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.

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Family of James Cavers and Isabella Coltherd

This family is important as an example of a Cavers family tree because it shows how incomplete references in historical records can be pieced together to build up a more complete family tree. It is also a relatively early Scottish Cavers family tree.

The earliest confident references to the family are a series of baptisms of sons in 1760s Roberton parish, a parish near Hawick straddling county boundaries in Roxburghshire and Selkirkshire:

May 14 1761: Baptised John son to James Cavers in Horsecleugh.

Jany 16 1763: Baptised Francis son to James Cavers in Harden.

April 30 1765: Baptised James son to James Cavers in Harden.

Octr 2 1767: Baptised Walter son to James Cavers in Harden.

One of these sons, James, lived to be 98, and can be traced in 19th century census returns, linking him conclusively, along with his extremely precise age at death, to the Roberton baptism. His 1863 Hawick death certificate names his parents as James Cavers, Shepherd, and his wife Isabella Coulthard, both of them deceased. There is no marriage recorded for a couple of this name, but there is a marriage recorded between a “Walter” Cavers and Isabella Coltherd in Roberton parish dated 1760 May 31. Both the bride and the groom were living in Roberton parish at the time of their marriage.

My suspicion is that this is a mis-recording in the parish registers (happened surprisingly often in these historical records) and that groom Walter was really James. This is more likely because the marriage record was not a record of the marriage ceremony, but rather a payment made before proclamation of banns, which might be more prone to memory errors than the ceremony itself. The 1760 groom being James would fit well with the later run of baptisms, and crucially also the death certificate of James Cavers (1765-1863). It also fits with the names that that son James gave to his many children, including second daughter (who would normally, per traditional Scottish naming patterns, be named after his mother) who he named Isobel.

Going further back in time it is possible that Isabella Coltherd was a daughter of Francis Coltherd and Isobel Young who married in 1724 in Roberton parish and had many children baptised there. An index of Selkirkshire baptisms checked many years ago at the Scottish Borders Archive and Local History Centre (when it was at St Mary’s Mill in Selkirk) includes the baptism of a daughter Isobel in 1737. However the parish register entry for this baptism is extremely faint, and it is difficult to be sure if this child’s name was correct, although it appears to have “called Isobel” squeezed in at the end. Other children of the couple were Mary (1727), George (1732), John (1734), William (1739), Agnes (1742) and Agnes (1745).

James Cavers is harder to trace back in time, but the parish registers have such scanty coverage and most Cavers births at this time are unrecorded. There doesn’t seem to be a promising baptism for James. If his father was called John, as the name of his eldest known son might suggest, then perhaps he was related to either John Cavers married to Elspeth Young, 3 Jul 1725 at Hawick or John Cavers married to Agnes Easten, 30 Nov 1729 at Wilton.

It is not known when James Cavers or Isabella Coltherd died, or where. However two of their sons were buried in Wilton churchyard in the town of Hawick, in the old Wilton churchyard south of Princes Street whose stones were cleared in the 1950s:

1938 Hawick Archaeological Society Transactions
Wilton graveyard, p. 45, 3. H.S.
On Front – In Memory of JANE WATSON (rest illegible)
On Back – In Memory of FRANCIS CAVERS, late shepherd, Peelbrae-hope, who died 5th January 1810 aged _7 years; (also) …IA HOGG, … Lo—ide Brae, 22nd April 18__ aged 24 (?) years.

The front of the stone commemorated Francis and Euphemia’s daughter-in-law Jane Watson (first wife of their son James). Euphemia Hogg’s age at death was difficult to read (hence the question mark), and it is likely the stone had worn or crumbled and the age was originally different. On old worn gravestones the number 5 commonly changes with time to 2 and it is quite likely that Euphemia was in her 50s when she died. Peelbraehope is a place in Cavers parish, and Euphemia probably died at Longside Brae, another place in Cavers parish.

Francis’s brother James was buried nearby:

1938 Hawick Archaeological Society Transactions
Wilton graveyard, p. 44:
In memory of JEAN SCOTT, spouse to James Cavers, born at Thorn-hall 4th Aug. 1760, died at Woodfoot 29 Dec. 1813; also three of their children; also the above JAMES CAVERS, who died at Hawick 1st June 1863, aged 98 years; and JANE BOLE, his second wife, who died at Hawick 5th May 1855, aged 54 years.

Now here are outline details of the four known children of James Cavers and Isabella Coltherd, and their children where known:

1. John Cavers, c. 14 May 1761 at Roberton. Nothing further known.

2. Francis Cavers, christened 16 Jan 1763 at Roberton. Worked as a shepherd. Married 9 Jun 1789 to Euphemia Hogg, he living at Ropelawsheall in Ettrick parish at marriage, she at Craiksheall in Roberton parish. The family moved around over subsequent years, but ultimately settled in Cavers parish. Francis died in 1810, and there was a family gravestone (now removed) in Wilton Churchyard.

Francis and Euphemia’s children were:

  • James Cavers, christened 28 Nov 1789 at Ettrick. Died 6 Jul 1875 at Kirkton. Worked as a shepherd and married twice, firstly to Jane Watson (died 1830) in 1813, with issue (Margaret, Euphemia, Francis, Walter, Jane and Helen); secondly to Janet Jackson, seemingly with no issue, and she apparently died before him according to his death certificate. James was an elder at the United Presbyterian Church in Hawick, and I have seen a photograph of him, found by sheer chance one day while browsing through a book about that church.
  • Thomas Cavers, born June 1791 at Ettrick. Died between 1835 and 1841. Worked as ploughman. Marriage recorded 16 May 1813 at Wilton parish to Helen Scott (born circa 1792 in Hobkirk, Roxburghshire; d. 1870 at Wilton Dean, Wilton), illegitimate daughter of joiner William Scott and Elizabeth Ingles later second wife of Thomas Hope of Hope Park, Wilton. Couple had large family (Francis, Helen, James, John, Margaret, Elizabeth, Thomas, William, Euphemia, and Jane). This is my line. I descend from their daughter Margaret, wife of Hugh Hall at Wilton Dean.
  • Francis Cavers, christened 8 Aug 1793 at Kirkton. Nothing further known.
  • Margaret Cavers, christened 29 May 1796 at Kirkton. Nothing further known.
  • William Cavers, christened 25 Nov 1798 at Kirkton. Worked as a shepherd and moved about a fair bit, before settling at Ashkirk, Roxburghshire. Died at St Boswells on 12 Aug 1873. He had married Mary Hunter, who was born circa 1805 at Tinwald, Dumfriesshire. The couple had at least 5 children (Francis, Mary, Elizabeth, Euphemia, and David).
  • John Cavers, born 24 Jun 1801 at Cavers. He married Agnes Gregor (born ca 1797, Canonbie, died before 1871) who sometimes appears under the surname spelling McGregor. The couple had 4 children (Francis, John, James and Catherine) and about 1855 the family emigrated to Ontario, Canada, settling in the Sydenham/Owen Sound area where they worked as farmers. Father John Cavers died 18th April 1880 at Sydenham.
3. James Cavers, christened 30 Apr 1765 at Roberton. Died 1 Jun 1863 at 12 Kirkwynd, Hawick. Death certificate records his occupation as “General Labourer”, the same occupation recorded for him in the 1851 census. The 1841 census recorded him as an “Ag Lab”. James married twice, firstly in 1788 in Cavers parish to Jean Scott (1760-1813), secondly in 1825 in Kirkton parish to Jean Bole (ca1800-1855), daughter of James Bole and Margaret Scott. Descendants of this family have seen a painting of James Cavers in Wilton Lodge Museum in Hawick.

Children of James Cavers and Jean Scott were:

  • James, christened 3 Oct 1790 at Kirkton. Probably the same James Cavers who emigrated to Galt, Ontario, Canada, and died there 30 Jul 1861. Married Mary Biggar (died Mar 1864 at Galt) and had at least 3 children (Andrew, John, and a daughter). The evidence for linking this Canadian James to this Scotland-born one is the death notice which appeared in the “Hawick Advertiser” newspaper after his death: “CAVERS. at Galt, on 30th July 1861, Mr. James Cavers, eldest son of Mr. James Cavers, Hawick.” And the Canadian death certificate of James and Mary’s son John Cavers gives his father’s birthplace as Roxburghshire, Scotland.
  • Christian, christened 7 Oct 1793 at Kirkton. Nothing futher known.
  • David, christened 14 Jun 1795 at Kirkton. Died 19 Oct 1874 at 18 High Riggs, Edinburgh. Worked as a waiter. Married 1830 at Dunfermline to Margaret Thomson, with one known child (Elizabeth).
  • Isobel, christened 15 Oct 1797 at Kirkton. Nothing further known.
  • Walter, christened 30 Jun 1799 at Kirkton. Nothing further known.
  • Robert, christened 12 Jul 1801 at Kirkton. Nothing further known.
  • John, christened 8 Aug 1803 at Kirkton. Nothing further known.

Similarly the children of James Cavers and Jean Bole, his second wife, were:

  • Jane, born 26 Sep 1826 at Kirkton. Still alive in 1855 per mother’s death certificate. Nothing further known.
  • Margaret, christened 30 Apr 1829 at Kirkton. Died in 1852 aged 23, per mother’s 1855 death certificate.
  • Isobel, christened 9 Mar 1832 at Kirkton. Still alive in 1855 per mother’s death certificate. Nothing further known.
  • Joannah, christened 21 Dec 1834 at Kirkton. Still alive in 1855 per mother’s death certificate. Nothing further known.
  • Walter Martin, born ca 1842, per mother’s 1855 death certificate. Emigrated to Galt, Ontario, Canada. Died in 1922 at Galt, having married in 1866 Rebecca Wilkinson (ca1838-1909), daughter of Solomon Wilkinson and Catherine Baird, and had 4 known children (Catherine Baird, Elizabeth Jane, Rebecca Jemina, and James John).
  • James, died in 1849 aged 3 1/2 years, per mother’s 1855 death certificate.

4. Walter Cavers, christened 2 Oct 1767 at Roberton. Nothing further known.