In June 2015, I was contacted by Drew Morrison who wrote, “My name is Drew Morrison and I’m currently residing in the Victoria Care Home, Victoria St., Blantyre. I’ve just found your excellent website and resource and hope that you may be able to help me in one specific way. My great grandfather, William Heugh Morrison, was born in Blantyre Works on 11 November 1828. This information I was able to find easily via the microfilm records in Hamilton Library a few years ago, and since then – until I became less mobile and quite ill – I have been able to trace him and his family down through the years. The missing information concerns the address in which he was born and where the family lived. Any assistance would be appreciated”
Always up for an ancestry challenge, I quickly found the lineage belonging to the Morrison family, although then, it was spelt as “Morison”, with one r. Solving specific mysteries is always better piecing together the background, so I decided to start at William Morrison’s father, also called William. William Morrison Senior was born in Carnmoney , Ireland in 1798. In 1818 when he was 30 years old he married Susannah Hunter, a woman a year older also born in his home town. Three daughters followed, Mary in 1818, Sarah in 1820 and Jane in 1827. That same year in 1827, it would appear the family took their three daughters and moved to Blantyre Works, for a life of working at the established cotton mill. Not long after they settled down there, William Heugh Morrison was born in 1828. Susannah in 1831, Thomas in 1833, Elizabeth in 1835 and final daughter Agnes born in 1839. William and Susannah, the parents had no more children, for sometime between 1839 and 1841, William Morison passed away, at the young age between 41-43 years old. All this was known to Drew’s original enquiry, so i wanted to add more.
I started to believe that the family only lived in Blantyre for 12 years between 1827 to 1839. Here are my reasons. I went to the census information, which starts at 1841 and was surprised to see no records of the family, nor in 1851. This was a good indication that by 1841, the whole family had moved away, either back to Ireland (where no census records were kept) or perhaps abroad. I understand that females marry and change name, but even in the 1841 census there was no record of the young misses. Next, I suddenly remembered an outbreak of cholera had deeply affected the Blantyre works. Had something happened to the whole family? I checked records and found the cholera outbreak started in December 1848, so this proved a dead end, for it still did not explain whey the family were missing from the 1841 census. No returns for 1851. Jumping ahead to 1861, there I found youngest daughter Agnes Morison, unmarried, aged 22 and living at Blantyre Works at 32 Front Row. At last! We have a residence and address, right beside the mill. However, upon further inspection, I noticed that although she is recorded as being a mill worker, she was only a visitor to that household on the day of the census, the house being occupied by the McKay family. Had she returned to see friends or connections to family? Future census information showed no returns for this family, most bizarre.
It took me to investigate William Heugh Morrison’s story. Born 11th November 1828, he married Mary Ann Godfrey in India in 1856. Had the family emigrated to India? This was the exact time of the rise of the Biritish Empire in India. I was doubtful that the whole family had moved as I later found Susannah Morrison, sibling of William had married in Ireland to a Mr Edward Murphy around the same time. I think it more likely that after their father’s death in 1841, Blantyre mill life was not for them, and they all returned to Ireland, perhaps to be closer to family and friends. The exception being William Heugh Morrison who met Mary Ann in India. I think William moved out to Madras, India to seek his fortune in life. He died on October 3rd, 1900. He died at 38 Priesthill Road, Glasgow. In his own lifetime, he had 3 daughters and 3 sons. The first daughter Lily Jane Ann Morrison, born in Madras, India in 1857 died aged 1. Other children included William b1862, Agnes b1863, Thomas b1866, Sarah b1870 and James b1873. Sarah and James were born in Glasgow, indicating that by 1870 certainly the couple had moved back home to Scotland.
I’d never met Drew before and hearing that he was ill this Summer in 2015 and nearby at Victoria Care Home, I decided to visit him one Friday on return from work. Despite being unannounced, I was let in by staff, who allowed me to pass on the ancestry details above. I also took the opportunity of gifting Drew all three of my books, wishing him better health.
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Mary Meekat Fantastic Paul your an inspiration.. Such a lovely thing to do!