This week, in honor of Mother's Day, I'd like to share more about my maternal line. Although they each had their own unique personalities, the women in this line were all hard-working, intelligent, industrious, creative, loving people who always found a way to laugh during difficult times. I seem to have inherited both my nose, and the "twinkle in my eye," through this line. [photos below are from my personal collection]
I have followed this line to Scotland. Not only is it notoriously difficult to research maternal lines, which usually change surnames with each generation, it can also be challenging to follow your ancestry in a new country. While I am fortunate that Scottish records often include maternal surnames, the Scottish government has retained control over their records, so images of original documents are only available through Scotland's People on a pay-per-view basis, via a subscription with Find My Past, or on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, depending on what you are searching for. That is to say, you will not find images of original records on Ancestry or FamilySearch - you will need to go to beyond these sites if you want to go deeper than indexed information.
My mother's mother's mother's mother was born on 13 October 1859 in Port Glasgow, in Renfrewshire, which was a small port city on the River Clyde, on the Western side of Scotland. You might remember from my "Strong Woman" post that Mary Maud Coats was the young child who was brought to the United States (with a goat!) by her paternal aunt, Mary Coats Bergstrom. Although she had no memory of her mother, Mary knew her maiden name: Isabella Forrest[er]. Isabella, my great-great-great-grandmother, was the end of my maternal line for many years.
It was through Scotland's People that I was finally able to corroborate the story of Mary Maud Coats and her aunt, Mary Coats Bergstrom, and begin to learn more about my Scottish family. [Unfortunately, because I am following their terms and conditions, I am not able to share images of what I found.] It was interesting to see what differed from the story Mary had heard as a child (and recounted as an older woman), and what remained true through the years - the essence of the story was correct, but there were several discrepancies with dates, including her own birth date![1,2] I can't tell you how exciting it was to finally view Mary's birth registration from 1859, which recorded information personally reported by her mother, Isabella. I learned the name of the street where the family was living at that time, and confirmed that her father, Andrew, was a shoemaker and a journeyman.
I also located the death registration for Isabella Forrester Coats. This document recorded information reported by her husband, Andrew, who stated that she had suffered from tuberculosis (recorded as "phithisis") for about eight months, and died just prior to Mary's first birthday, on 1 October of 1860, at the young age of 28. It was from this record that I finally had evidence for the maiden name of Isabella's mother: Janet Sherrow. A clue!
Using this information, I was able to locate the death registration of the widowed Janet Forrester, who died less than three years after her daughter, after being paralyzed for "several years." Her death was reported by her son-in-law, Andrew Coats. Interestingly, her maiden name was recorded as "Shirra" in this document, which helped explain why I was not able to identify a single record for anyone with the surname of "Sherrow" on Scotland's People. Not only did this information clear up her father's name and surname (William Shirra was a "spirits dealer" - can't wait to learn more about this guy!), it also provided the maiden surname of her mother: Mary Fulton. So far, records indicate that Janet Shirra came from Glasgow, and that she was not James Forrester's first wife, which is opening up a whole new line of inquiry. After so many years of being stuck at Isabella Forrester, it was exhilarating to move two generations further along my maternal line, which now looks like this:
I also learned some unexpected information from my search on Scotland's People. Just over one month prior to my great-great-grandmother's birth, her father, Andrew, reported a tragic death: his five-year-old daughter, Mary Coats, died after three weeks of "inflammation of the bowels." I can't help but imagine the grieving parents, one month away from the arrival of their fourth (or possibly fifth) child, losing their darling five-year-old so suddenly. They must have named their new baby "Mary" in honor of the child they had just lost.
Isabella, with a paralyzed mother to care for, the loss of this child, and the stress of a new baby, contracted tuberculosis - the "white plague." Andrew wrote to his sister living in America, and told her of Isabella's dying wish:
I found the family in the 1861 census, taken in April, about seven months after Isabella's death - Andrew Coats, his daughters Janet, Jane and Mary, and his sister Mary Coats [Bergstrom], seaman's wife. I'm not sure of how long Mary lived with them, but by September of 1863, she and her niece, Mary Maud, and her husband had traveled to Utah Territory by wagon train.
As I think about this line of women on Mother's Day, I appreciate their strength and willfulness through various forms of adversity. I've learned a little bit about what it took to survive in early 19th century Scotland - how precious and fleeting life was. I mourn the early death of Isabella, who never learned about how well things would turn out for her infant daughter - that she went on to live a long, full life and brought six children to adulthood, along with many, many descendants. I think of the sisters that Mary Maud never knew - I would love to learn more about what happened with them, and if their descendants can be found among the thousands of my autosomal DNA matches. I look forward to learning more about Janet Shirra's story - about her marriage, other children, how long she battled paralysis, and more about her mother, Mary Fulton. I also am so appreciative of Mary Coats in her role as aunt and adoptive mother - this story could have taken a very different course had it not been for her efforts.
I am, most of all, so grateful that I am now able to share more about this story with my mother and my own daughter (as well as many others who share this maternal line with me). I'm wishing you all a very happy Mother's Day, and the best of luck in your own maternal line research - it can be challenging, but is well-worth the effort!
1. Statutory Birth Register, County of Renfrew, Registration District: 574 (Parish of Port Glasgow), 1859, page 95 (printed), number 283, for Mary Coats, 13 October; database online with images, 1859 COATS, MARY (Statutory registers Births 574/283), Scotland'sPeople (www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 3 February 2017); citing National Records of Scotland, Edingburgh, U.K.
2. "Autobiography of Mary Maud Coats Bergstrom Stratford: A Pioneer of 1863," 4 September 1922, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Camp 33, recorded by Ethel Stratford Skeen; digital copy in personal collection of the author, East Lansing, Michigan, 2018.
3. "Obituary: Mary M. Coats Stratford," Salt Lake Telegram (Utah), Friday, 20 February 1942, page 26; online database with images, Utah Digital Newspapers (https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu : accessed 12 May 2018).
4. Statutory Birth Register, Registration District: 574, 1859, number 283, for Mary Coats.
5. Statutory Death Register, County of Renfrew, Registration District: 574 (Parish of Port Glasgow), 1860, page 54 (printed), number 162, for Isabella Coats, 1 October; database online with images, 1860 COATS, ISABELLA (Statutory registers Deaths 574/162), Scotland'sPeople (www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 22 June 2017); citing National Records of Scotland, Edingburgh, U.K.
6. Statutory Death Register, County of Renfrew, Registration District: 574 (Parish of Port Glasgow), 1863, page 25 (printed), number 73, for Janet Forrester, 2 April; database online with images, 1863 FORRESTER, JANET (Statutory registers Deaths 574/73), Scotland'sPeople (www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 12 May 2018); citing National Records of Scotland, Edingburgh, U.K.
7. Records relating to Janet Shirra Forrester I've found so far include: OPR marriage registration between herself and John Forrester indicating the marriage was to take place in Glasgow in 1831; 1841 census listed two sons (John and Samuel), of John Forrest[er] who were born earlier than the 1831 marriage, and that her birth occurred outside of the county of Renfrew; 1851 census indicated her place of birth as "Lanarkshire Glasgow;" and death registration (cited above), had a discrepancy in age between both census records. More work to be done here.
8. Statutory Death Register, County of Renfrew, Registration District: 574 (Parish of Port Glasgow), 1859, page 40 (printed), number 118, for Mary Coats, 31 August; database online with images, 1859 COATS, MARY (Statutory registers Deaths 574/118), Scotland'sPeople (www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 12 May 2018); citing National Records of Scotland, Edingburgh, U.K.
9. "Autobiography of Mary Maud Bergstrom Coats Stratford," page 1.
10. 1861 census of Scotland, County of Renfrew, Registration District: 574 (Parish of Port Glasgow), Enumeration District (ED): 7 (Burgh of Port Glasgow), page 8 (of 22, stamped), schedule no. (household): 46, for Andrew Coats, Janet Coats (incorrectly recorded as "Janent"), Jane Coats, Mary Coats, and Mary Coats; database online with images, 1861 COATS, ANDREW (Census 574/7/8) Page 8 of 22, Scotland'sPeople (www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 12 May 2018); citing National Records of Scotland, Edingburgh, U.K.
11. Individuals in this Company, William B. Preston Company (1863), for Mary Maud Coats, Mary Coats Bergstrom, and Carl M. Bergstrom; online database, Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel (https://history.lds.org/overlandtravel/companies/241/william-b-preston-company-1863 : accessed 12 May 2018).
Leave a Reply.
I'm Ginger Ogilvie, and I am absolutely, hopelessly hooked on genealogy!
© Keep Family History Services 2023