Monday, July 20, 2015

Rummaging among the ancestors

James Roger Stewart in 1937
I've been spending today, this rainy day, in the company of shadows. Piqued into action by a succession of Tweets with a second cousin I only know online, I started looking at old photos first - my grandfather in the Witwatersrand Rifles, in his adventuresome young manhood when he took off to South Africa to help run a school in Pretoria; my grandmother as the pupil teacher who set off from rural Aberdeenshire to meet and marry this man she hadn't seen for two years; the tinted photographic postcards he sent her, photos of the house, the school, the countryside, the grand buildings of Durban and Johannesburg. Eventually I shall get round to digitising some of these images, but for now I need somewhere convenient to put down some names.

Because that was the second thing I did, as the rain worsened and the day grew drearier: I phoned the brother-in-law whose persistent patience means that he knows more about my rellies than I do. And that way, I learned about one strand of the family tree - that of my maternal grandfather, James Roger Stewart, he who was a prize shot, who went to South Africa but returned with his wife and his two-year-old daughter Margaret, my mother, and who was heartbroken that a stomach ulcer prevented him and his skills as a marksman from being sent to the Front.

This is what I found:

Father David Stewart, born Ireland c. 1852; d. 15/11/14 in Gairbraid Road, Maryhill, Glasgow.
Mother Sarah Rogers, d. Maryhill, 1894.

James Roger Stewart (1878-1958); my grandfather.
Frederick Stewart (1879 - ?) -----------sons James Stewart, 1909 - ?; Frederick Stewart.
Margaret and William John, twins; died at 2 years.
David Stewart (1885-1916)
Mary (died in infancy)
George Thomson (1889 - ?)
Jane Cunninghame (died in infancy)
Sarah (died in infancy)
Christina (Auntie Chrissie) (1893 - 1978) Lived in Letchworth when I knew her.
Sarah Agnes (1894 - ?)
and by David Stewart's second wife, Margaret Cameron, whom my grandfather called "Steppie" -
Clara (d. infancy) and John (neonatal death)

Gosh. All those babies, and all those deaths, including the death of a wife. Apparently the advent of the second wife drove my grandfather to leave home - he'd have been in his late teens and they didn't get on. The photo I have here is of a younger man than I knew, but the hat and the pipe and the moustache are familiar accoutrements. My own father took the photo, presumably in the days when he would set up his spare room as a studio with four lightbulbs screwed into the base of a jelly pan and mounted on some contraption to produce the ideal lighting conditions. More photos will follow.

This century beckons ...