It’s not known why, how, or exactly when JonasPetronėlė and their five children migrated from Lauckaimis to Bellshill in the Lanarkshire coalfields. The Tsarist authorities of the time did not allow Lithuanians to leave the country, so their exodus would have been by stealth; for our family, a short crossing of the nearby Širvinta River would have taken them into East Prussia, and, from there, a train could ferry them to Hamburg or Bremen, the likely ports of embarkation. Leith, near Edinburgh, was a major port for new arrivals from Lithuania. Agents from mining companies like Merry & Cunninghame were in the Baltic actively recruiting workers for their mines and ironworks in Scotland, and Jonas was certainly soon working at the pits in Bellshill. Whether the family had come for work, to escape grinding poverty, to avoid arrest for ‘illegal’ activities, or avoid conscription in the Tzar’s army is also unknown — perhaps it was a combination of those factors.

However, we do know our Šugžda family were settled in Bellshill by early 1904 (just around the time our McKay family moved from Bellshill to Galston) because that’s where their youngest child, Maggie, died of tuberculosis in January (names in purple are my direct ancestors):

1904 SCOTLAND STATUTORY DEATHS: Bellshill, Lanarkshire 1Source: Shuzsda [Šugžda], Maggie; 1904 Scotland Statutory Deaths; 625/3 34; Bellshill, Lanarkshire.

Maggie Shuzsda (Single)
died: 13th January 1904  (9:30 pm)
at: 7 Bellside Terrace, Glebe Street, Bellshill  age: 14 months

father: Jonas Shuzsda, Coal Miner
mother: Patrone Shuzsda M.S. Merninkaitis

cause: Tuberculosis of Mesenteric Glands; 1 month  doctor: Thomas G Picken M.B. Ch.B.
informant: Jonas Shuzsda (his X mark), Father (present)  witness: Gavin Blackie, Registrar

This child was completely unknown to me until I accidentally stumbled across this record while using search wildcards on ScotlandsPeople. The spelling of the Lithuanian names is all over the place, as usual, but her age tells us she must have been born in November 1902. No birth is recorded for “Maggie” in Scotland, so it seems reasonable to assume she was born in Lauckaimis, Lithuania, or possibly while in transit to Scotland. It means the family likely left the Baltic sometime in 1903, and probably arrived in Bellshill that same year. It is also of note that they recorded her name with the Anglicised ”Maggie”, and we can speculate that her Lithuanian name might have been Magdalena. We also know that Petronėlė had now lost five of her children in infancy, but was already mid-term with her next child.

Just over four months after “Maggie” died, Petronėlė gave birth to her tenth child — the seventh for Jonas:

1904 SCOTLAND STATUTORY BIRTHS: Bellshill, Lanarkshire 2Source: Shugesda, John; 1904 Scotland Statutory Births; 625/3 309; Bellshill, Lanarkshire.

John Shugesda
born: 28th May 1904  (6:00 am)  at: 7 Bellside Terrace, Glebe Street, Bellshill

father: John Shugesda, Coal Miner
mother: Patrone Shugesda M.S. Menikaitis
parents married: 6 September, 1890  at: Vladislaw, Poland [= Vladislavov, Lithuania, now named Kudirkos Naumiestis.]

informant: John Shugesda (his X mark), Father (present)  witness: Gavin Blackie, Registrar

The family could only have been in the country for about a year, and already we can see the adoption of Anglicised spellings for their names (“Shugesda” is an English phonetic version of Šugžda). This record is the first to give us a marriage date for Jonas and Petronėlė and, as we discussed on the previous page, it is unlikely to be correct. Another feature of note is that the marriage place is given as “Vladislaw, Poland” — the British government saw these Lithuanian migrants as being Russian citizens, and accepted that Lithuania was part of Russia’s Polish province.

Among the Lithuanians who came to Scotland around the same time as the Šugžda family was one Vincas Stepšys, whose son Jonas (aka John Miller) later wrote about the times and the struggles of the Lithuanian people against the cruel tyranny of their Russian overlords. His father had been a ‘book smuggler’ (known as the knygnešiai), who in the late 1890s was illegally bringing Lithuanian language books in from East Prussia at great risk of arrest and imprisonment (some were burned alive with their books!). Like Petronėlė, this family came from the Sakalupis Estate, but Vincas and his brother Juozas fled in 1899 when the Russians tried to arrest them. They made their way overland to Hamburg, and eventually caught a ship to Leith in Scotland. As with our family, they soon ended up in the Lanarkshire coalmines in Bellshill. John Millar’s story can be found here. Interestingly, Petronėlė’s paternal grandmother was Ieva Stepšytė, and ‘Stepšytė” means ‘daughter of Stepšys’ — so it is quite possible, given the Sakalupis connection (a farm with about 70 workers), that we are related in some way to Vincas Stepšys the book smuggler.

Lithuanian miners at Bellshill before 1914.

The roughly 7,000 Catholic Lithuanians who arrived in the Lanarkshire coalfields between 1890 and World War 1 were certainly not welcomed by the local Presbyterian Scots, who were alarmed that these foreigners were taking jobs and lowering wages. The local trade unions were vociferous in their condemnation of these ‘imported foreign workers’, even branding them as “evil” — but, gradually, these immigrants began to join the unions and, in 1905, the Lithuanian miners strongly supported a successful strike action that had many out for eight months (see the article on Lithuanian Miners). No doubt, Jonas Šugžda would have been involved in that strike, and this event seems to be a turning point in the local acceptance of the Lithuanian community.

The Lithuanians in Lanarkshire had set up Lithuanian newspapers like Laikis (‘Time’), societies (e.g. Sviesa, meaning ‘Enlightenment’), meeting halls, and a church, at Mossend, with a Lithuanian priest. At this time, Dr Juozas Bagdonas, a national figure in Lithuania, had fled his homeland and was active within the community at Bellshill. Bagdonas was born at Slibinai, the neighbouring farm to Sakalupis, which was also the birthplace of Petronėlė’s first husband, Pranciškus Simanavičius. So, with rising political action by workers, the 1905 Russian revolution, the founding of Socialist parties, active Lithuanian nationalism at home and abroad, these would have been electrifying times for the workers at Bellshill, and no doubt for the Šugžda family too. However, after a break of nearly six years, Petronėlė and Jonas had their final child:

1910 SCOTLAND STATUTORY BIRTHS: Bellshill, Lanarkshire 3Source: Shugesda, Alexandra; 1910 Scotland Statutory Births; 625/3 138; Bellshill, Lanarkshire.

Alexandra Shugesda,
born: 26th February, 1910  (10:00 pm)  at: 4 Bellgowan Terrace, Glebe Street, Bellshill

father: John Shugesda, Coal Miner
mother: Patrone Shugesda M.S. Melnikaitis
married: 6 September, 1890  at: Vladislaw, Poland

informant: John Shugesda (his X mark), Father (present)  witness: Gavin Blackie, Registrar

As we can see, the information is almost identical to John’s record, and the myth of an 1890 marriage is repeated. The family was still using the Shugesda spelling, which John and his family used for the remainder of their lives. “Alexandra” is, of course, a female name, and this is likely a scribal error for the common Lithuanian name of Aleksandras — but for the rest of his life, he was known as Alex SugzdaWhen Alex was nearly one, his older half-sister, Annie (born Ona Simanavičiūtė), started her own branch of the family when, at 19, she married Jonas Zinkevičius, a coal miner like her step-father:

1911 SCOTLAND STATUTORY MARRIAGE: Bellshill, Lanarkshire 4Source: Zikewiczius, Jonas & Samanavicute, Annie; 1911 Scotland Statutory Marriages; 625/3 26; Bellshill, Lanarkshire.

married: 5th February, 1911
at: Roman Catholic Church, Mossend
after Publication, according to the Forms of the Roman Catholic Church

Jonas Zikewiczius (Bachelor), Coal Miner
age: 26;   of: 24 Hamilton Road, Bellshill
father: Wincas Zikewiczius, Farmer
mother:  Amelia Zikewiczius M.S. Vishnouskie (deceased)

Annie Samanavicute (Spinster)
age: 19;   of: 6 Bellside Terrace, Glebe Street, Bellshill
fatherJonas [sic] Samanavicute (deceased)
mother:  Patrone Samanavicute [Petronėlė Simanavičiūtė] M.S. Milnisckute  [Melnikaitytė]

minister: Francis Cronin  witnessesGeorge Ziugzda [Jurgis Šugžda ?];  Josephine Teimer

The Lithuanian Catholic Church in Mossend (near Bellshill). Annie was the only one of the family to get married in Church.

Most of the names in this marriage record are misspelt — e.g. “Zikewiczius” for Zinkevičius; and “Samanavicute” for Simanavičiūtė. The given names are Anglicised, and Annie’s father was Pranciškus, not “Jonas”. Also, Scottish records would normally include her mother’s current married name, and should have appeared as: Petronėlė Šugžda or Simanavičiūtė M.S. Melnikaitytė (a mouthful for sure for the poor Registrar; my mother would say she’d have been better off with a number!). Annie was living with her family who were still in Glebe Street, though now in a different row. An interesting thing about this marriage is that it was solemnised in the Lithuanian Catholic Church in Mossend — the last time any of that family were married in church, and this is a clue to changing attitudes within the family and the Lithuanian community in general. Also, one of the witnesses is named as “George Ziugzda”. Since “Jurgis” is Lithuanian for “George”, and “Ziugzda” is phonetically very close “Šugžda”, I think this witness could be the “Jurgis Shusda” who we find in the 1911 census (below).

Hamilton Road, Bellshill c.1900. This is where Jonas Zinkevičius lived when he married Annie. Glebe Street is off to the left behind the camera.

My mother and her cousins always said that the family disapproved of Annie marrying a Pole (see article on Matilda Fletcher), and although Zinkevičius is ostensibly a Lithuanian name, it has a Polish spelling in the marriage certificate. His mother’s name, Vishnouskie, seems decidedly Polish as well, so Jonas may well have been from a Polish community in southern Suvalki. Later events seem to confirm that. However, despite the disdain the family had for Poles, Jonas and Annie moved in with the Šugžda family after they married, and two months later, we find the whole family registered in the 1911 Scotland census:

1911 SCOTLAND CENSUS: 6 Bellside Terrace, Bellshill, Lanarkshire 5Source: Shugesda, Jonas; 1911 Scotland Census; 625/3 12/ 6 & 12; Bellshill, Lanarkshire.

Jonas Zinkovich [Zinkevičius]; Head; 26; Mar; Coalminer Hewer (worker); born Russian Poland; nationality Russian
Ona Zinkovich [Simanavičiūtė]; Wife; 20; Mar 1 yr (no children); born Russian Poland; nationality Russian

Jonas Shugesda [Šugžda]; Head; 41; Mar; Coalminer Hewer (worker); born Russian Poland; nationality Russian
Sarah Shugesda [Petronėlė Melnikaitytė]; Wife; 41; Mar 20 years (10 births, 5 living); born Russian Poland; nationality Russian
Joseph Shugesda; Son; 17; Unm; Coalminer Hewer (worker); born Russian Poland; nationality Russian
Bernard Shugesda; Son; 15; Unm; Coalminer Hewer (worker); born Russian Poland; nationality Russian
Sarah Shugesda [Petronėlė Juzė Šugždaitė]; Daur; 10; School; born Russian Poland; nationality Russian
John Shugesda; Son; 7; School; born Lanark, Bothwell
Alex Shugesda; Son; 1; born Lanark, Bothwell

4 Bellgowan Terrace, Bellshill, Lanarkshire

Vincas Olenskas [Alanskas]; Head; 24; Mar; Coalminer Hewer (worker); born Russian Poland; nationality Russian
Ursyule Olenskas; Wife; 19; Mar 1 year (no children); born Russian Poland; nationality Russian
Jurgis Shusda * [Šugžda ?]; Boarder; 29; Unm; Coalminer Hewer (worker); born Russian Poland; nationality Russian [* is Jurgis the witness at Annie’s wedding two months earlier? Note the address!]

This record tells us a good deal about the family. Still residing in the rows at Glebe Street, we have all the living children together and mostly using Anglicised names. By this time, both my great-grandmother and grandmother had taken the name “Sarah”, and this is how they were mostly known for the rest of their lives. The men and older boys were working as hewers in one of the local coal mines. Incorrectly, this census records Petronėlė as having had ten children with five still living; however, she had given birth to eleven and, counting Ona (who was two months pregnant at this time), there were six alive (perhaps Ona has been disowned for marrying a Pole!); and the “20 years married” would give a marriage year of 1891, not 1890 — so, further evidence that the date given on the boys’ birth records was incorrect. We also see official proof that the British government only recognised Lithuania as part of Poland, and that our family, excepting the two youngest boys, were technically Russian nationals.

Nº4 Bellgowan Terrace

An intriguing find in this census shows a 29-year-old coalminer, Jurgis Shusda, boarding with a Lithuanian couple at 4 Bellgowan Terrace in Glebe Street [I have been contacted by a grand-niece of this couple]. This was the address our family were living at in the previous year, and where Alex was born. But there’s more! At that very same address, four months after Alex’s birth, Jonas and Marcele Vidrinskas lost a one-year-old child to pneumonia — the same couple lost another child in October, 1913 at New Orbiston. Even more interesting was that Marcele was living at 4 Bellgowan Terrace in 1907 when she married Jonas Vidrinskas. All this seems more than coincidence. Remember, also, that Petronėlė’s mother was Ona Vidrinskaitė (i.e. daughter of Vidrinskas), so it’s not hard to imagine that other members of the extended family had fled Lithuania at the same time — perhaps we have found some of them ghettoed in Glebe Street, Bellshill. I think this might form the basis of some future research.

Sometime soon after the 1911 census, our family left Bellshill for a pit village 2½ km (1½ miles) further south. Johnny and Annie would return to Bellshill many years later but, for now, the Šugžda and Zinkevičius families said goodbye to Glebe Street and headed for Bothwellhaugh. The story continues here.

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