A new fourth cousin…

A very overdue update on my last post where I talked about a big discovery thanks to Ancestry’s ‘shaky leaves’ hints.  Well I checked out the records cited, the research seemed correct and I made contact with the owner of the tree on Ancestry. He is my fourth cousin, a descendant of Jean, sister of my great great grandmother, Barbara Sinclair. Jean immigrated to Australia with her father, Thomas Sinclair, step-mother and half siblings in the 1850s. She and Barbara wrote to each other and swapped photographs over many years it seems. The photographs and letters have not survived house clearances in Orkney sadly. But my newly-discovered fourth cousin in Australia has shared some wonderful photographs as well as a lot of information. (What’s a fourth cousin? Check foot of page)


This is my favourite photo. ItPhoto of x2 great grandparents and 2 youngest daughters shows my great great grandmother, Barbara Millar Sinclair (1826-1914), my great great grandfather, Nicol Slater (1820-1875) and their two youngest daughters, Catherine, Mrs Andrew Robertson, (1865-1945) and Barbara, Mrs Thomas Clouston, (1869-1961).  It is the first photo of Nicol I have ever seen, so I am thrilled. I have a photo of Barbara, his wife, as an old woman, but what stuns me about this one is that my uncle is so like her. We have always thought that “he takes after his father’s side”. There is no copy in Orkney as far as I know yet the photo sent to Barbara’s sister Jean thousands of miles away in Australia back in the 1870s has been preserved. And it seems there may be another in the USA, probably sent to Nicol Slater’s cousin William Slater who also  immigrated.

So, yes, Ancestry shaky leaf hints can be very worthwhile so long as you and your contact have both done your research well. I’ve been sending photos and other information to Australia too for these things should never be one-way. I am reluctant to share much with people who give little or nothing in return. Generally, I’ve found third, and now, fourth, cousins to be great contacts.

Fourth cousin: we share great great great grandparents – Thomas Sinclair is our mutual x3 great grandfather. First cousins share grandparents, second cousins share great grandparents, third cousins share great great grandparents)

A wedding anniversary and a tragic family

Today, 14 May 2015, is the 153rd wedding anniversary of my paternal great great grandparents, George Flett and Mary Leask. In fact their marriage lasted less than ten years for Mary died of tuberculosis, aged 32, on 27 February 1872, in Orphir, Orkney. I have yet to research this line in depth but the little I know points to a very hard life.

There were six children from the marriage; that alone made great demands on Mary. One daughter, Jemima, died in March 1871 aged six months, cause of death unknown (no medical attendant). A second Jemima was born on 13 January 1872, about six weeks before her mother’s death, and died on 2 July 1872, cause of death “gradual decay”. The tragedy continued with the death of Thomas, aged six, in March 1873, cause of death unknown (no medical attendant). Perhaps the poor little boy just lost the will to live.

Both Mary and George’s mothers were dead by the time of their marriage so another source of help was wiped out. Going by the 1871 census, George, a farm servant, and Mary had some assistance from Mary’s sister, yet another Jemima, which may have continued. But a motherless six-week old and four other children under ten would be a major challenge for anyone. Like many men in a similar situation, George remarried in May 1874. There were four children from that marriage and George died in 1919.*

I have often wondered what my great grandmother, Ann, aged around eight when her father remarried, made of it all.

Photo of Ann Flett

Ann Flett (1866-1944)

Compared to my other lines at the same period, her family had a very hard time. Ann herself lived to be 78 but effectively lost another brother, John, when his letters from Australia simply ceased. Any descendants of a John Flett in Australia please get in contact – I do not even know where he settled. Ann’s older sister, Mary, outlived them all and died in 1954 aged 89. A happy ending of sorts I suppose.

*George Flett’s youngest son from this second marriage was the father of my maternal uncle’s wife which makes their children both my first cousins and also my half second cousins once removed!