Category: Aberdeen

Cousins-german and ‘Dressmakers’

No, I haven’t discovered relatives in Germany – though I have been to Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Berlin, Dresden and Munich!

german (1)
“of the same parents or grandparents,” c.1300, from Old French germain “closely related” (12c.), from Latin germanus “full, own (of brothers and sisters); one’s own brother; genuine, real”.
Your cousin-german (also first cousin) is the son or daughter of an uncle or aunt.
Online Etymology Dictionary

I’ve just been researching my Great-Great Aunt Susan RETTIE, sister of Adam, John, James, William (who died in infancy), and George (my Great-Grandfather).

She was born on 13 Jul 1864 in Turriff, Aberdeenshire and she is on the 1881 Census as a jute mill worker living with her parents Adam RETTIE and Harriet MIDDLETON (remember that surname).

I have so far been unable to locate her on the 1891 Census, but she then marries George MITCHELL, coal carter, on 23 Oct 1896.

1896 Marriage of George MITCHELL and Susan RETTIE

1896 Marriage of George MITCHELL and Susan RETTIE, Aberdeen, ScotlandsPeople (SR Marriages 168/02 0346)


But what’s this? Under her name it says:

Fish Curers' Worker
(Spinster)
Cousins-german

I then noticed that a) George was 8 years younger than her, b) they were living together at the same address (83 Rosemount Viaduct, Aberdeen) and c) George’s mother is Susan MITCHELL nee MIDDLETON. So, Susan MITCHELL was Harriet’s sister who is Susan’s Mum which makes George and Susan first cousins!

Hourglass Chart of Susan RETTIE

Hmmm, and now I find the family in the 1901 Census living at 51 Queen Street, Aberdeen with a son called George but also two young single women boarders listed as ‘Dress Makers’. Seems a bit odd to me and I have heard that this was a euphemism used to describe prostitutes.

1901 Census of the Household of George MITCHELL

1901 Census of the Household of George MITCHELL, St Nicholas, Aberdeen, FindMyPast (RG13, Piece 168, Folio 28, Page 17)

By 1911 the couple have had another son, Walter, and they are living in ‘Ironfield’ in the parish of Old Machar, Aberdeen with 2 servants. George is a Dairyman and has a Cart Boy to help him and there is also an elderly Domestic Servant.

1911 Census of the Household of George MITCHELL

1911 Census of the Household of George MITCHELL, Old Machar, Aberdeen, ScotlandsPeople (1911 Census 228/0B 001/00 015)


The next residence on the census form is ‘Findlay Farm’ and if you look at Google Maps you can see a Findlay Farm Cottage just south of Ironfield House. Both of them are to the east of Ellon Road as it trails away to the north of the city.

Susan MITCHELL nee RETTIE died aged 68 on 6 Feb 1933 at 344 King Street, Aberdeen.

Died in the Poor House

The death certificate for Adam Rettie (my Great-Great Uncle) states that he died in the Aberdeen East Poor House in 1905.

The 1901 Census shows him living with his family of wife Isabella and their 3 daughters and 2 sons at 3 Causey Place in the parish of St Nicholas in Aberdeen.  Adam himself was born in the landward parish of Monquhitter, whereas the rest of the family were all born within Aberdeen itself.

His death certificate reveals the family had recently moved to 206 Gallowgate.  Judging by the name, this was not the best end of town!  I can only imagine that things got bad for him as a result of the relentless Industrial Revolution, given that his occupation was Cattle Drover.  (The death certificate also gives his age as 42, when in fact he was only 39).

The East (or St Nicholas) Poor House was sold off in 1908 as a Roman Catholic school when the new Old Mill Poor House was built.  Unfortunately the buildings were later demolished, as it would have been a humbling experience to visit the site.

I must admit that I had thought that poorhouses had only existed in Victorian times and did not realise that they existed well into the 20th Century.  It was also interesting to learn that in Scotland they were called poorhouses whereas in the rest of the UK they were called workhouses.

The 1911 Census shows the family still living in Gallowgate and that Adam’s son (also Adam) followed in his father’s footsteps and became a Cattleman.  Let’s hope he had a better end…

Willmus Rettie

The earliest written record of the surname RETTIE is the election of Willmus Rettie to the Common Council of the Burgh of Aberdeen in 1474:

“Curia gilde burgi de Abirdene tenta per pre positum et fratres gilde quinto die mensis Novembris anno millesimo quadringentesi mo septuagentesimo quarto.
[At a Guild Court of the Burgh of Aberdeen held by the Provost and Guild Brethren 5th November 1474.]

Quo die subscripti electi fuerunt in communes consiliarios hujus burgi pro anno sequente.
[Which day the Underwritten were chosen to be Common Councellors of this Burgh for the year ensuing.]

Commune consilium.
[Common Council.]

Andreas Alanson
Thomas de Camera
Alex Meignies
Gilbertus Vaus
Johes de Marr
Thomas de Culane
Ricardus de Kyntor
Willmus Vokel
Johes de Knollis
Edwardiis Lowson
Robertus Culane
Willmus Rettie
David Colyson
Johes Glemalvyn
Alex Blyndschel “

Source: ‘CONSTITUTION of the Burghs of Scotland; FROM THEIR CHARTERS’
REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS 1793
Published by John Wylie & Co, Glasgow, 1818
p. 133