Tuesday, 16 June 2009

1881 McElhago

In my blog on 26th April I focused on the third son of the McElhago family in Dundonald, Ayrshire, Scotland, in the early 19th Century. He was Robert, born about 1821/2. In 1849 he married a local girl, Elizabeth Boyd. Robert died at sea at the early age of 48. Elizabeth was to live until she was 75/6. Clearly she had to sustain herself through twenty-five years of widowhood. As far as we know she had no children, though clearly she did keep an interest in the younger members of her family and indeed left her estate to her niece Jessie Montgomery Rankine Howie.

The images of the 1881 Census have recently been put on line by the Scottish General Register Office in Edinburgh. There is only one McElhago listed for Scotland and she is Elizabeth at 34 Paterson Street, Govan, Glasgow. She describes herself as Head of the Household, a Widow and a Private Lodging House Keeper. The household has five other people in it. Four are almost certainly not related to her, three Kellys who were boarders, a husband, a wife and the husband's sister, all from Aberdeenshire. John Kelly was a 'Shipmaster', so Elizabeth was keeping in touch with the world of her late husband, Robert.  Archibald Lyon, Lodger, was a Slater's clerk. The final member of the household was however a relation. She was Elizabeth Tennant, aged 12, a 'scholar', born in Glasgow, whom she describes very precisely as her 'Grand-niece'. The Tennant family was a large one, with eleven children. Elizabeth was the eldest daughter and perhaps her great-aunt had her to live with her to give her a better chance in life than she might have had otherwise, at least through her teenage years.

The description 'grand-niece' is an interesting example of the use of a term which could readily be understood in a complex situation. The two Elizabeths were not blood relations at all! Young Elizabeth was in fact the Second Cousin twice removed of the older Elizabeth's late husband, Robert. My first thought when I saw the 1881 Census entry was 'Why didn't she leave part of her estate to this niece if she shared in her upbringing?' The answer probably has something to do with blood being thicker than water!

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