I started researching my family history in the mid-1960s and quickly discovered that my 2nd great grandfather, John McNaughton, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1814. But I was never able to find out anything about his parents. I corresponded with some hard-working, dedicated family historians and they couldn't make any progress either. That all changed on 22 February 2007.
The only clue we had to the parents of John McNaughton was his death certificate, which said he died on 18 July 1885 in Melbourne, a contractor, 71 years old, of cerebral apoplexy. "Father: Charles McNaughton, profession not known; Mother: Christina McNaughton, formerly not known. Informant: John McNaughton, son. Born: Edinborough (sic), Scotland. Resided: 47 years in Victoria. Married: Scotland at age 24 to Agnes Stirling."
In my third year of retirement I spent a week reviewing boxes of accumulated evidence, digitising and analysing key material. On Tuesday, 21 February, I went to bed with a faded carbon-copy of 17 hand-written legal pages entitled "Notes on Enquiries into Family History, September 1980 - January 1981" sent to me in 1981 from Perth, Australia, by Don McNaughton, my first cousin once removed. When I put it down, I went to sleep with the distinct feeling that the mystery had been solved.
Don went to New South Wales and spent some time examining the records that were made when John and his family landed in Australia, including entitlement certificates for John and Agnes. She was shown as a native of Glasgow, the daughter of William and Jane Stirling. One piece of information on John's entitlement certificate mystified us. Where the person's father was meant to be identified, John's entry read "Christian Ross of Dalkeith, storekeeper." I went to the Web to see if there was a John McNaughton born in Edinburgh in 1814 with a mother called Christian Ross, because I felt I had seen that name in my searches. And there it was - "John Ross McNaughton, born 12 May 1814, baptized 23 May in St. Cuthbert's, Edinburgh, to James McNaughton, a coppersmith in Portsburgh and his spouse Christian Ross." Portsburgh was a suburb created in 1649 and annexed by Edinburgh in 1856.
After more than 40 years of believing that John's father was called Charles, it was hard to believe that his name was James. But the pieces came together. John called his first child Jane, after his wife's mother. They called the second child Christina, but in letters John referred to her as Christian, the same as his mother. He called the third child John, after himself, and the fourth child James, after his father. The seventh was named Agnes, after his wife, and the eighth William, after his wife's father.
The confusion on the entitlement certificate is easy to explain. Christian Ross was the mother, not the father and maybe, as Don suggested, the entry should have read "Housekeeper" instead of "Storekeeper." We don't know why the mother was mentioned and not the father. But after a perilous voyage lasting more than four months from Greenock, Scotland to Port Jackson, New South Wales via the Cape of Good Hope - which included a clash with pirates, 140 cases of typhus and 60 deaths - this was what was recorded. We are grateful to some diligent clerk at Port Jackson in September 1838 who recorded for all time that my pioneering 2nd great grandfather was born in Edinburgh in 1814, the son of Christian Ross. As for John's misleading death certificate, the informant was his son John (my great grandfather), strugging in 1885 after the death of his father, and perhaps grief stricken, to fill out the necessary forms and get the facts straight across the decades and thousands of miles of ocean in a new land. He took a stab and got some of it right.
James McNaughton, coppersmith, and Christian Ross, daughter of James Ross, mason, gave up their names for marriage on 27 January 1804 in the parish of Canongate. I only found one other child - "James McNaughton, coppersmith, and Christian Ross, his spouse, Old Gray Friars parish, a son born 20 February last, named Lauchlan Ross, baptized in church 7 April 1810." James and Christian thus preserved the mother's surname in both their sons, not a common practice at the time, even for one child. I looked for the birth of Christian Ross, daughter of James Ross, mason, but there are several eligible.
In 1837 John Ross McNaughton married Agnes Stirling and had a child, Jane. He left Kirkintilloch, Scotland in 1838 and sailed with his family to Australia, where he became a prominent figure in early Melbourne and started a dynasty. I wonder what happened to his older brother, Lauchlan Ross McNaughton. Who were his parents - James McNaughton, coppersmith, and Christian Ross, daughter of James Ross, mason? Perhaps some readers of this article can tell me.
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