ABERDEEN-L ArchivesArchiver > ABERDEEN > 2009-08 > 1249511058
From: "M Keith Abel" <>
Subject: Re: [ABERDEEN] SMITH family New Pitsligo Aberdeenshire
Date: Wed, 5 Aug 2009 18:24:18 -0400
References: <8CBE211138E0F1A-1428-717D@WEBMAIL-DF03.sysops.aol.com> <4A76A820.firstname.lastname@example.org><8CBE396684A76B2-B84-15BB@webmail-md19.sysops.aol.com> <4A793F9B.email@example.com><A495B11346F64EDD83C96A56079AB00A@LENOVO53E5F674><4A79B000.firstname.lastname@example.org>
I can say no more than that my guide, a Librarian from the Library in
Inverurie assured me, In spite of my wonder at the possibilty, that they
had been the dwelling places of sub letting tenants who were listed at the
same address in the census. I suspect some would have been charity cases
such as the old lady whose "calling" was given as "Stocking knitter". I
assumed she knitted socks for the family from yarn supplied to her in lieu
Peter Abel, my great grandfather, was born in 1812, son of Alexander Abel.
Peter was the first of three illegitimate children by three different women
in as many years but that is another story that might make a very humourous
television show. In the 1841 census he was single, living as an
Agricultural Labourer on a farm 7 miles north of Inverurie. In 1851 he is
married with one child, living as a day Labourer in a house on High Street
in Inverurie. In 1861 he is living in a house on the Estate of the Earl of
Kintore, Parish of Keith Hall and Kinkell, a farmer renting 60 acres, all of
his children have arrived down to James at 4 months. The household includes
a Servant Girl and a Ploughman. The residence is given as "Old Mill" and
the ruins of a mill on the burn attests to the aptness of the name.
Burnhead is the cottage next down the road. I thought for the times that
to go from a day Labourer in 1851 to a farmer of 60 acres in 1861 was a
rapid and significant advancement in the world.
In 1871 he is again said to be living at Old Mill but Burnhead is not
listed. I suspect the census taker used ditto marks carelessly and Peter
was actually at Burnhead and he may even have been at Burnhead in 1861.
His death record says he died at Burnhead. Both cottages, Old Mill and
Burnhead looked like identical houses and both had their row of sheds out
back. Both cottages are still occupied but I don't believe either tenant
is farming the land. When we visited, Old Mill was occupied by the
daughter of a doctor that had treated my wife in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
It is a small world.
Peter died in 1876 and is buried in Old Meldrum Churchyard. The location is
odd since no other family members are buried there and while Old Meldrum
isn't so far across the fields from the house, it isn't very handy by road.
It does seem odd that he was not buried at Keith Hall or in Kintore where a
great many members of the family are buried.
With respect to the number of windows a dwelling had, I understood that was
related to a tax that was intended to bear more heavily on the wealthy but
had the effect of people bricking up windows.
M Keith Abel
----- Original Message -----
From: "Gavin Bell" <>
Sent: Wednesday, August 05, 2009 12:14 PM
Subject: Re: [ABERDEEN] SMITH family New Pitsligo Aberdeenshire
>M Keith Abel wrote:
>>.... Moreover to compound the confusion, census returns will list
>>several unconnected people and families as living in the same house.
>>I remember when I visited Inverurie, a very kind person from the library
>>undertook to drive my wife and I around to the places where my ancestors
>>lived, the school my grandfather attended, the manor house I was named
>>after. It was a thrill to visit "Burnhead", the house my great
>>Peter Abel rented. I asked our guide about the several unconnected
>>listed in the censuses who also lived there since it was obvious that the
>>tiny cottage could scarcely have contained great grandfather's large
>>let alone all those other people. She pointed out the row of sheds out
>>behind the house that I had taken to be storage buildings, chicken coops
>>etc. These "dwellings" were built of stone about 10 feet square with a
>>"leanto" roof, no window, a door that consisted of a rectangular hole in
>>wall and a hole in the roof to let the smoke out from a fire built on the
>>ground in one corner. There was no evidence that a wooden door had ever
>>installed in the doorway ....
> I think the situation is sometimes more complicated. When you find 5
> households with the same address, it certainly does not mean that 5
> families were living crammed into a single cottage. But nor does it
> ncessarily mean that that there was one family in the cottage, and the
> other 4 lived in outhouses.
> What often happened was that several different houses (none of them
> palatial, certainly, but probably none of them quite so squalid as you
> suggest) actually shared the one placename. Sometimes this is made
> clear by the name itself - "Burnside Crofts" or "Cottown of X" makes it
> clear that there was more than one dwelling. But if you examine a
> large-scale OS map from the 1860s you will very often see that a group
> of what are quite obviously separate buildings have just a single
> placename attached to them.
> And the buildings that you find above ground today are no very reliable
> guide to what was there 50 or 100 years ago. Since the later 19th
> century, increasing mechanisation has meant that fewer workers were
> required on the land, so fewer houses were needed, and many have become
> ruinous or been bulldozed - but their names are probably perpetuated in
> newer buildings.
> If your ancestors were enumerated in the Census from 1861 to 1881 you
> can get some sort of handle on the conditions they lived in because one
> of the questions asked for the number of rooms with windows inhabited by
> the household. I think this was mainly intended to quantify the
> horrendous conditions of some families in urban areas, who were indeed
> crammed into cellars with no windows, so I would be surprised if in the
> countryside you could substantiate, from the Census data, many instances
> of the sort of "black holes" you suggest above.
> You don't say when your ancestor was at Burnhead, but an analysis of the
> 1871 Census published shortly after it was taken stated that in the
> parish of Inverurie (including the town) there were 714 housholds who
> had, between them, 2133 rooms with windows, or 3 per household. A
> similar ratio applied in other parishes, and while we would nowadays not
> be content with such a meagre allowance of light and air, it does rather
> suggest to me that what you saw were actually outhouses, not dwellings.
> Gavin Bell
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