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 mysterious Cavers court case in 1783 Selkirk

Graham Maxwell kindly sent me images of a Cavers reference he spotted in the Sheriff Court Decrees for Selkirk Sheriff Court (National Records of Scotland, SC63/6/9, page 175). The case was brought by Andrew Cairns in Burnfoot against Betty Cavers in Langtownsheel. Betty had been hired to be his servant, to be paid one pound ten shillings sterling in wages, as well as a pair of shoes and a coat. But when she was due to start service “she fell into distress”. Although she recovered she refused to work as his servant. The case report goes on at great length, but as far as I can tell the short version of the story is that the court found in Betty’s favour, and ordered Andrew Cairns to pay her expenses.

I honestly have no idea who Betty was! Firstly I’m not entirely sure where the places are. Burnfoot could be the place of that name in Hawick, but because the case was brought before the Selkirk Sheriff Court I think it’s more likely to be a place in Selkirkshire, possibly even in Selkirk itself, and likewise Langtownsheel.

Even if I look at my Cavers events database it’s hard to find likely candidate entries for Betty. For example there was a Betty Cavers christened at Hawick in 1764, and another Betty christened at Cavers in 1769. Either could be this person, especially the older one. But she could equally be someone else entirely. The parish registers do not record all births, and sometimes there are big gaps, or registers didn’t start early enough. Even looking for other variants of Betty like Elizabeth doesn’t throw up very likely candidates.

There were probably Cavers people in Selkirk at this time though. There certainly were in earlier centuries, per various Selkirk burgh court cases. And the 1841 census has quite a few elderly Cavers ladies in Selkirkshire e.g. Betty (81) and Jean (78) in Yarrow; and Isble (80), Margaret (80) and Eliza (73) in Selkirk. Could any of these be connected to the court case Betty, perhaps even Betty or Eliza?

So it’s currently a mystery. But perhaps more records will come to light in future to clarify things.

A Cavers girl winning prizes at school in 1874

Again in the Southern Reporter back issues I found this reference. It’s from the 1874 August 6 edition, and is a prize list for Selkirk Grammar School. Elizabeth Cavers won two prizes: Recitation for Class IV, and the second prize for Writing in Class IV.

I’ve looked to see who she might be, and think she was probably the 1862-born daughter of William Cavers shoemaker at Lilliesleaf who I blogged about the other day. By the time of the 1881 census Elizabeth and her father and brother were living in Selkirk. She was recorded as her father’s housekeeper, aged 18. A decade earlier she was recorded in Edinburgh, as 8-year-old Lizzie Cavers, in the home of her older sister Margaret, Mrs Wood. Perhaps Lizzie moved back to live with her widowed father a few years later, and attended the local school in Selkirk for a while?┬áThere are no other likely candidates for Elizabeth Cavers in the prize list, so I’m fairly confident the identification is right. For more information about Elizabeth’s life see the Cavers family web page created by her relative.