Monday, 28 April 2014

Through my fingers

I did some messy genealogy last week, and today it all unravelled on me.

It came to me suddenly last Sunday - I'd never looked into Elizabeth Waller. She was the great great great grandmother of my partner, Dave, and I'd so intently chased her husband's tree that I'd never come back to her to see if I could pad her line out any.

Google and Ancestry began paying off quickly. Elizabeth Waller and Forbes Scott Brown's marriage annoucement came up in The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and foreign India, China and Australasia:
Her father's name is given as Geo. (George) Waller, Esq, R.N. Another search took me to

"I am looking for descendants of Forbes Scott Brown of Glugor Estate,Penang,Malaysia.He married to Elizabeth Waller,daughter of George Waller,early Penang Harbour Master.They stayed in Glugor House.Their eldest son,Alexander Murray Brown.His grandaughter,Miss Helen Margaret Brown lived on the family property at Longformacus,Duns,Scotland.P/s contact me."

(Originally posted 22-Apr-2005)

The Asiatic Journal came through again too:
At this point I got a bit excited. You see, I knew the Scotts were pioneers in the Penang settlement. I knew there were close links between the Browns and the Scotts, both in business and socially. I had read that members of the Scott and Brown family had intermarried, but this was the first time I found one of those marriages. I also knew the Scott family were closely related to Sir Walter Scott so I thought there would be some pretty good documentation of that line.

Googling put me on this path:

I am trying to clarify the parentage of one Harry Scott who was born around 1797 in Penang which was one of the Straits settlements.  His name may have officialy been Henry.  He definitely had two sisters, Elizabeth, who married Thomas Church, and Harriet ? who married George Waller who was harbourmaster at Penang. 
His father may have been Robert Scott and his mother was described a "foreign" lady. it is possible that she was called Lugia Pieria but spellings of both Lugia and Pieria uncertain.  They may not have been formally married.  Her name sugessts that she is Portugese, or a local girl of Portugese descent, and may have been a "local wife" or his mistress.
The seem to be half a dozen possible Robert Scotts in and around Georgetown at the right time and the Scott clan practically ran the place.  Many of them married more than once because their wives died early. Those that didn't produced huge families with all the boys called Robert, Walter or William.
Harry Scott's wife is recorded as being "a Siamese lady" It is probable that she was "a local wife" and that they were not formally married. She have been named, or known as, Elizabeth. He had two children, Elizabeth Scott b.Abt. 1829, and Walter Scott b. Abt. 1826 but whether the "Siamese lady" was their mother is not clear.
Harry died, I think, 03/Jun/1830 in Singapore.
Any help with this confusing family would be much appreciated.

I had a poke around on Ancestry and found a whole bunch of trees that bore this out. My Elizabeth Waller was the daughter of George Waller, former harbour master of Penang. George Waller had married Harriet Scott, and she was the daughter of Robert Scott and Luigia Pieria. I turned up a death notice for Robert Scott in 1836:
That fit nicely because I knew his daughter married in 1838, and he was listed as "the late Robert Scott" in her marriage annoucement.

I tracked back further in Ancestry. Robert Scott's parents were listed as Walter Scott and Jean Scott. THE Walter Scott? No. But Jean's line easily yielded and she turned out to be Sir Walter's first cousin. The tree kept unfolding before me, and I was cross referencing from one source to another. Ancestry... the Peerage... Wikipedia... Google. I was hot on the trail so I added as I went, knowing I would have to come back later and clean up after myself, track down sources and remove duplicates and so forth, but it just seemed like a bottomless line. Each new ancestor I found yielded another generation before them. This is the first line in my tree that actually connects into the nobility, so I've never had an experience quite like it before. It was exhilarating!

By 3am I had amassed a wealth of information about the Scott family line and their noble connections, and the next day I picked up where I left off. The family eventually proved to be descended from the Kings of Scotland, and before that Ireland, and then it kept going back further still. The legends of the High Kings of Ireland make it difficult to separate fact from legend and I resolved to revisit at some point to work out where the verified line ended and mythology began. I left the tree sitting at the year 282AD.

Looking more closely at the post-Norman Scott family, I found several notable descendants. Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Princess Diana AND Prince Charles. I spent some time recording their descent and connecting the tree so I could show Dave and his family how they were related to these famous people.

I also read a bit more about Sir Walter Scott and discovered he'd been quite interested in his grandmother Barbara Haliburton's family so the next day I began tracking them backwards. As the generations unfolded, I started seeing surnames familiar to me from the history books... Campbell, Douglas, then Stewart, and then, there it was: James II of Scotland married Jean Beaufort. I hardly noticed the Scottish king because I saw that Jean Beaufort was going to connect the tree to the English royal line, and eventually to Eleanor of Aquitaine herself (I geeked right out because she's my favourite historical figure). I quickly put that together, and then went and connected the line down through to the present day royal family so I could show it off to the in-laws again.

Coming back to work on it in dribs and drabs today, I started back at the bottom and tried to fill in some blanks back at the bottom end, and that's when I pulled a string that has unravelled everything. I noticed that Harriet Scott's birthdate was impossibly close to her daughter, Elizabeth Waller. The more I looked, the more I realised that something is very wrong there.  

Elizabeth Waller married Forbes Scott Brown in 1840, just two years after her supposed parents were married.

So what has happened? Do I have the wrong George Waller? Do I have the right father, wrong mother? I'm quite sure Elizabeth's dates are right: born 1821, married 1840, died 1861. Harriet Scott is a bit more of a puzzler. She appears in the 1851 census as a visitor in a residence with her sister's children (among others), and her age is given as 38 which would place her year of birth as 1813 (far, far too young to be Elizabeth's mother, even if Elizabeth was illegitimate and her parents married years after her birth). I looked up Harriet's death notice:
If she was 63 in 1870, then she was born circa 1807. So, did she shave 5 years off for the census... or did someone add 5 years on to her age at death? Either way, she was between 8 and 13 years older than her "daughter", Elizabeth.

I can't find George Waller's death record as yet, and I don't really know where to go from here. It looks like the exciting Scott connection is an error after all. How frustrating! Though it really does serve me right for getting ahead of myself and chasing phantoms instead of sources.


  1. In the early English census, it was regulated that adults' ages should be rounded up or down by up to 5 years. Someone actually aged 63 would be entered as being 65. It was to make analysing the population easier.

  2. Thanks, Sandra. That's a useful bit of info to keep in mind.