A series of death certificates with wrong details

A big advantage of tracing Scottish ancestors over English ones is that Scottish death certificates (started 1855) record the names of the father and mother of the deceased person. In England no parents are recorded on death certificates, and this adds to the difficulty of reliably tracing a family tree back in time.

Of course this depends on information given to the registrar being correct, and relies on the informant at the death knowing the right details, and being in an ok state to pass on information correctly. Usually parent information recorded on Scottish death certificates is pretty reliable. But there’s a series of death certificates in my Scottish family where time and again it was wrong.

On my granny’s side my ggg-grandfather was William Scott, a farm servant born in Sprouston. He and his wife Jessie brought up my great-granny Elizabeth Scott, their granddaughter. William died at Yetholm in 1895 in his 80s. The informant at his death registration was his son Andrew. Sadly Andrew did not know the names of his grandparents, so that part of the death certificate is blank.

I’ve been able to trace William’s likely parents though: hind Simon Scott and his wife Isabella Hermiston, who had various children baptised at Sprouston, and appear in the 1841 census, just across the border at Mindrum in Carham parish, two doors down from William and family. By the 1851 census Simon Scott was back in Scotland, but his wife had died. Simon died at Chirnside in 1864 in his 80s. The informant at his death was his son Simon, who didn’t know his grandparents’ names. So again that part of the certificate is blank. And, so far, I haven’t been able to trace back beyond Simon, though I have a working theory about his wife’s parents.

Dodgy information on certificates continues in the family though. When Mark Scott, brother of William and son of Simon, died in 1866 at Edrom the informant for his death certificate was his son Simon. Unusually for this family he got the names of his grandparents correct on his father’s death certificate. But something went wrong when he was asked what his mother’s name was i.e. Mark’s widow. He seems to have given his granny’s name, rather than his mother. Ah well. It was nearly right.

About vivdunstan

Academic historian, genealogist, former computer scientist, and Doctor Who fan.
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