Thomas Boyd’s Missing Father

Bobbie Hamilton sent me a message saying “My husband’s Great-Grandmother, Janet Boyd, was born in Blantyre in 1870. In the 1890’s, she worked on Alexander Lambie’s farm, Pilmuir Farm, in Scotland. While working as a farm servant on the farm in 1894, she became pregnant, left the farm, returned home to Blantyre and gave birth to my husband’s grandfather, Thomas Boyd. There is NO mention of the father on any papers as far as I can find. Is there anything YOU can do to help me find out this information? His mother Janet went on to get married and left wee Thomas behind to be raised by his grandparents and uncles.

Janet Boyd went on to marry John Stafford and moved to Glasgow. They had 3 children, and one of the children, Mary Boyd Stafford Mulholland died in 1980 in Blantyre. I am hoping to find a living relative of hers who might have a photo of Janet Boyd. My husband (born in Paisley but now lives in California) has NEVER seen a photo of his Great-Grandma Janet Boyd. I am a member of but I am hitting dead ends.”

I was able to reply with:

Hi Bobbie. I’ve looked through paternity cases and don’t see any court case between Janet and the mystery male for the time period. This is fairly telling and I have to conclude that the father may have been ok about Janet taking the baby away, or perhaps didn’t even know about the birth! This could be a distinct possibility. In Scotland , a mother has a right not to put the father on the birth certificate, entitling her to full custody of the child. The father could have been added anytime but wasn’t. I retrieved Thomas’s birth certificate and it clearly does not show the father. Neither does his marriage certificate.

There is a variety of reasons a mother doesn’t put the father on a birth certificate. Most however, reveal abandonment or some sort of fallout or concealment. In all cases, the reasons aren’t usually good. Janet Boyd went to some lengths to NOT put the father on the certificate, happy to sign it off with Thomas being illegitimate.

Screenshot 2020-08-04 at 22.00.48

Thats a dead end, as was checking newspaper reports and I fear it will be most difficult to ever understand who the father was. A next step was to check Thomas’s name. Did Janet name him after the missing father? I don’t think so unfortunately. Thomas was born Thomas John Boyd. Janet’s grandfather was Thomas, her father was John. This boy simply took the names of his own grandfather and great grandfather, again with no hint or nod to the father.

I cannot imagine why she left Thomas with her mother, but a new love in John Stafford may have had something to do with that. It seems she quickly had children to her husband and one has to wonder if they even knew about Thomas, their step sibling.

Putting ourselves into the mindset of Janet Boyd, she lost her grandfather Thomas Milldown on 29th December 1893 and then lost her father shortly after on 21st August 1894, whilst she was 5 or 6 months pregnant. That means her poor mother Mary Boyd lost her father and husband within 8 months of each other, so it’s little wonder her daughter Janet came back from farm to be there for her. Being pregnant would have meant the end of her time as a farm servant during 1894 certainly.

I’m glad Thomas grew up to get married in 1917. Pictured is Thomas Boyd and wife Elizabeth Cruickshank. He may very well have been a man who never ever found out who his own father was. I wonder if he pressed Janet about this anytime before her death in 1941.

1917 Thomas Boyd & Elizabeth Cruickshanks



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  1. My husband has speculated as to why she left the farm as a servant. He feels that it had nothing to do with her mother’s loss as she still had sons living at home. The speculation is that she likely became pregnant with the 24 year old son of the owner of the farm where she worked. He further speculates that the farm owner would not allow an illegitimate child to perhaps someday inherit the farm. Janet married a Mr. Stafford and it is my husband’s belief that Mr. Stafford would marry Janet but was not willing to raise another man’s child, hence my husband’s grandfather being left behind with the Boyd family.

    Also, based on conversations with close family members, my husband has discovered that Thomas Boyd never spoke of his mother and his death certificate lists Janet Boyd, his mother, as still a farm servant indicating that he never really knew her or the fact that she married. She basically abandoned her firstborn.

    If anybody has anything to add or might know any information at all, I would so appreciate to hear from you. Thank you and thank you to Paul.

    1. Hi Bobbie – a discussion has started about this on Facebook here where you will find a photo of the farm and indeed of the Lambie’s who farmed there.

      1. I’ve been looking for my maternal grandfather too, but again, no name on birth certificate and no one in my mum’s family knows anything. My mum is in her 80s but still talks about her dad. Sadly her mum died a few months after giving birth so I’ve never known how to look for him. It’s so sad to hear she still wonders if she had siblings. Must have been pretty common then?

        1. Wow Josie…..more common than I would have ever thought! Thank you for your input.

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