#52Ancestors: Out of Place

I have a relative who has been claimed by two different families in online family trees. Her name was Euphemia Turnbull and she was born in 1800 in Melrose, Roxburghshire, Scotland. She died in Edinburgh in 1868 and her death certificate gave the information about her husband and both her father’s name and her mother’s name including her maiden surname. Scottish civil records are great because they allow both parents to be named on birth, marriage and death certificates from when they were first established in 1855.

Of course, the information on the certificates are only as good as the information the informant had at the time of the registration. Building up a timeline of life events to include other sources such as census records and newspapers help to create a bigger picture of who the person was; but also who the person was not.

Had I placed the right Euphemia into my family tree? I needed to bring together all the evidence I had, create a timeline and put her into the correct place with the correct family.

My research is never linear from the beginning to the end; it sometimes starts at the end to get back to the beginning. Thinking outside of the box sometimes helps to find the missing clues, but rabbit holes are always a danger! Especially when things don’t seem to make sense at first glance…

Euphemia’s Death

I knew Euphemia’s date of death from the copy of the death certificate. She died on the twentieth of April 1868 at 109 Rose Street, Edinburgh from chronic bronchitis. The certificate recorded her husband’s name, Francis Dobson, who worked as a saddler journeyman. Her father was Walter Turnbull, a parochial schoolmaster in Melrose and her mother was Euphemia Dickson, both parents were deceased. This record can be found on Scotland’sPeople Statutory Deaths in the year 1868, with reference number 685 / 2 / 220 and registration district of St Andrew (Edinburgh).

I was surprised to find two obituaries for Euphemia in the newspapers available on FindMyPast. I’ve found so few obituaries for my family in Scotland, so this was like gold dust. The first article came from Southern Reporter, 23 April 1868:

At 109 Rose Street, Edinburgh, on the 20th inst., Euphemia Turnbull, daughter of the late Mr W. Turnbull, formerly parochial schoolmaster at Melrose, and wife of Francis Dobson, saddler, formerly of Melrose, aged 68 years.

FindMyPast Southern Reporter, 23 April 1868

And the second was from Weekly Review (London) 25 April 1868:

Dobson. – On the 20th inst., at 109, Rose-street, Edinburgh, Euphemia Turnbull, wife of Francis Dobson, aged 68 years.

FindMyPast – Weekly Review (London) 25 April 1868

From these sources I knew who Euphemia’s immediate kin were, that she lived in Rose Street in Edinburgh with her husband, that her husband worked as a saddler, that her father had been a parochial schoolmaster in Melrose and that she originally came from Melrose.

Ancestry gave me another clue within the Cemetery Register for Edinburgh. It gave the burial date as 23 Apr 1868 in Warriston Cemetery and I could confirm this record was definitely her from her address given on the death certificate and from the two obituaries. She has a memorial page on FindAGrave but there is currently nothing about her final resting place on BillionGraves or DeceasedOnline.

These pieces of evidence were all good places to start with building a better picture of Euphemia and to start my timeline of places and events.

Euphemia Turnbull’s Birth and Baptism

I decided to look for her birth and baptism record since I knew her parents names, her father’s occupation and where they lived. And I was very lucky to find that she had indeed been baptised. Walter Turnbull, Schoolmaster was listed as her father and Euphemia Dickson as her mother. She was born in Melrose on 23 July 1800 and baptised on the 24 August 1800. The record is available through Scotland’sPeople in the Old Parish registers for births and baptisms in the parish of Melrose with the reference number 40 / 60.

I wondered if Euphemia had any brothers or sisters and managed to find she did, though their mother’s first name was not recorded as Euphemia but Euphan Dickson. It was definitely the right family as their father is listed as Walter Turnbull, Schoolmaster.

Isabel Turnbull15 Feb 1797Melrose
James Turnbull23 Dec 1798Melrose
Nelly Turnbull22 Aug 1802Melrose
William Turnbull15 Apr 1804Melrose
Baptisms for the children of Walter Turnbull and Euphan Dickson, originals available on Scotland’sPeople

The baptisms for her siblings showed that Euphemia was the third and middle child of Walter Turnbull and Euphan/Euphemia Dickson. Knowing the names of siblings can often help to identify witnesses at a marriage, godparents of children or even the naming patterns for the next generation.

Euphemia’s Marriage and Children

The next thing i needed to find was her marriage to Francis Dobson. I tried various spellings over a range of years in both Scotland and England, but there were no records that seemed to match my couple. They wouldn’t be the only couple in my family tree without a marriage certificate. As Melrose is within the Scottish Borders, it was possible that the couple’s marriage had been outside of Scotland in England.

FamilySearch brought up a marriage for a Francis Dobson and Euphemia Turnbull in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on 16 Jun 1818. It was also available on the Nova Scotia Archives, but they had a copy of the original document to view rather than a transcription. It named two witnesses, James Turnbull and George Oliver. This seemed to be a coincidence, but I took a closer look at newspapers from the time and found another clue on the Nova Scotia Archives in the Nova Scotia Historical Newspapers.

On Wednesday evening 17 inst. by the Rev Dr. Grey, Mr. Francis Dobson of Selkirk, in Scotland, to Miss Euphemia Turnbull from the neighbourhood of that place.

Nova Scotia Historical Newspapers, Acadian Recorder, 27 June 1818, Volume 6 Number 26, p. 2

The newspaper article was interesting because it mentioned that Francis Dobson was from Selkirk in Scotland.

My next step was to look for children of Francis Dobson and Euphemia Turnbull on Scotland’sPeople to see if they had any further clues to the date of their marriage. Searching with their exact names brought up 5 children in the index born in Melrose and Edinburgh, which tied in with Euphemia’s place of birth and place of death.

NameDate of BaptismParish
Euphemia Dobson26 Nov 1819Melrose
George Dobson06 May 1821Melrose
Christina Dobson06 Apr 1823Melrose
Christina Dobson04 May 1828Melrose
James Dobson15 Mar 1841Edinburgh
Baptisms for the children of Francis Dobson and Euphemia Turnbull, originals available on Scotland’sPeople

Looking at these dates, there were some significant gaps, including the omission of my direct ancestor, Francis and Euphemia’s son, William Turnbull Dobson. Before I looked for the children within the gap years, I wanted to look at what I already had. The one thing that stood out to me was when I looked at the baptism for the first child on the list, Euphemia Dobson. It gave not only her baptism date in Melrose, but also her date of birth and the place of birth. Her place of birth was not in Melrose; it was in New York! George Dobson was the following entry on the OPR page (Old Parish Registers Births 799/ Melrose) Page 13 of 505. George’s birth date was given, but no place was listed so it was most likely within the parish of Melrose.

William was not showing in the original search, so I had to go back to what I knew about him. I knew he was born in Melrose about 1830 and that he lived in Edinburgh. So I had a look at the 1851 census and found the family living at 122 Rose Street, Edinburgh where Francis was working as a Saddler Journeyman and William was working as a Printer – Compositor. Living in the household were:

Francis DobsonHead of H.M58Saddler JourneymanSelkirk, Selkirk
Euphemia DobsonWife49Melrose, Roxburgh
William DobsonSonUM20Printer – CompositorDo, Do
Isabella DobsonDaughter17Do, Do
James DobsonSon10Scholar at HomeEdinburgh
1851 DOBSON, FRANCIS (Census 685/1 115/ 13) Page 13 of 19, originals available on Scotland’sPeople

The first interesting fact from the census record was that Francis Dobson’s place of birth was in Selkirk. Selkirk, the very same place that a Francis Dobson who married a Euphemia Turnbull in Nova Scotia was from according to the newspaper in Nova Scotia. Though Selkirk and Melrose aren’t too far away from each other, so it could still be a coincidence.

James Dobson was the only child who came up in the original baptism search for children to Francis Dobson and Euphemia Turnbull, so I widened the search to children of “Franc* Do*” which gave me two more names. I needed to make sure that I had the correct family.

NameDate of BaptismParish
Walter Dodson27 Nov 1825Melrose
William Turnbull Dobson*22 Feb 1830Melrose
Baptisms for the children of Franc* Do*, originals available on Scotland’sPeople

William Turnbull Dobson appeared in this search. His mother’s name was recorded as Euphemia Dobson and not Euphemia Turnbull. Walter was recorded as Walter Dodson, not Walter Dobson, but the correct parent names were listed as Francis Dodson and Euphemia Turnbull. There still appeared to be gaps in children born to the couple and there was no record of Isabella Dobson‘s baptism.

To see if there were any other clues, the 1841 census was the next go to. It doesn’t have quite as much information on it compared to those that came after. There were three results for a Francis Dobson, two of them at the same address in Edinburgh, at 68 Rose Street. The names matched up with the baptisms of the children baptised in Melrose and Edinburgh.

Francis Dobson44Saddler J.
Isabella do35
Euphemia do15
George do15Painter ap.
Walter do14Saddler ap.
William do10
Isabella do7
Francis do2
James do2 months
1841 DOBSON, FRANCIS (Census 685/1 31/ 5) Page 5 of 19, originals available on Scotland’sPeople

Isabella aged 35 was a little odd as no where is Euphemia referred to as Isabella. However, the location was correct, Francis’ occupation was right and the ages of the children William, Isabella and James were the same as on the 1851 census.

It gave the names of other children that correlated with the children baptised in Melrose, but the ages for Euphemia and George were unclear on the census. They looked like they could both be 15, they both looked like they had been altered because of an error. Euphemia’s looked like it could also be 19, 10 or 17, and George’s could also be 11 or 18. There were errors on the ages in other households on the same image where a number had been altered. No eraser fluid in those days to correct mistakes!

Another question asked to members of the household was to whether the person was born in that parish. In the Dobson household, they were all marked with an “n” or “no” with the exception of Francis Jr. and James who were born in Edinburgh. The final column asked if they were born outside of Scotland. All of the family had this left column left blank, including Euphemia Jr. This set me off on a further journey to locate more information about her, the final pieces of my puzzle. Was Euphemia really born in New York? And were Francis and Euphemia really the couple who married in Canada?

Euphemia Dobson – The Final Pieces of the Puzzle

After 1841, Euphemia Dobson no longer lived with her parents. I found a death record for her on Scotland’sPeople. She was the wife of Thomas Wood, Shoemaker (Master) and she died on 5 Jan 1880 at 26 Teviotdale Place, Edinburgh. This can be found on with the Reference Number 685 / 1 / 21 in the Registration District of ST GEORGE in Edinburgh. Knowing her husband’s name and occupation was useful for looking for her marriage and where she appeared in the census. Thomas Wood is a fairly common name, so there needed to be some careful sleuthing to find the right couple.

The marriage of Euphemia Dobson and Thomas Wood took place before civil registration started in Scotland in 1855. They married on 3 Dec 1852 and the marriage confirmed that Thomas Wood was a shoemaker. It gave Euphemia’s place of residence as 83 Great King Street, Edinburgh and confirmed her father was Francis Dobson who was a saddler living at 120 Rose Street. The OPR is available on Scotland’sPeople 1852 DOBSON, EUPHEMIA (Old Parish Registers Marriages 685/ 1 Edinburgh) Page 339 of 482.

The last census taken before Euphemia died was in 1871. She and Thomas were living with their family at 10 Front Baker’s Land in Edinburgh’s St Cuthbert’s parish. Like Euphemia’s baptism record in Melrose, the census recorded her place of birth as “New York, U.S. of America”. This record can also be viewed under 1871 WOOD, EUPHEMIA (Census 685/1 82/ 15) Page 15 of 20 on Scotland’sPeople.

Euphemia Dobson’s baptism, marriage and death confirm her parents were Francis Dobson, a saddler who lived first in Melrose and later on Rose Street in Edinburgh, and her mother was Euphemia Turnbull. Her baptism and the 1871 census both suggest that Euphemia was born in New York, USA which means that both Francis Dobson and Euphemia Turnbull were outside of Scotland at some time. And although there is a huge distance between New York, USA and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, it seems a coincidence that the newspaper in Nova Scotia mentioned that Francis was from Selkirk and his wife was from nearby. Selkirk and Melrose aren’t too far away. Their daughter, Euphemia Dobson, and their older children were born and baptised in Melrose before the family moved once again to Edinburgh where they stayed on Rose Street from at least 1841.

Will the Real Euphemia Turnbull Please Stand Up

While there seems to be some confusion over two women with the same name from Roxburghshire in Scotland, what I’ve concluded from the evidence I’ve uncovered over the years for my ancestor is:

  • Euphemia Turnbull was the third born daughter of Walter Turnbull, schoolmaster in Melrose and Euphan/Euphemia Dickson.
  • She was born in 1800 in Melrose in Roxburghshire, Scotland.
  • She married Francis Dobson in 1818 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
  • Her first daughter was born in New York, USA but was baptised in Melrose in Scotland in 1819.
  • The family moved from Melrose to Edinburgh and lived and worked on Rose Street, a street parallel to Princes Street in the centre of Edinburgh.
  • She died in 1868 in Edinburgh at the age of 68.

Euphemia holds a firm place in my family tree after investigating baptisms, marriages, deaths, census records and newspaper articles. I have been unable to locate any travel documents for her, so I don’t know when she originally arrived in Canada, but I know she travelled across the pond and back again thanks to the baptism and census records for her eldest daughter, Euphemia Dobson. Her marriage had seemed out of place when I first discovered the transcription on FamilySearch, but the local papers from Nova Scotia with the information that Francis Dobson originally came from Selkirk helps to pull more of the threads together. Finding a copy of the original marriage online naming a James Turnbull could have still been purely coincidence without further context.

Looking for original records for your ancestors is important. Don’t instantly trust the hints provided to you, make sure you’re doing your own research to confirm primary sources, secondary sources and creating a basic family tree and timeline. We all make mistakes; we are all human. We all have different ways to research, but keeping note of where you find your information will be beneficial in the long term if someone asks you where you found that clue that shows that your Euphemia Turnbull and my Euphemia Turnbull is the same woman. Read ALL the records in full, including those within the newspapers especially for family notices such as births, marriages or obituaries. There are clues in what appears on a headstones if your family had the money to erect one. Birth places, birth dates, names can be recorded incorrectly and that is why you need as much evidence as you can to back you up your theory.

I hope you found my out of the box researching of starting at the end and working my way backwards as a constructive way to research your own family. If you have any comments on what records you think I have missed, or how you would have looked at your ancestors journey’s in a different way, please add them below.