Tuesday, October 01, 2013


First decision - what to title the four essays I hope to complete, touching on my family history? I had the draft titled Family History #1. A bit dry that! I went to what has always been a fruitful source of inspiration The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, as translated into English by Edward FitzGerald. The last quatrain:
And when Thyself with shining foot shall pass
Among the guests star-scatter'd on the grass,
And in thy joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made one - turn down an empty glass!

My father's father, or poshly stated, my paternal grandfather - his name was Edward James Scott - was born in 1882 in Suffolk, in the south-east of England. Before getting into the family line that led to Grandad Scott, my Dad, then me, I sensed a mystery connected to the surname itself: Scott. I'll delve into that before getting to specifics, for thereby hangs a tale. Many stories start long before they begin.(I borrowed that good line from Terry Pratchett's Small Gods.)

SCOTT - the simplest and most obvious origin of the surname has to come via early wanderers from Scotland who, back in medieval times on settling in England, would have been given names such as Robert the Scot, or Robert Scotus, later becoming Robert Scot(t). There are other theories though. A book, History of the Scott Family by Henry Lee states:
"Historians claim that the name of Scotland itself was derived from the family name; in fact, claim that a family of primitive gypsies gave a name to the country in which it located instead of a country giving a surname to divers wanderers from its borders. In support of this theory Boethius, Vermundus, Cornelius and Scaliger claim that the name of Scott originated from Scota, the daughter of the Pharaoh who was drowned in the Red Sea. The story told in support of this origin of the name follows : Gathelus, a son of Cecrops, King of Athens, being banished from that kingdom, fled to Egypt with a large band of followers. This was in the time of Moses and Pharaoh being engaged in war was glad to accept the aid of the followers of Gathelus, whom he made a general of the combined forces. The enemy nations were subdued and as a reward Pharaoh gave his daughter Scota in marriage to the victorious Gathelus. Later Gathelus and Scota, with a goodly following, escaping from the plagues in Egypt, fled to Spain, naming that portion of the country Port Gathale which is now known as Portugal. Here Gathelus gave to his followers the name of "Scottis" from the love he bore his wife Scota. After years of war with the natives of Spain these nomad "Scottis" once more set sail and landed in Ireland from whence they afterwards went over to the northern part of the adjacent island of Britain, naming the country Scotland or the land of the Scottis.

This theory of the origin of the name is treated by many historians as fabulous, but Geoffrey Keating, the Irish antiquary, claims that the followers of Gathelus and Scota landed in Ireland A. M. 2736 (B. C. 1303); and a number of ancient antiquaries and historians agree that the name of Scott is derived from the Egyptian Scota.
A tall tale indeed, but interesting - and who could ever prove it true or untrue now?

There are numerous Scotts to be found among the clans of Scotland and in English counties near to the Scottish border, with a rather sparser sprinkling of the name throughout England. Whether some Scottish wanderer back in the mists of time travelled as far south as Suffolk isn't known, but there has been a clutch of Scotts in the county for centuries.

A little more research threw up the first evidence of Scott surnames in the south of England generally, in Kent to be exact.

The book mentioned earlier tells that
Sir William Scott, the founder of Scots Hall and the Scott family of Kent, was the son of John Scott, seneschal of the manor of Brabourne, Kent. Sir William was a Justice of the Common Pleas, appointed 1336, and knighted on the day Edward the Black Prince was created Duke of Cornwall. He died in 1350. The tradition is that Sir William was descended from a younger brother of John de Baliol, King of Scotland and of Alexander de Baliol, Lord of Chilham, Kent. Family records show that in 1402, Peter de Coumbe made a settlement of the Manor of Coumbe in Brabourne, on William Scott who died in 1434. He is credited with the building of the Hall, afterwards known as Scots Hall, and had two sons, John and William. The latter, Lord of the Manor of Woolstan and founded of the family of Scott of Chigwell, died in 1491. The elder, Sir John, Sheriff of Kent in 1460, was knighted and made Comptroller of the Household by Edward IV in 1461. He was also Lieutenant of Dover Castle, Warden of the Cinque Ports and Marshal of Calais. He died on 17th October 1489.

Now I come from a long line of oppressed and downtrodden, nameless and faceless English peasants, "ag labs" (agricultural labourers) and domestic servants. I have no pretensions to grandeur whatsoever, in fact my socialist blood would boil at the very idea! However, the Scott strain found in Suffolk is said to be an offshoot of the Kentish Scotts of Scots Hall. One of the earliest references, in Suffolk Probate Records, is of an Adam Skott de Bradfield who, in 1474/5 left his estate to George Scott and Benedict Freg. Several Scotts were living around Rattlesden and Bradfield area of Suffolk in the 1400s to 1600s - a location not a long distance from where my Scotts would have been labouring in the fields some decades later. One family of Suffolk Scotts, including Thomas, Elizabeth and their children, along with Thomas's mother Martha, widow of Henry Scott of Rattlesden, hightailed it to New England in the vessel "Elizabeth" of Ipswich, Suffolk on the last day of April 1634. One son, Roger Scott remained in Rattlesden until his death. The Scott adventurers settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, later moved to Ipswich, named after its original in Suffolk, England. Thomas Scott was town officer in the US version of Ipswich, in 1653. I noticed that a wife of one of the Scotts who emigrated to the US was executed as a witch after trial in Salem.

There are several Scott lines in Norfolk (the county adjoining Suffolk to the North). I've read that Scottish prisoners from the English Civil War's Battle of Dunbar in the mid-17th century were sent to Norfolk as labourers on the drainage of the fens. There would have been a few Scotts among them for sure, or if not, and if they survived their ordeal as prisoners and were later released or escaped, they'd soon have become known as, for instance, James the Scot, then later James Scott.

Onward to the nitty gritty:

My Dad didn't know much about his father's background, only that "he had walked up to Yorkshire from Suffolk when he was quite young". That'd be no "walk in the park" - it's 220 miles via today's roads. An uncle and a cousin I once approached for further information on Grandad Scott had no more clear information; my Uncle thought Grandad had come from Essex, my cousin thought Birmingham. This was the first mystery I tackled trying to construct our family tree. It turned out that there was probably some truth in all three ideas.

Grandad Scott was born in Suffolk, on 9 March 1882. I have it documented by his birth certificate, and in several other places in online census returns. It was in a small village called Stoke-by-Nayland. That area of England is known for its pastoral beauty.

The Cornfield by John Constable. Click on image for a bigger view. (For US viewers - corn in Britain = wheat, not sweetcorn as in USA)

Many of the paintings by John Constable, like the one above, feature lovely landscapes not a stone's throw from the village where Grandad was born. He did paint one featuring the very village, Stoke-by-Nayland, but online version doesn't translate well to computer screen.

The beauty, for Grandad and his mother, Mary Ann Scott, born about 1857, must have ended abruptly though. Mary Scott, my great-grandmother, bore her son out of wedlock. In census returns for 1861, 1871 and 1881 she is found living with her parents William and Lucy Scott, and her siblings, in Stoke-by-Nayland or neighbouring villages. By 1881 Mary was acting as housekeeper to her then widowed father. By the 1891 census, though, Mary, aged 33, son Edward, then aged 9, and a daughter Alice aged 5, are listed as inmates in the Stanway Workhouse, just over the southern Suffolk border in Essex. She is noted as "unmarried" he as "scholar". What happened between 1881 and 1891 and the name(s) of the father(s) of her children will forever remain a mystery. I thought it was strange for her to be admitted to a workhouse outside of her birth county, but research indicates, with some confusion, that it's likely that Stanway Workhouse (see below) just over the Essex/Suffolk border was an available venue for paupers from certain parishes in Suffolk, possibly due to extent of Poor Law Unions' borders, or other legalities.

Life in workhouses in the 19th century would have been grim, even grimmer, I suspect, after the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed in 1834. Emphasis in earlier times was more towards the relief of destitution rather than deterrence of idleness which characterized many of the institutions set up under the Act. Archived records of admissions to Stanway Workhouse were destroyed, so any hope of my being able to find out exactly when Mary and Edward were admitted are gone. Census states that Alice was born in Stanway; Edward wasn't born there, that's the only clue I have. Perhaps Mary and Edward had remained living with her father, William, for several years, then Mary became pregnant again and her father threw her out. Or maybe that happened immediately on the birth of Edward. I'll never know. A Minute Book of the Workhouse Guardians is stored in the Essex Records Office, searching through it may or may not throw up some snippet of information, but I'm not convinced it would be worth the expense of paying a professional to do the research.

I've wondered whether the name Edward might be a clue to my Grandad's father. There's no other Edward in this Scott line that I know of and babies, back then, seem to have been named in accordance with a kind of family name cycle. Grandad's middle name, James, matches that of Mary's grandfather, for instance. I looked around the census return for any Edwards living near Mary and her father in 1881, spotted a couple in a likely age group, but reading something into that would be mere speculation.

Mary was still listed at Stanway Workhouse in the 1901 census, with a daughter Lily aged 4. I haven't yet found trace of Mary, Lily, or Alice in 1911; perhaps in the intervening 10 years all three had died, or Mary had died, and Alice and Lily had left to seek work and/or married.

More on workhouse life at this link.

Grandad would have left Stanway Workhouse to try to find employment at a fairly young age - around 12 or 14. Exactly when he set out on his walk northward, or how long it took, I don't know. He could well have made many stops, taking work along the way. In the census for 1901, aged 20, he had arrived in an East Yorkshire village, Londesborough, is listed as "boarder" and shepherd at Londesborough Wold Farm. In 1904 he married my grandmother Mary, and by the 1911 census they were living in Driffield, an East Yorkshire market town, at Wold House Cottages. Grandad was still a shepherd, with 4 children, my father being the youngest at that time, aged 1 year. There would be 6 more children to come. Grandad would serve in World War 1, come home with a leg injury, and later obtain work as postman, a job he did until retirement. I found a record of his appointment on 17 September 1920 in the British Postal Service Appointment Books - records are now online.

My own memories of Grandad Scott begin in the early 1950s after he had retired from work. We used to go together to the cinema quite often, both enjoyed that a lot. He lived just around the corner from us in those days, used to like to visit the local auction saleroom and bring my parents boxes of bargain treasures he'd found there. I remember finding all kinds of interesting books and bits and pieces among those bargains. He was a keen gardener, often brought us baskets filled with his home-grown veggies. He had some other amazing skills too, he could repair clocks, made a hobby of it in fact. Also, my father told me, when all the kids were young Grandad would sit at a sewing machine making or re-making clothes for them all - 10 of 'em - so it was no mean task!

There's little more to tell via hard facts, other than that Mary's father, William Scott, born about 1821 was a son of James Scott and his wife Ann (formerly Lee). William was born in Ashbocking, Suffolk and appears to have moved to live near Stoke-by-Nayland, probably for work reasons; there he met his wife Lucy (formerly Lucy Shepherd). So far I can find background family links for neither Lucy nor Ann my 2nd and 3rd great-grandmothers. William and James were agricultural labourers, working on some of the many farms and estates of the landed gentry and aristocracy in Suffolk. James, born about 1791, was a son of John Scott, about whom little is yet discovered, probably born around 1768/70. John, who, in genealogical terms is my 4th Great-grandfather, was possibly farming as a tenant, a step up from labourer, though the work would have been much the same. I found a Land Tax Redemption record for a Jno Scott which indicates he was a tenant of land of the Earl of Ashburnham and C. Boone in 1798 in Ashbocking, and owed 15 pounds 16 pence in land tax. Whether Jno Scott and my John Scott are one and the same isn't 100% certain, but if they are it could be at around this point that my line of Scotts links to the early Suffolk Scotts. John would have to be a brother, cousin, cousin once removed, whatever, to a direct line of the Rattlesden Scott line (Roger being the only male of that brood left in England after the 1634 exodus to the USA.) From thence, a link to the Kentish Scotts and thence to the old, true Scottish Scott line.

On the other hand, for all I know my stragglers could be descended from some random band of travelling gypsies, or a Scottish prisoner deposited to work in Norfolk after the Battle of Dunbar, bearing the Scott name. I'd be very happy with that too! My Scotts could also have been labourers moved by some aristocratic landowner from an adjoining county to work on more far-flung areas of his lands, which would make further research difficult and results nebulous.

I've taken my Scott line, with a fair amount of certainty, back to the mid 1700s, but there the trail ends, unless other information surfaces.

Grandad died in December 1958. His eldest son, my father, died in April 1992, and my father's 9 siblings, as far as I know, have all now passed on too. Our version of the name Scott is carried on via four (I think) male cousins of mine.

#2 of this series of 4 posts will (in due course) be about Grandad Scott's wife, my paternal grandmother. I've been able to delve much further back into the mists of time in her case, mainly due to the work of other, distantly related, amateur genealogists.

For now, I toast members of my Scott line, known or unknown, and in their honour now turn down my empty glass.

For old Suffolk maps, hat tip to Foxearth.org


mike said...

As I indicated in a prior post, the genealogy bug hasn't infected me, but I do like hearing the stories and seeing the connections...just not the actual genealogical research. You've provided an interesting partial tale of your lineage, Twilight...I'll look forward to part 2.

My younger sister truly has the bug! My father's father left home and never returned when my father was two years old. Next to nothing was known about him. My sister first endeavored genealogy to fill-in my father's father...that was seven years ago. She was able to construct our family tree, but minus the branch containing my father's father. Finally, a year ago, she somehow managed to obtain the initial information, then more, then more! She was ecstatic...mission accomplished. Or so she thought...she keeps filling-in various tidbits and extending her reach back into time. For the last year, she has said numerous times that she accomplished what she set out to achieve, but she can't quite let go.

Some of the additional information has come from her posting our family tree on her Ancestry.com page...other viewers have contacted her about their connections to it. Interesting stuff.

So, beware Twilight...this may become an obsession (or is it too late already?)!

Have an enjoyable trip to Ohio...a big cold front is coming by next weekend.

Anonymous said...

(It's me -TWILIGHT, I'm playing at Anonymous 'cos I can't get into Blogger/Google on this dang laptop - I'm not familiar with Win7 and have forgotten the temporary user name I was given by Google due to some glitch with Cableone - our internet provider at home.

Glad the post wasn't too boring. :-)

We're doing the journey in stages, stopping in Springfield, Missouri tonight (Tues). Husband prefers to limit himself to 5 hours driving these days (I don't drive). Fairly boring I.44 all the way, we shall diversify a bit on way back.
Should be in Illinois tomorrow.

It's still hot and humid here.

mike (again) said...

This is off post, Twilight, but thought you might enjoy a new "cause" to add to your list. Here's a link regarding prison profiteering:


From BoingBoing.net:
" This point is made in a long and sad article on prison profiteering by Liliana Segura in The Nation. Worse than phone profiteering is the cruelty of the prison medical contractors, who ration vital treatments to prisoners, leaving them in agony and worse. For example, Correctional Medical Services "discourages treatment for hepatitis," leaving prisoners with hep. C to slide into permanent, profound disability.

These problems are much worse in private prisons, who are guaranteed occupancy by the states and counties that contract with them -- effectively, the government promises to lock up a minimum number of its citizens as a condition of doing business with private prisons. These prisons are not subject to freedom of information requests, are not inspected in the same way as public prisons, and have profit-taking built into their billion-dollar business, meaning that every dollar they spend on care and rehabilitation for prisoners is a dollar they don't return to their shareholders."

Twilight said...

mike ~
Thanks - that's shocking! Prisoners are paying the price for their crimes already by losing their freedom, it is in no prison employee's job description, I feel sure, that they are to dish out further pain and suffering - no matter what a prisoner's crime might have been.
That's law of the jungle stuff...and uncivilised. GRRRR!

We're on the road back now - different route; over-nighting (Mon.) just south of Louisville, Kentucky.