Ian Burgess writes, “Hello Paul. I’m tracing my Grandfather’s roots. Robert Coats Strachan b1874 – d1933. From Blantyre. I see many Strachans mentioned in the Mining Disaster 1877. Can you help me identify his family? He married Margaret Oughterson Blackstock and emigrated to Canada 1902 or 03 as a coal mining engineer.”
I was able to reply with this: Now, if the family emigrated to Canada, I know I won’t be able to find out much about after 1903, so my search has to start in Blantyre before that year. Having great information about who married who, is a brilliant way to trace family. Obtaining a marriage certificate provides a wealth of information, like what age both people were, where they lived, what they did for a living, where they got married, who each of their parents were and what they did for a living as well as sometimes when THEY got married. It’s a fantastic document for anybody doing research and so I went searching.
The marriage certificate shows Robert Coats Strachan married Margaret Oughterson Blackstock on 8th February 1899 in the Gorbals, Glasgow. There are no living Blantyre connections remaining on this certificate. By 1899 Robert’s parents James Strachan and Mary Coates had passed away. When he married, 24 year old Robert was living at Dykehead, Shotts. He would therefore have been 28 or so when he emigrated, his wife being 4 years older. We need to go back a generation to Ian’s great grandfather, Mr. James Strachan to search for any Blantyre connection.
Great Grandparents – Strachan
Census information is produced every 10 years. Knowing James and Mary Strachan were dead by 1899, I looked back to the 1891 census and sure enough, there they were living at Begg’s Land, High Blantyre. That year James and Mary were 41 years old, incredibly meaning both of them died whilst in their 40s.
With them at Beggs Land were 6 children. John (18), Robert (16), Elizabeth (12), Thomas (10), Mary (8) and Janet (6). Their location would more than likely mean the children went to High Blantyre School on Hunthill Road, although the 2 eldest sons were employed as coalminers, probably nearby at Dixon’s Pits.
Beggs building was a former single storey building on the south side of Main Street, High Blantyre, directly opposite the entrance to Cemetery Road. It would later become Patterson’s Chemist in the 20th Century. Their neighbours in 1891 were the McLellan family of Blacksmiths.
The Census reveals that Mary Coates was a Blantyre woman, born in 1850. Eldest son, John was born in Blantyre, meaning the family had been living at Blantyre since at least 1873. James Strachan was born in Glasgow but clearly had moved to Blantyre by 1871 according to the census of that year.
Mary Strachan, wife of James, should not be confused with another Mary Strachan in Blantyre who was convicted of theft and breach of the peace in 1903. Coincidently, her husband was a James Strachan too, but the lady of lesser moral character was a Connor by maiden name and was very much alive in 1903. The Mary of our story had passed by 1899.
Clearly, Robert Strachan thought a better life awaited for him overseas in 1904 and with his parents no longer alive, decided to make his life abroad as an engineer, away from the dirty pits of Blantyre. As Robert left, Blantyre was going through great change, especially on Glasgow Road with trams arriving and a new Church being built. Robert had many siblings, so there must be a lot more to this story.
Hope this helps. Paul.”