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Friday, 8 May 2009

Genealogy revisited

Gee, have we done loads this last few days! On Wednesday I timed it well, arriving at the station only moments after Don's and Nancy's train got in, and the first item on the list of the day's events was a visit to the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Sounds dull and boring? No way! Anyway I'm not going into that right now, but we were able to look at a picture of the building, now long gone, where one of Don's ancestors, a cabinet maker, had a workshop about 150 years ago! That may not seem much to you but Don was really pleased.

Our next stop was to be the house where another ancestor had lived, but parking being difficult we eventually found a space almost outside the house I was born into (I was actually born in a nursing home, but this was my parents home at the time). We left there when I was about 4 but I do have some vivid memories of it!

It was only a short walk to the other house, and here are Don and Nancy outside. Don would have been perfectly happy with this view but I am getting quite gallus in my old age and I went to ring the bell. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say, and this time as is often the case, we got to see some of the inside!

How's this for ornamental cornicing.....

.....or this for a ceiling rose?

This house on a main road into the city is the only one in a long stretch of the street that hasn't been converted to a Guest House, and is not likely to be, in the near future at least! It hasn't been fully modernised, and indeed the kitchen and bathroom were probably last changed in the 1930s. All the old fittings and fireplaces are till in situ, and the furniture in keeping with the age of the house which is probably mid 19th century. If anything the decor has been enhanced. After all, this plasterwork would ordinarily been stark white! The subtle colouring brings out the design beautifully.

Being in the same neighbourhood, we did a quick detour to look at the house my family moved to and where I grew up. The street has changed a lot and has more tall hedges and trees than ever it had. My old home was not very different once we saw beyond the hedge. One day I'll go and ring that doorbell!

Onwards then, and after lunch and some exploration of Holyrood Park - more anon - we were off to Leith, where a significant discovery was awaiting us. Don's family and mine actually go back a long way, and the reason Don is interested in mine is that his family have an old Bible that was given to his ancestors Betsey and John by "their loving brother, James Gall". He was determined to find out about JG and his family. Well, it turned out that Betsey's eldest sister Ann, was married to JG, and so was Betsey's brother-in-law, although I think the term step-brother was used instead in those days.

Don managed to trace down the generations to my dad, and had been asking for any info on the family on the internet - one of the genealogy message boards - and I found it! We have been corresponding for a number of years now and through my reading JG's journals in the National Library, we built up quite a picture of his life and times. I made contact with the people who lived in one half of a semi-detached house I knew to be the building where the Galls had lived, who were quite certain their half would be the Gall family house and they were delighted that I had come looking. I promised them I would bring Don to see them when he managed to come over from Canada, but that was to be a lot later than we thought at that time. I had tried to get in touch with them recently but with no luck, so when we called on Wednesday, I was dismayed to see the whole place looking very shabby and the garden quite overgrown. No-one answered my ring on number 7's doorbell.

Nothing daunted I went next door and rang their bell to enquire. Sadly, the old couple are no longer there, but explaining to the man at number 9 about the Galls, he brought us inside to see a map on which only his half of the house had the housename the Galls used. Then he brought out the deeds of the house, official records of past ownership, and there were the Galls! So, it was this house after all. I have to say I had had my suspicions, only because of the census returns and the order in which the families occurred, but here was positive proof! This house has had far more alterations done to it over the years than at number 7, but as they were originally mirror images of each other, I can get a clear picture of how the Gall's house once looked! Each has a beautiful glass cupola in the roof above the hall and stairs, and it reminded me that number 19, just above, also had something along those lines! Honestly, I lived in the house for about 25 years and can't remember exactly what it was like! I HAVE to go and ring that bell!

I got the feeling that Mr C. at number 9, was a bit sceptical about me, as he rather formally asked for more information and "facsimile copies of extracts" from the journals! However in return he will make notes from the deeds for me, so perhaps it was "just the way he said it" that made me wonder!

I am going to get back up to the National Library ASAP to begin reading the journals again next week. Maybe I should try to transcribe them, rather than just take notes! When Don and I were in the National Library - have I mentioned that? I think that's a bit I haven't caught up on! Oops! Well, we were there, last week, before they went to Yorkshire, and read bits of JG's journals. Don was organised and had taken notes of dates I sent him a few years ago of when his family were mentioned, so we were able to go right to the correct entries. I particularly wanted to see if JG had mentioned the visit in 1845 to Newhaven of D.O Hill and John Adamson, early "photographers". Among the collection of calotypes taken by Hill and Adamson is one of a group of fishwives in their distinctive costumes, along with the Rev. Mr. Fairbairn and James Gall. It is titled "the Pastor's Visit"
Here's my scrapbook picture of the "Visit".

Well, I obviously missed the journal entry last time as there it was right at the foot of the page for 16 July 1845 ".....today Mr D.O. Hill was taking groups of fisherwomen and others at the head of the Lane. Requested me to form part of a group with Mr Fairbairn, which I did." I thought that quite exciting!

Have I said before that the said DO Hill turned out to be my great great grand-uncle, and that my Dad's mother was named for his daughter, Charlotte? ~Hill's sister Mary's granddaughter was my granny Charlotte~ JG's great grandson married Charlotte!

So back to Mr C, I am going to try and find pieces from the journal relevant to his house, e.g. when water and a gas supply were brought into the house, and will chart out a simplified family tree, as well as look out my copies of the census records for the family - all information that will help him discover the story of his house!

Talk again soon.


mh51 said...

OMG......... this is soooooo interesting & I would have done EXACTLY what you did EVEE... knocked on that door.
My creed in life is 'they can only say NO!!!...'
Well done I say.

Andrea said...

Oh, what beautiful homes!