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).

A century old USA Cavers baby photo

I keep an eye on eBay for Cavers related artefacts. Usually my saved search for “Cavers” emails me about potholers, or – and surprisingly frequently! – “carver” chairs. But sometimes real gems turn up.

One item I got hold of recently was a baby photo of a young James Frederic Cavers, the photo taken in North Dakota, circa 1907. On the back of the photo a handwritten note says “To Aunt Mulla, Aint I kute in my pants & blouse?”. And above is noted “James Frederic Cavers age One year old”.

Photo of baby James Frederic CaversThese clues were enough to identify the child, because he shows up in the 1910, 1915 and 1920 census returns for North Dakota, USA with his parents James and Martha, and younger siblings William, George and Ruth. The family were living in Churchs Ferry, Ramsey, North Dakota, with James Frederic born in North Dakota in 1906. His father James William Cavers was born in Iowa.

Although some American Cavers references around this period remain something of a mystery, I can confidently identify this family. The father was born in Iowa in 1870, the son of Scottish emigrants James Cavers (born Roxburghshire, son of Adam Cavers and Janet Clark) and Isabella Broomfield (born Berwickshire, daughter of James Broomfield and Janet Armstrong). For more information about this extensive Roxburghshire Cavers family see Jim Richmond’s Cavers site, including its page about the baby’s grandfather James who emigrated from Scotland.

From Ancestry.com member family trees here is a photo of baby James Frederic Cavers all grown up:

Photo of James Frederic Cavers as an adultAncestry trees also reveal that James Frederic Cavers married, and had several children, before dying in Minnesota, USA in 1974.

1854 inventory of possessions (household and farming) of Walter Cavers farmer of Dykes, Cavers parish, Roxburghshire

Recently I checked what I think is the earliest surviving after-death list of possessions for a Cavers person. Sadly almost all pre-1823 Roxburghshire testaments (wills and inventories) have been lost as part of the missing records of Peebles Commissary Court. So I think the earliest list of possessions for a Cavers named person, anywhere in the world, is this one.

The deceased man was Walter Cavers (1778-1854) son of Robert Cavers and Margaret Henderson. Walter appears in the 1841 and 1851 census returns at Dykes farm, with his wife Margaret. But she had presumably died before he did. His next of kin per the testament after he died was his younger brother Adam Cavers (1782-1864).

After Walter died an inventory of his personal possessions was drawn up, as part of winding up his estate. The overall valuations were as follows:

There pertained to the said Defunct at the time of his death the goods and gear and effects following vizt
1. Cash in the House £13 3 10
2. Household furniture, Stock, crop and implements of Husbandry, as per Inventory & valuation of Nicol Furness Joiner and Robert Bulman and John Scott farmers 217 16 9
(Signed) Adam Cavers Geo Oliver £ 231 “ 7

But far more interesting is the detailed room by room list of his possessions, including working its way around his farm house and recording the crops and animals he had. The values are all in pounds, shillings and pence.

Inventory & Valuation of the Household furniture, Stock, crop and other effects which belonged to the late Walter Cavers farmer Dykes who died there on 11th Feby 1854 The furniture valued by Nicol Furnace Joiner & the Stock crop and other effects by Messrs Robert Bulman and John Scott Farmers

Under Bedroom
Books & Books case £ – 10 –
Eight day Clock 1 10 –
Desk & Drawers 1 – –
Corner Cupboard – 2 6
Two Bed Fronts – 5 –
Two Bedroom Tables – 5 –
Two Chairs – 3 –
Bedroom Bars & fire irons – 1 –
Body Clothes 1 10 –
Linens – 10 –
Pillows & Towels – 10 –

No 2 Dining Room
A Sofa – 5 –
Two Tables – 10 –
Six Chairs – 10 –
Knife Box – 2 –
Weather Glass – 2 6
Two Brass Candlesticks – 2 6
Grate & fire irons – 10 –
A Carpet – 2 6
Seven tumblers and eight glasses – 3 –
Two Crystal Bottles – 1 –
Mustard Pot – – 2
Pepper Cask – – 2
A Salt Cask – – 2
Two Crystal Plates – – 8
Dozen of China Sugar bowl and Slop basin – 3 –
Japanned Tea Pot and cream pot – 1 6
Six Tody ladles with sugar Tongs – 1 6
Six Tea spoons – – 6
Four Egg spoons – – 1
Twelve Horn spoons – 2 6
Tureen & divider – 2 –
Twelve Broth plates – 2 –
Two Ashets – – 3
Four plain plates – – 6
Six Bread plates – – 9
Tea tray – – 9
Four Jugs – 2 –
Bread Basket and two Servers

No 3 The Lobby
Eight day Clock 2 – –
A Table – 1 –

No 4 Best Bedroom upperflat
A press & Mirror – 3 –
Basin stand & ware – 2 –
Three Chairs – 3 –
Two beds & Curtains – 10 –
Two Counterpanes – 10 –
Four Ticks three Bolsters, Four Pillows – 6 –
Five water pots – 1 –
A Carpet – 3 –
Bars & Jambstones – 1 6

No 5 Cheese Room
Cheese Barrow – 5 –

No 6 Wester Bedroom upperflat
Bed and four pair of Blankets one Bolster and one Pillow – 14 –
Single Barreled Gun – 5 –
Ten pair of blankets 2 – –
One bolster Two PIllows – 3 –
Riding Saddle & Bridle – 1 6
Screen for drying clothes – – 6
A press – 1 –
Barley Meal seive Thirty one fleeces of wool 3 – –
Bars and Jambstones – 2 6

No 7 Kitchen Loft
Meal Arle – 2 –
Long wheel and reel & yarn winder – 2 6
Back and Boards – 3 –
Sundries of other articles – 2 6

No 8 Milk House
Thirty two Bottles – 2 6
Fourteen Milk Bowies – 6 –
Eight Milk Plates – 2 –
Nine Cream Cans – 2 6
A Cage – 1 –
Half Peck – – 6
Chesfords – 1 6
Milk House Shelves – 1 6

No 9 Kitchen
Sixteen Bowls Eight Ashets Eleven Broth Plates – 3 –
Three pudding dishes  – – 3
Four tea cups Six tea spoons – 1 4
Tea Caddy – – 6
Eight horn spoons – – 6
Six Breakfast Knives six Forks – 1 6
Eight Table knives eight forks – 1 6
Tin Kettle – 1 –
Bread Toaster – – 3
Dripping Pan – – 2
Four Candlesticks – – 4
Meal Box – – 2
Bread Basket – – 2
Kitchen Bellows – – 1
Two Kettles – 1 –
Two Oven Pans – 1 3
Two large Pots – 2 6
Three water cans – – 6
Two small Pots – – 3
Furnace Pot – 5 –
Oven & Swey – 10 –
Bars and Tongs – 5 –
Dresser & Table – 5 –
Bed two Pair of Blankets & covering Bolster & Picks – 10 –
Press – – 6
Five Stools – 1 –
Barrel Churn – 2 6
Stone cheese Press – 2 6
Water Barrel – – 6
Three Tubs & Boats – 3 3
Water Grate – – 6

No 10 Barn
Thrashing Mill 10 – –
Pair of Fanners – 2 –
Four Riddles – – 8
Two Corn weights – – 6
Hand Humbler – – 6
Bushel Measure – 2 6
Sixteen corn Bags – 10 –
Barn Barrow – 2 6

No 11 Straw Barn
Trap Ladder & Screen – – 6
Two Long Carts – 10 –
Corn Rake – – 6
Spade & Scythe – 1 –
Four sheep Nets – 4 –

No 12 Cart Shed
Two Short Carts 1 10 –
Pair of Wheels with Iron axletree – 5 –
A few net stakes – 1 8
Cross cut Saw – 1 –
Hand Saw & Hatchet – 1 6
Two Turnip Pickers – – 6
Three Turnip Hoes – – 3
Draining Pick – 1 –
Shovel Spade – 1 –
Grinding Stone – – 2
Four Forks – 2 –
Piercer – – 10
Two Cattle Hemmels – 1 –
Two Long Ladders – 1 –

No 13 Stable
[loads with no value noted – unlikely all with no value? especially the horses]
Four Horses
Three Cart Saddles
Four Pair of Plough chains
Four Neck Collars
Four pair of haims and four Bridles
Two pair of Plough Reins
Corn Chest
Two Beds six Pair of Blankets
two Picks Two Bolsters
Two Iron Ploughs
Weeding Plough
Scalepper
Three pair Harness
Break Harrow
Turnip Sowing Machine
Three Large Grapes – 3 –
Two Small ones – – 6
Two Sheep Boxes – 1 –
Turkeys – 5 –
Thirty eight Hens 1 8 6
Two Stone Hen Troughs – – 2
To four Cows 32 – –
Two Queys 12 – –
Three Calves 3 – –
Thirty one old sheep 28 – –
Forty Score Lambs 22 – –
Brood Sow & eight Pigs 4 – –

Corn
11 Acres of Oats 11 – –
15 Acres of Peas 15 – –
43 Acres of Oats & barley 23 – –
Potatoes 2 14 –
Turnips  – 8 –
====
£ 216 16 9

The above Inventory & Valuation taken and made by us respectively to the best of our knowledge and judgement (Signed) Nicholas Furness. John Scott. Robert Bulmars.

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

Finding another Cavers, this time a young married woman, in the mental health records

About a week ago I blogged – originally on my own genealogy blog, and then reblogged here on the Cavers blog – about my Cavers ancestor who appears in the Scotland-wide records of patients admitted to asylums. In that original blog post I explained more fully about these records, and what they record, and how to access them. Do check out that original blog post for more details of all of this.

Since then Graham and Emma Maxwell have kindly sent me details of another Cavers reference in these records. This concerns Elizabeth Cavers of the Lilliesleaf family, daughter of Charles Cavers and Martha Cathrae. I’ve blogged here about her brother William (see here) and also her father Charles (see here).

She’s recorded in these mental health records as Betsy Cavers or Turner, having married in 1847 weaver Thomas Turner. She was admitted to Newbigging House asylum at Musselburgh in 1858. She was then 34, living at Dunsdalehaugh at Selkirk, with occupation recorded as “Superintending her family”. Her first attack happened when she was 23, but she didn’t receive treatment then. Her latest attack had been going on for one week, and she was observed among other things to be talking incoherently, and under delusions that her house would be taken from her. Her husband also reported that she had threatened to injure the children and others.

At the moment I don’t know how long Betsy was in this asylum for, or what treatment she received while there. I hadn’t previously found any evidence of children for her, and struggled to find her in various census returns. But this record expands the picture. And it’s prompted me to recheck for children. After 1855 there were Thomas (1855) and Margaret (1859) both born at Selkirk. Thomas’s 1855 birth certificate – the first year of civil registration in Scotland, when extra details were recorded – notes that the couple had 4 boys and 1 girl living then. And I’ve now found the family in 1861. They were still at Dunsdalehaugh at Selkirk, and as well as Thomas and Elizabeth were their children John (13), Charles (11), Martha (9), James (8), Thomas (5) and Margaret (1). I’ve traced Betsy’s husband’s death in 1902, and his second marriage in 1865 to Isabella Dickson. And that’s helped me finally locate Betsy’s death: recorded as Elizabeth Turner, wife of Thomas Turner weaver, and daughter of Charles Cavers and Martha Cathrae, both deceased. Sadly she died in the Millholme House asylum at Musselburgh in 1862. She was just 38, described on her death certificate as a pauper lunatic, and died from general paralysis. How sad.

Betsy Cavers or Turner can now be found in Graham and Emma’s online indexes of Scottish mental health records, which will grow over time to cover more and more years, and I expect will throw up more Cavers references for me to follow up and blog about.

A young Cavers family in search of Australian gold

I keep an eye on new datasets added to Ancestry. A recent one covers passenger lists to Victoria, Australia between 1839 and 1923. There aren’t many Cavers references in there, but most concern a single family, emigrating from Roxburghshire in the 1850s.

Robert Cavers was christened at Hobkirk, Roxburghshire in 1827, the eldest son of Adam Cavers and his wife Janet Clark. In 1847 he married Helen Hymers, and the couple appear in the 1851 census Fastcastle in Cavers parish. Robert was working as a labourer, and by this time the couple had two daughters: Margaret, aged 3, and Jessie, aged 1. A third daughter, Helen, would be born soon after.

On 1st July 1853 the family arrived on the ship “Genghis Khan” at Melbourne. I’d known they travelled to Australia, but did not know the exact arrival date before this new database went online. The passenger lists record that Robert was engaged by Mr Campbell at Richmond, now a suburb of Melbourne. This was the time of the Australian gold rush, and the family would soon become involved in this.

Sadly Robert died a year later, as the book Rulewater and its people records: “killed in blasting a rock at the gold-diggings”. His wife was pregnant at the time, and a daughter Robina was born in Australia after Robert’s death, named after her father. But the family did not stay in Australia, and made the long journey back to Scotland. The next census reference to them, in 1861, shows them at Ashtree in Southdean parish, Roxburghshire, staying with Helen’s parents Edward and Margaret Hymers.

The family can be traced forward in time, and has living descendants today.

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.

Free Church Cavers baptisms at Hawick from the 1840s and 1850

Many genealogists are familiar with the pre-1855 parish registers available at ScotlandsPeople.gov.uk. But, generally, these only include Church of Scotland parish registers. There were an awful lot of other churches in Scotland in the past. Some were of quite different kinds of Christianity, such as Episcopalianism (Church of England) or Catholicism. There were also some other religious or otherwise registers, such as Quakers and Jews. But probably the largest bulk of so-called non-conformist church records are those of breakaway sects of the Presbyterian faith, that splintered out of the Church of Scotland. Not all have surviving parish registers for everywhere they were active, but where they do they are often either in local archives around Scotland, or in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. Generally they are not included in the parish register indexes at ScotlandsPeople.

I’ve just received three transcripts of Cavers baptisms from Hawick Free Church. The Free Church was one of the most significant Presbyterian splits in Scottish religious history in the past, taking a huge number of people with it. And the Free Church was active in Cavers home territory in the Scottish Borders. Graham and Emma Maxwell are transcribing and indexing these non-conformist registers, and through the latest additions to their website indexes I was able to trace these new Cavers references, and buy copies of the transcripts from the couple.

The three new baptisms are all for children of Robert Cavers and Elizabeth McPherson. This was part of the extensive family of descendants of John Cavers and Elizabeth Hislop that I’ve blogged about here before. This line has living descendants. Here are the baptisms:

John, Son of Robert Cavers, Grocer, and Elizabeth McFerson his Wife, was born on the fourteenth day of August one thousand eight hundred and forty-six years, and baptised, in presence of the Congregation, on the thirteenth day of September, aforesaid year, by the Revd. J. A. Wallace, Minister of the Free Church Hawick.

Agnes Wilson, Daughter of Robert Cavers, Grocer, and Elizabeth McFerson his Wife, was born on the twenty-first day of January one thousand eight hundred and forty-nine years, and baptised, in presence of the Congregation, on the eleventh day of March, aforesaid year, by the Revd. J. A. Wallace, Minister of the Free Church Hawick.

James, Son of Robert Cavers, Grocer, and Elizabeth McFerson his Wife, was born on the twenty- third day of September one thousand eight hundred and fifty years, and baptised, in presence of the Congregation, on the twenty-seventh day of October, aforesaid year, by the Revd. J. A. Wallace, Minister of the Free Church Hawick.

EDIT: And here’s one more baptism, the last of this family, just forwarded on to me by Graham Maxwell. Again from the Hawick Free Church baptism registers.

Elizabeth Hislop, Daughter of Robert Cavers, Grocer, and Elizabeth McFerson his Wife, was born on the twelfth day of March one thousand eight hundred and fifty-three years, and baptised, in presence of the Congregation, on the twenty-fourth day of April, aforesaid year, by the Revd. J. A. Wallace, Minister of the Free Church Hawick.

More on the Murray versus Cavers illegitimacy case

Recently I blogged about finding a previously unknown illegitimate Cavers birth. I’ve since received copies of the full case papers, which shed more light on the case.

The case was brought at Jedburgh Sheriff Court in 1832 by Elizabeth Murray against Thomas Cavers for support of the female child she apparently had with him. The papers record she was a residenter in Newcastleton, and she signed her name as Elisa Murray. Thomas was recorded as son of John Cavers, Joiner in Newcastleton, which identifies him as the son of John Cavers and Jane Douglas.

The language used in the case papers can be quite entertaining to a modern reader, but must have represented a very shocking family event. The decreet records that Thomas “prevailed upon the Pursuer [Eliza] to yield to his embraces and to admit him to a carnal connexion with her”, leading to the birth of the female illegitimate child on the 9th May 1831. Then though “the Pursuer has often desired and required the said Thomas Cavers Defender to filiate and provide for the said Child yet he refuses at least delays to do so”. She sought £1 Sterling for various expenses, and £1 10 shillings per quarter for the first 9 months from the birth for nursing fee, and £1 per quarter afterwards for aliment until the child reached the age of 10.

The next bit of the case papers includes Thomas’s responses to the charges. He declared that he was “not much acquainted with the Pursuer That she has resided for some years past with her Mother in the village of NewCastleton”. Then he says that he was in company with her on the night of Langholm Fair, in the house of Robert Elliot, but not alone with her. Various other apparently innocent meetings are admitted to, including another in the last summer or autumn when “he went into the Pursuers house along with the said Walter Oliver and there were in the house the Pursuer, her Mother and Walter Nichol Carter That this was after dark – That the Pursuer and Declarant left the rest and went round to the back of the house into a shade – That he cannot say while he was standing in the shade whether he had his arm around her Neck or Waist That he lay down in the shade with the Pursuer, but he had no carnal connection with her” And he further goes on to declare that he never had carnal connection with her, and is not the father of her child.

Thomas’s evidence is contradicted by Elspeth Elliot daughter of Robert Elliot in Newcastleton. She remembers the night of the Langholm Fair, and specifically that “the Defender came forwards and spoke to the Pursuer, after which he pushed her into the house, that after they were into the house the Defender took hold of the Pursuer and threw her into the bed, and went in beside her”.

Based on all this and other evidence the court’s judgement went in Eliza’s favour. But the case papers reveal that she believed Thomas was considering fleeing from Scotland to America “in order to defraud the Petitioner”. Thomas appeared before the court again, but denied that he had any intention of going to America “or else where out of Scotland” But the court didn’t believe him, and ordered the officers “to apprehend the said Thomas Cavers and Commit him Prisoner to the Castle of Jedburgh there to remain until he find sufficient Caution … that he shall present himself at the Sheriff Clerks Office in Jedburgh upon the fifteenth day of May next at Twelve oClock midday in order that he may be then and there accessible to the Diligence of the Petitioner against him for payment of the sums due to her as contained in the Decreet mentioned in the Petition”.

Thomas may not have settled in America, but he went to Canada, where he married and had many children. Meanwhile searching the 1841 Scottish census finds at Newcastleton 10-year old Janet Cavers living with 33-year-old Eliza Murray, 38-year-old George Murray (mealdealer), and 65-year-old widowed Janet Murray. Further research identifies these as Janet Cavers’ mother, uncle and grandmother.

Janet Cavers married at Newcastleton on 10th February 1855 to James Scott, a 28-year-old labourer. Because it was an 1855 marriage, in the first year of civil registration in Scotland, when all certificates recorded extra detail, the marriage certificate includes Janet’s birth details: she was apparently born 23rd July 1831 at Newcastleton. Her parents are named on the marriage certificate as Thomas Cavers, Labourer, and Elizabeth Cavers maiden name Murray. Obviously her parents never married, and the birth date differs slightly from the court case version, but the details otherwise fit.

James Scott and Janet Cavers had 5 children, all born at Castleton parish, probably Newcastleton:

  • Eliza, born 2 Dec 1855
  • William, b. 10 Mar 1858
  • Agnes, b. 8 Jun 1860
  • George, b. 25 Jul 1862
  • James, b. 23 Jan 1867

Janet Cavers died at Newcastleton on 25th September 1867, aged 35, cause of death typhoid fever. Again her parents are recorded on the certificate, and match the court case: father Thomas Cavers, farm servant, and mother Eliza Murray, domestic servant.

Her mother Elizabeth Murray outlived her, dying on 12th November 1894 at Newcastleton aged 84 years. Her death certificate records her occupation as domestic servant, and her parents David Murray, shepherd, and Janet Murray maiden name Murray. The informant was her son-in-law James Scott, who was present at the death. Eliza was living with her daughter and son-in-law in 1861, and the census records her birthplace as Canonbie in Dumfriesshire.

James Scott died on 16th April 1909 at Newcastleton, aged 82 years. The informant at his death was his son William. Two years later the 1911 census for 40 North Hermitage Street, where the family lived for a long time, records two of his children still living in the house: Agnes, a retired domestic servant, aged 50; and her brother George, “Farm Labourer (Cattle man)”, aged 48. Also living there then was Agnes’s daughter Nancy Scott aged 17 (Agnes was recorded as unmarried) and her granddaughter Nellie Scott aged 5. It’s quite possible that there are living descendants today of this family.

And just to add a little extra colour to the story, here are the signatures of the two parties at dispute before Jedburgh Sheriff Court, as recorded in the original case papers.

Signature of Thomas Cavers Signature of Eliza Murray