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.

Starting to research Cavers references in 19th century USA census returns

A partial gap – and rather a big one – in the Cavers one-name study so far is its coverage of the United States of America. Partly this is because the relevant records are so distributed, and often vary in survival and detail so much between different states and areas within the USA. But it’s also because Cavers people did not emigrate in huge numbers to there, unlike for example Canada. This is typical for a Scottish-originating surname, where emigration to North America was focused far more on north of the Canada-USA border, than south of it.

However I want to try to improve the situation, and now intend to systematically record and analyse Cavers references in the 19th century USA census returns. The aim is to piece together families, and also trace them back where possible, for example to Canada if they migrated south to the USA from there, or to e.g. Scotland.

I’m lucky that there aren’t too many Cavers surname references in the 19th century USA census returns, unlike for instance Canada where there are many more. This means that the project can be quite small in scale, but also probe families quite deeply.

I’m going to take as my model the table that Donald Grant used when researching Scoon (surname) references in the USA census returns. Again this is a Scottish-originating surname, with not too many emigrants to the USA. He tracked people across census returns, and also traced them back to the original countries where possible, just as I hope to do.

I will work on this steadily over the next few months, and will post the results here once available, including the resulting table/spreadsheet of references, and my analysis of the picture it presents.

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.

A Cavers marrying in Iowa, USA

Southern Reporter, 1905 August 31

Mr JAMES W. CAVERS, a grandson of the late Mr James Broomfield, Leitholm, and now a well-known inhabitant of Lansing, Iowa, U.S.A., has been married to Miss Martha Intlekofer, of that town.

If I’ve identified him correctly this Cavers was a grandson of Adam Cavers and Janet Clark. For more on his family see the website compiled by his relative.