Cavers husband of Euphemia Hogg. So I suspect there is probably a link to them somewhere.