STRACHAN FAMILY CONNECTIONS

Dear Craig:

We are delighted to present you the results of our research into your Strachan or Strannachan ancestors, who migrated from County Down, Ireland, to Ayrshire, Scotland around the 1820s. Bearing in mind the poor survival of Irish records from this period, our research focused on building up a picture of the extended Strachan/Strannachan family in Scotland and in learning more about their lives there, before exploring Irish sources. Although, as expected, we found little evidence of the family in Ireland, we did identify some possible early references to related individuals. We hope you will be pleased with what we have been able to uncover.

Research Background

The core of our work is represented by the research journal accompanying this letter. The purpose of the journal is to fully document the sources we searched in pursuit of your research objectives. In the journal, we completely cite each source we studied so anyone else can follow up and review our research. This also helps us, and any future researchers, know what has (and has not) been searched. Because there are various reasons for searching any given record, we also indicate the purpose of each search. Finally, the “findings” column summarizes what we learned from each source and provides transcriptions and/or translations of some documents. Any commentary about each search may be added in italics. Please note that the journal is not a narrative of your family’s history. Rather, it is a log of what we found during your session, starting with our understanding of research you provided to us.

The documents we found about this family are another important part of our research. We have included copies of all key documents, each with a citation identifying what the document is and where we obtained it. The information in these documents allows us to make conclusions about the people and relationships we have been researching for you. As we have discussed, we never know exactly what documents we will find or what they will reveal about your ancestors. We share them so you can see how we arrived at our conclusions during this research session. The documents are numbered in the summary below for ready reference to the journal.

Our conclusions are reflected on the private online tree we created for you at Ancestry®. This is not an effort to replace the tree you may have already compiled (either online or off). Instead, this focuses on the specific people and families you asked us to search.

Although the journal and documents are the key products of our research, the major findings are discussed in this summary. We hope you will gain additional insights as you read about the findings in the journal and study the accompanying documents.

Research Summary

At the start of this session you provided us with access to your Ancestry® tree and to the attached records which clearly document your paternal ancestry from your father back to his great- grandfather, William Strachan, otherwise known as William Strannachan. William married Janet Morrison in 1834 in Maybole, Ayrshire, under the surname Strannachan (Document E) and died in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, in 1881, as William Strachan (Document C). Census records show he was born in Ireland and confirm he primarily used the surname Strachan. It is probable his Irish surname was altered to a similar Scottish one over time, either for convenience or because he and his family wanted to integrate into the Scottish community. As the surname Strachan is the one you yourself bear, we have predominantly used this spelling throughout our summary, except where reference to a name as it appears in an original document is helpful for clarification.

A key document in understanding William Strachan’s life and origins is his application for poor relief in Glasgow in 1880, which you provided (Document D). This states he was born in October 1814 in “Drumadonald, Co. Down, Drumgooland, Ireland” (likely the townland of Drumadonnell in the parish of Drumgooland, County Down) and provides information on his wife, parents and children. Of particular interest is the information that William left Ireland when he was aged 7 or 8 years of age, and reference to members of his extended family including a nephew John Strachan, who resided at Camlachie police office, and a “Goodbrother” or brother-in-law, David McClure.

There was a discrepancy in the names of William’s parents who are recorded on his death record as William Strachan and Elizabeth Gibson, and on his poor relief application as John Strachan and Janet Gibson, and resolving this discrepancy was our initial focus. As it is unlikely any record survives of William’s birth or baptism in Ireland, we used Scottish church records, censuses, statutory records, and poor relief records in order to build up a picture of William’s life and extended family.

William Strachan (1814-1881)

William Strachan married Janet Morrison on 2 May 1834 in Maybole, Ayrshire, with their marriage recorded in the Church of Scotland parish register (Document E). The couple probably did not regularly attend this church, however, as only two of their children are recorded in the parish register, Thomas in 1846 and Elizabeth in 1851. William’s poor relief application notes he was a protestant, and it likely the Strachans attended a secessionist or non-conformist church. There were a number of such churches in the Maybole area, though few have surviving records.

William and Janet had ten known children: John (born abt. 1835), Margaret (abt. 1836), William (abt. 1842), Janet (abt. 1844), Elizabeth (abt. 1845), Thomas (born 1846), James (abt. 1849), Elizabeth (born 1851), Margaret (born 1855) and James (1858-1943). All were born in Maybole with the exception of the younger James, who was born in the Bridgeton area of Glasgow. As was common in this period, a number of the children appear to have died in infancy, with younger siblings subsequently given the same name.

It was fortuitous the Strachans had a child born in 1855 as in this, the first year of statutory registration in Scotland, more information was recorded than in later years. The birth record of Margaret, born at Balloney in Maybole on 25 April 1855, records that William was a cotton weaver, aged 40 years and born in Ireland, while Janet was 40 and born in Maybole (Document 18). Margaret was recorded as the couple’s tenth child and there were then 3 boys and 2 girls living, and 2 boys and 2 girls who were deceased, so it appears there was an additional unidentified son who died in infancy.

William and Janet were not located in the 1841 census, although their children, John and Margaret, were recorded in Maybole living with Morrison relatives in two separate households (Documents 1- 2). The Strachan family was living in Maybole in 1851, with William recorded as a cotton handloom weaver (Document 4). The Strachans moved to Glasgow in the late-1850s and Janet and the children were living at 23 Hozier Street, Glasgow, at the time of the 1861 census (Document 8). William was not listed in the household and not located elsewhere. In 1871 William was boarding in Calton, Glasgow, with David and Mary (Morrison) McLure (his wife’s sister and her husband), and he was recorded in the 1881 census (taken on 3 April) as an inmate in Barnhill Poorhouse, Glasgow (Document 11). As you know, he died in the poorhouse the following month.

We carried out a thorough search of poor relief records for both Maybole and Glasgow for William Strachan and his family and confirmed they were indeed “well known” to the poor law authorities, as suggested by the 1880 application you previously found. There is some duplication between these records due to the fact the family’s parish of settlement (responsible for maintaining them and paying their poor relief) and their place of residence was not always the same, with separate records created in each parish; for some years after the family moved to Glasgow, they were still being recorded in Maybole poor records. We found one new record for William, although this is a duplicate of his 1880 application and does not provide additional information (Document 23). Of more interest were four records for his wife, Janet (Morrison) Strachan, (Documents 27-29 & 31) and three records for their daughters, Janet and Margaret (Documents 24-26). All spent periods in Glasgow poorhouses. Copies of these records are provided so you can study them in more detail.

The earliest application we found was for William’s wife, Janet, in Maybole in February 1855 (Document 29). She was heavily pregnant and suffering from ‘bad legs’ and said to have been deserted by her husband. A series of further applications followed with the couple sometimes together and sometimes separated, confirming the pattern we found in census records. By 1868 the parochial board may have been rather tired of repeatedly providing assistance to the family, as the poor inspector, with typical candor, reported of Janet: “She is a regular imposter and sorned [scrounged] on the parish for many years. Her husband William Stranachan, weaver, born Ireland, never deserts hers, but she will not live with him” (Document 31).

These poor records confirm William Strachan was born in County Down, Ireland, but do not give a more detailed birthplace than that in the record previously found. The only information on William’s parents comes from Janet’s 1872 application which recorded them as “[blank] Stranachan and Janet Gibson both dead” (Document 28).

The Strachan family in Maybole, Ayrshire

William Strachan’s original poor relief application indicated he came to Scotland about 1822, when he was 7 or 8 years of age. It was therefore likely his parents and siblings also moved to Maybole and by researching the Strachans living there (most of whom also used the name Strannachan, or similar) we were able to identify a probable five siblings:

  1. John Strachan was born about 1791 in County Down, Ireland. He married Mary Ronalds in Maybole in 1825 by whom he had two daughters. John’s marriage is the earliest record located of the Strachans in Maybole and confirms the family likely moved there in the early 1820s. He re-married in 1843 to Agnes Girvan and had a further four children. John worked as a cotton handloom weaver and he and his family were located in Maybole in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses (Documents 3, 5 & 9). John applied for poor relief in 1862 as he was suffering from rheumatism (Document 30). He died in Maybole on 14 December 1874, aged about 83, with his death record naming his parents as John Strachan, weaver, and Janet Strachan maiden surname Gibson (Document 12). He was buried in Maybole Cemetery where he is commemorated on a gravestone with members of the McGarvie family (Document 15). Two poor relief records were located for his widow, Agnes Girvan (Document 32-33).
  2. Elizabeth Anne Strachan was born about 1805 in Ireland. She married William Roadman or Redmond in Maybole in 1827 by whom she had two children. She married William Grainger there in 1838 and had a further five children. Elizabeth died in Maybole on 26 March 1884, aged about 78, with her death record naming her parents as John Strachan, farmer, and Jane Strachan maiden surname Gibson (Document 21).
  3. David Strachan was born about 1808 in County Down, Ireland (Document 20). He married Jane McGarvie in Maybole in 1832 and had ten children. David worked as a cotton handloom weaver and he and his family were located in Maybole in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses (Documents 3, 6 and 10). David died in Maybole on 7 October 1898, aged about 90, with his death record naming his parents as John Strachan, farmer, and Jane Strachan, maiden surname Gibson (Document 13). David was buried in Maybole Cemetery along with his wife and several daughters (Document 15). Among David’s children was John Strachan, born about 1834, a police inspector in Glasgow who died in 1906 (Document 22).
  4. Helen Stranachan married John Brown in Maybole in 1828. No further records were located of her (partly due to her husband’s common name) although the spelling of her surname and the location suggests she was probably part of the ancestral Strachan family.
  5. Rachel Stranachan married Charles Donald in Maybole in 1833. Again, no further records were located, but she was likely a part of the ancestral Strachan/Stranachan family.

We therefore had clear evidence of a couple named John Strachan and Janet or Jane Gibson associated with Maybole (as named on William Strachan’s poor record) but found no evidence of a couple named William and Elizabeth Gibson (as named on William’s death record). Further, we were able to identify William’s nephew, John Strachan (mentioned in his poor record), as most likely being the son of David Strachan (Abt. 1808-1898).

Putting these records together with what we knew about William Strachan, we could therefore be confident his parents were indeed John Strachan and Janet/Jane Gibson. It is probable the informant of his death, who was not a relative, simply made a mistake. The information in the poor relief record likely came from William himself and was therefore more accurate.

In tracing the Strachan siblings, we identified a Jean Strachan, aged 75, living in the household of John Strachan (Abt. 1791-1874) in 1841 (Document 3), and a Jane Stranachan, aged 84, living in the household of Elizabeth (Strachan) Grainger in 1851 (Document 7). As the names Janet, Jane and Jean were often used interchangeably in this period, it seemed possible this was William’s mother.

We located the death of Jane Stranachan, a 90-year-old widow, who died on 13 August 1858 in Maybole (Document 14). Although her death record does not include her husband’s name, it does record her parents as John Gibson and Helen McCoid. The informant of her death was her son, David Strachan. Records indicate Jane was born in Ireland about 1768, so this provided a further link to the Strachan family’s Irish origins.

Disappointingly, we did not find any record of Jane (Gibson) Strachan among the poor relief records we searched, although she was recorded as a pauper in the 1851 census. This indicates she was likely put on the poor roll prior to 1845, when the Poor Law (Scotland) Act introduced a new system of poor relief and associated recordkeeping. There could be some record of her in either the parochial board minutes books (from 1845) or the earlier records of the parish heritors and kirk session (who were previously responsible for poor relief). However, these records are not indexed, are time-consuming to search, and are unlikely to provide much personal information.

We were not able to identify the death of John Strachan Sr. who likely died before 1841. He may have died in Ireland, rather than accompanying his family to Ayrshire, and there is some inconsistency in records as to whether he was a farmer or a weaver (he may have followed both occupations at different times).

Some context to the Strachan family’s move to Maybole is provided by the Statistical Account written in 1837. The Statistical Accounts were detailed parish reports gathered for every parish in Scotland in the 1790s and 1830s-1840s, written by the Church of Scotland parish minister. A copy of the report for Maybole is included (Document 35) but the following extract is particularly illuminating:

There are no manufacturing establishments of any consequence in the parish; but, as has invariably happened on the west coast, the influences of Glasgow and the proximity of Ireland, have drawn to the town and every little hamlet a great population of hand-loom weavers. These are all employed by the manufacturers of Glasgow through the medium of a class of middle-men, called agents, and who, from the improvidence of the weavers, who are mostly Irish, and their practice of keeping shops and paying them in kind, are generally very prosperous. This system is in many respects calculated to depress the condition of the operative. He applies for goods to the agent, and gets into debt. He must then purchase at the agent’s own price, and is generally in poverty. Yet, on the other hand, the extreme improvidence of the Irish renders them little capable of being entrusted with money; their wages might all be expended on whisky; and when the agents do not in any part pay them in it, a practice that cannot be too severely reprobated, the plan of giving articles of food and clothing instead of cash, is perhaps conducive to the welfare of their families […]

It is very common for women to weave. Boys are put at an early age to the loom, and the hours of working are, more especially in times of depression, very long. I have known the weaver to labour, with little intermission, fourteen and sixteen hours a-day, and after all earn but the miserable pittance of 6s. or 7s. per week, a sum barely adequate to support his family in the meanest way… The great proportion of the population in question are dissolute in their habits; few of them attend any place of worship; they spend the Sabbath in wandering over the fields and on the sea shore, and desecrate the day by their irregularities. Our native population have no doubt kept themselves very much apart from their society, a circumstance which, if it has tended on the one hand, to perpetuate their ignorance and immorality, has, on the other hand, counteracted in a considerable degree the contamination of their example.

The Strachan Family in County Down, Ireland

As detailed above, research identified the parish of Drumgooland, County Down, as the Strachans’ residence prior to moving to Maybole. We checked for extant church records from the Drumgooland area:

  • Ballyward Church of Ireland, Drumgooland Parish – baptisms, marriages, and burials begin in 1779, but the burial register books have a gap from 1791-1839, and 1841-1861; indication is that these register books are held by the local parish only. However, a possible discrepancy exists: the Representative Church Body Library, in Dublin, which is the archive arm of the Church of Ireland, provided us with the above information. Another reliable resource claims that baptisms and marriages also have a gap from 1792-1833, and remaining records are available on microfilm at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, in Belfast.
  • Drumgooland Presbyterian Congregation – established by 1749, but baptism and marriage records do not begin until 1836. A Communion roll begins 1867.
  • Drumlee Presbyterian Congregation – established by 1808. Baptism registers begin 1826, and marriages in 1845.
  • Leitrim (Benraw) Presbyterian Congregation – established 1834. Baptisms begin 1839, marriages in 1836, deaths in 1837, and communicants’ rolls in 1837.
  • Drumgooland Baptist Church – only transcriptions of marriage records are available, from 1803-1895.

Ballyward Church of Ireland’s burial register gaps would not cover John Strachan’s possible death in 1815-1822 (if he died prior to the family’s move to Scotland). John’s and Jane’s baptisms likely occurred before the 1779 beginning of these baptism registers, but there has been a church at Ballyward since 1659, so we emailed the parish to ask whether they could find John’s marriage to Jane, about 1789-1791, and William’s baptism, sometime in the year after October 1814. Drumgooland Parish itself is currently vacant, meaning there is no resident vicar or reverend, so it is ministered by a shared vicar. We contacted the diocese, who forwarded our request to the appropriate local personnel. Unfortunately, we never received a response after several follow-up requests, and diocesan staff will not release to us the direct contact information for parish personnel. Ballyward Church of Ireland remains the single most important priority for furthering research into your Strachan ancestors. Resolving the discrepancy between the Church’s archive authority and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland should be undertaken upon launching any subsequent investigation on your behalf. These oldest parish records may not have survived, except from 1779–1791. If so, the fragments are still worth exploring, as your ancestral Strachans might have participated in church events during this period.

Presbyterians in Ireland were not granted their own burial grounds until the mid to late 1800s, so any Strachans might have been buried in an Anglican or non-denominational graveyard or cemetery. We checked Drumgooland Presbyterian burial transcriptions, which date from 1828, but did not find any relevant Strachans, nor did we locate any in nearby graveyards. This could be because the stones are weathered, damaged, or missing altogether.

We examined a mid-1800s property valuation survey of Ireland, called Griffith’s Primary Valuation, for any Strachan or Stranachan households, but did not find any. We discovered that a surname spelling variant, “Strain,” (and the related McStrain), may apply to your ancestors. Imagine the name pronounced as two syllables, like “Strahan.” Five Strain households were recorded in Drumgooland Civil Parish, County Down, on Griffith’s Primary Valuation, which was completed for County Down in 1863-1864, long after your ancestors emigrated (Document 35). These were all in Drumadonnell Townland: Ellen Strain, Hugh Strain, Mary Strain, Thomas Strain, and William Strain. We emphasize that this valuation is not a census, so only the property holder’s name was documented, and these people lived in Drumadonnell Townland decades after John and Jane left for Scotland. This means we cannot determine their relationship to your ancestors without considerable additional research, but it could be undertaken for you in a future session, if you wish.

We also searched for Gibson property holders in Drumgooland Civil Parish, and noted six: Charles (2) in Drumadonnell Townland, Charles, in Moneyslane Townland, John, in Slievenaboley Townland, John, in Drumadonnell Townland, and William, in Drumadonnell Townland. Other parishes in the county had one or two Strain households, but we confirmed Drumadonnell Townland to be a plausible origin for your Strachan/Stranachan/Strain and Gibson families, in County Down.

A more contemporary property valuation survey, the Tithe Applotment Books, was recently published for County Down, so we searched Drumgooland Civil Parish for any Strachan, Stranachan, or Strain. Like Griffith’s Primary Valuation, these are not household census returns; the Tithe Applotment Books of the 1820s and 1830s recorded a rural tax imposed on the occupiers of agricultural holdings in Ireland for the upkeep of the Church of Ireland (Anglican). The Tithe lists the leaseholders who paid the tax. We found a David Strain and a James Stranaghan in Drumadonnell Townland, exactly where we would expect to find them. These men were possibly related to your ancestors, but additional research would be needed to ascertain this.

We reviewed several other contemporary sources, such as the 1803 Agricultural Census of County Down, and found three Strains in the adjacent Drumballyroney Parish, but none in Drumgooland Parish. The 1796 Flaxgrowers Bounty List had one Strain in Dromore Parish: John Strain, who owned one loom for spinning flax. We also searched wills dating back to 1510, as well as administrative bonds before 1848, and newspaper archives for The Downpatrick Recorder, and The Newry Telegraph, to no avail.

In a 1774 act of the Irish Parliament, dissenters (Presbyterians) were excluded from voting at vestry meetings of the Church of Ireland, so these dissenters petitioned Parliament in protest. The original petitions were destroyed in a 1922 fire in Dublin, at the Public Record Office, but a series of transcripts was made by Arthur Tenison Groves. We searched these transcripts and found a John Strain, resident of Drumballyroney & Drumgooland parishes, County Down, had signed a petition. Your known ancestor, John Stranachan, was not old enough to have signed this petition, but this John Strain could have been his father. Since your ancestor named his eldest child John, if he followed traditional naming patterns, we would expect his father to have also been John. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that Jane Gibson’s father was also John, but we found no other Strachan, Stranachan, or Strain on these Dissenters Petitions in the correct area, so our working theory is that this might have been your ancestor’s father.

Finally, we examined an overview of the Drumgooland Church of Ireland Parish Vestry Minutes, which are an administrative record of day-to-day activities and expenses for the parish. The original books are held by the local parish, but this summary mentioned that in March 1815, Moses Stranaghan was one of the men appointed to “a Committee to inspect the fence of Old Drumgooland Grave Yard” (Document 37). We recommend you read this brief summary of the vestry minutes book which covers some of the years your known ancestors lived in Drumgooland Parish, as it paints a vivid picture of life there.


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