Drowned in the Tennessee River

Thanks to WorldVitalRecords from MyHeritage, I may have just found a RETTIE who served with the 12th Ohio Cavalry during the American Civil War.

Mustered In

Louis RETTIE was (allegedly) 18 when he enlisted on 1 Sep 1863 in Company E of the 12th Ohio Cavalry.1,4 This company was recruited from the Highland, Mahoning and Summit counties of Ohio.2 The 12th Ohio Cavalry was organized at Camp Taylor in Cleveland, Ohio and mustered in on 24 Nov 1863 for a three year period of service under the command of Colonel Robert W. Ratliff.2,3 The regiment was involved in the Battles of Cynthiana and Saltville I and II.3 (As an aside, there’s an interesting article here on the Saltville Massacre).

Mustered Out

Sadly, having outlived the end of the war, the young Private RETTIE drowned a few months afterwards on 1 Sep 1865 in the Tennessee River at Pen Hook Ferry, Tennessee.1,4 Perhaps the rider and his horse were swept away by the current whilst attempting to ford the river? Or perhaps the ferry itself got into difficulties?

Around the time of this tragic incident, the regiment was attached to Cavalry Brigade, District East Tennessee from Jul 1865 to Nov 1865 and it saw duty in middle Tennessee, eastern Tennessee, and North Carolina.2,3 The 12th Ohio Cavalry mustered out of service on 14 Nov 1865 at Nashville, Tennessee.2,3

Questions

Q. Was his name really Louis RETTIE?1 An alternative source says it is Lewis RETTY!4 Clearly one or both of the transcribers has it wrong.

Q. Was the location of his death really Pen Hook Ferry?1 Again we have a transcription issue, with the alternative source saying Pin-hook Ferry.4

Q. Where exactly is Pen Hook/Pin-hook Ferry? There is a Pen Hook Road near Monterey in Tennessee, but it’s a long way from the river. However, I can find ‘Pin Hook Road’, ‘East Pin Hook Road’ and ‘South Pin Hook Road’ about 14 miles due West of Sparta, TN – the last of which leads down to the Tennessee River…

Q. Where was Louis born and who were his parents? I’m currently looking through the 1850 census rolls for the 3 counties where Company E was recruited from…

Sources

  1. The Roster Commission, Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. 11 (Akron, Ohio: The Werner Printing & Lithographing Company, 1891), p. 600, http://archive.org/details/officialrosterof11ohio. This source says ‘Louis RETTIE‘ drowned at ‘Pen Hook Ferry’.
  2. Larry Stevens, “12th Ohio Cavalry,” Ohio in the Civil War, January 11, 2012, http://www.ohiocivilwar.com/cwc12.html.
  3. Wikipedia contributors, “12th Ohio Cavalry,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia (Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., July 17, 2012), http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=12th_Ohio_Cavalry&oldid=493574416.
  4. F.H. Mason, The Twelfth Ohio Cavalry: A Record of Its Organization and Services in the War of the Rebellion, Together with a  Complete Roster of the Regiment. (Cleveland, Ohio: Nevins Steam Printing House, 1871), p. 18, https://sites.google.com/site/lstevens5300/. This source says ‘Lewis RETTY‘ drowned at ‘Pin-hook Ferry’.
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How Popular Is YOUR Surname?

Thanks to my new membership of the Guild of One-Name Studies, I just discovered a couple of (legitimate!) web sites which reveal the popularity of a given surname.

The United States Census Bureau has a downloadable zip file containing all surnames with more than 100 entries in the 2000 Census.
RETTIE ranks =111,119 with 147 people.

Surnames of England and Wales – the ONS list is an extract of an Office of National Statistics database, and contains a list of surnames in use in England, Wales and the Isle of Mann in September 2002.
RETTIE ranks =28,353 with 128 people.

Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a page providing surname statistics from the Scotland Census…not to mention Canada, Australia, etc. Does anyone have these URL’s?


UPDATE: Found a couple more sites, as a result of the course I’m currently doing:

Behind the Name
Though RETTIE was not found, it does return results for more popular surnames for USA, England and Scotland.

World Family Names
This site gives the frequency of a surname per million of a countries population.
RETTIE returns 6.02 for the UK, 1.83 for Canada, and 0.78 for USA.

Surname Variants or Deviants?

As can be seen from the various sources quoted under History of Land Ownership, there appear to be a number of different spellings of RETTIE used in the past.

The permutations consist of either ‘ea’, ‘ai’ or ‘a’ instead of the initial ‘e’ together with either a single or double ‘t’.

Data

I entered these permutations into ScotlandPeople with the following results:

Total Births

Variant Births 1538-1854 Births 1855-2009 Earliest Latest Mode Parish
RAITIE 24 0 1689 1781 New Deer (6)
RAITTIE 26 10 1675 1817 Monquhitter (18)
RATIE 13 0 1689 1817 Gamrie and Macduff (4)
RATTIE 8 0 1689 1892 Monquhitter (2) & Boyndie (2)
REATIE 19 0 1697 1783 Turriff (6)
REATTIE 4 0 1734 1777 New Deer (3)
RETIE 10 0 1610 1793 Monquhitter (5)
RETTIE 216 951 1610 2009

Example Births

Consider also the following examples listing parents, parish, date of birth and name of child:

RAITIE –> RATIE

William RAITIE & Christian ESLEMENT of New Deer
24 Feb 1751 Anne
31 Mar 1753 Alexander
14 May 1755 Isobel
01 Jun 1757 William
16 Sep 1759 James

William RATIE & Chirsten ESSELMENT of New Deer
01 Nov 1761 Adam

REATTIE –> RETTIE –> REATIE –> RAITIE –> RETTIE

Alexander REATTIE & Christen HEPBURN of New Deer
10 Sep 1765 William

ALEXANDER RETTIE & Christian HEBRON of New Deer
07 Mar 1767 Alexander

Alexander REATIE & Christian HEBREN of New Deer
30 Jan 1774 George
16 Jun 1777 Peter

Alexander RAITIE & Christian HEPBURN of King Edward
14 Aug 1781 Jane

Alexander RETTIE & Christian HEPBURN of King Edward
28 Sep 1785 Adam

Note also the variations in the Mothers’ names!

Analysis

  • Barring one entry from Fife, all other entries are from Aberdeenshire and Banffshire in North-East Scotland. This strongly suggests the surnames are just alternative spellings of the same original family name.
  • RETTIE is by far the most popular spelling, both in Old Parish Registers and Statutory Registers.
  • RETTIE is the only spelling which survives into the 20th Century, with all others apart from RAITTIE terminating upon the adoption of Statutory Registers in 1855.

This suggests that RETTIE is the de facto correct spelling.

The Guild of One Name Studies differentiates between a surname variant and a surname deviant.
A variant is:

a name spelling used by officials on a consistent and persistent basis over a period of years.

None of the alternative spellings of RETTIE meet this rule.

A deviant, however, is defined as:

any other spelling recorded, including cases where the spelling occurs in official records, but only randomly and inconsistently.

Given the above examples, it appears that the alternative spellings are indeed used inconsistently.

Conclusion

The surname RETTIE has no variants, only deviants due to transcription errors and mis-spelling.

City of Discovery

Jute, Jam, Journalism and, er, Genealogy!

Upon returning from holiday in Spain, I got some good news in the post: I’ve been offered a place on the Postgraduate Certificate course in Family and Local History run by the Centre for Archive and Information Studies (CAIS) at the University of Dundee. Yipee!

Having previously attended 3 sets of evening classes in Genealogy at the University of Strathclyde (which I highly recommend for dipping your toe into family history), I had initially been tempted to continue onto their own Postgraduate course. However, having had a class visit from the course administrator and having read Kirsty Wilkinson’s experiences, I decided I couldn’t commit to the required 20 hours a week study time.

The Dundee course is much more flexible, allowing the study of individual modules one at a time and building slowly to the Certificate/Diploma/Masters accreditation over a longer period of time. This fits much better when having to study as well as being in full-time employment. This was also the schedule I followed when studying for my BSc in Information Technology at University of the West of Scotland a few years ago: one 3 hour session per week in Paisley after work was about all I could handle! And with the Dundee course being distance-learning, there will be no need for such long, long days this time.

Another minor selling point was that if I pursue the course until Masters level, the award is an MLitt rather than MSc. Being a Master of Letters in addition to a Bachelor of Science just sounds so much better and I get to have two sets of letters after my name LOL!

The two modules I’m planning to study this year are the compulsory Skills and Sources for Family and Local History in Scotland and the optional Ecclesiastical Archives. I can’t wait to get started…

The KISSINGER-RETTIE Telegram

Sounds like a diplomatic manoeuvre to provoke a war in some far flung corner of the world, no?

Whilst perusing the United States National Archives, I came across an interesting series of telegrams between the State Department in Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala:

17 Jul 1975

FM AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7414

SUBJECT: DEATH AND ESTATES

PLEASE INFORM NEXT-OF-KIN OF GEORGE WESTON RETTIE, BORN APRIL 4, 1908, AT CHICAGO, ILLINOIS OF DEATH OF SUBJECT
AT AMATITLAN GUATEMALA ON JULY 15, 1975 OF INFART OF
THE MYOCARDIUM. NEXT-OF-KIN ROBERT V. RETTIE, BROTHER,
910 E. PATTERSON ST., TAMPA, FLORIDA. BURIAL HAS ALREADY TAKEN PLACE AT LOCAL CEMETERY IN AMATITLAN, GUATEMALA WITHIN 24 HOURS AFTER DEATH AS REQUIRED BY GUATEMALAN LAW.

MELOY
NARA – AAD, Electronic Telegrams, 1/1/1975 – 12/31/1975, Document Number: 1975GUATEM03715, Markings: Margaret P. Grafeld Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 06 JUL 2006

18 Jul 1975

FM SECSTATE WASHDC TO AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA IMMEDIATE

SUBJECT: DEATH OF RETTIE

DEPARTMENT PREFERS NOT TO NOTIFY NOK OF DEATH TELEPHONICALLY EXCEPT IN EXTREME EMERGENCIES. DEPARTMENT REQUESTS THAT EMBASSY NOTIFY RETTIE’S BROTHER VIA DIRECT RELAY CABLE.

KISSINGER
NARA – AAD, Electronic Telegrams, 1/1/1975 – 12/31/1975, Document Number: 1975STATE169531, Markings: Margaret P. Grafeld Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 06 JUL 2006

18 Jul 1975

FM AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7438

FOR: ROBERT V. RETTIE
910 E. PATTERSON ST.,
TAMPA, FLORIDA

SUBJECT: DEATH AND ESTATES

REGRET TO INFORM YOU OF DEATH YOUR BROTHER GEORGE WESTON RETTIE, AT AMATITLAN GUATEMALA ON JULY 15, 1975 OF INFART OF THE MYOCARDIUM. BURIAL HAS ALREADY TAKEN PLACE AT LOCAL CEMETERY IN AMATITLAN, GUATEMALA WITHIN 24 HOURS AFTER DEATH IS REQUIRED BY GUATEALAN LAW. DEATH REPORTED TO EMBASSY BY FRIEND ROBERT HOTCHKISS.

AMERICAN EMBASSY
GUATEMALA, GUATEMALA

MELOY
NARA – AAD, Electronic Telegrams, 1/1/1975 – 12/31/1975, Document Number: 1975GUATEM03751, Markings: Margaret P. Grafeld Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 06 JUL 2006

So, U.S. citizen George Weston RETTIE dies in Guatemala on 15 Jul 1975 and his death is reported to the Embassy there by Robert HOTCHKISS. The Embassy sends a telegram asking the State Department in Washington to inform his next of kin Robert V. RETTIE. It seems that none other than Henry KISSINGER replies, abruptly telling the Embassy to do it themselves! [KISSINGER was U.S. Secretary of State from 22 Sep 1973 – 20 Jan 1977].

Then there is a further tragic news:

29 Jul 1975

FM AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7166

SUBJECT: DEATH AND ESTATES

1. PLEASE INFORM MRS. KATHERINE HOTCHKISS, 2920 N.W. 18 AVENUE, APT. 11-B, MIAMI, FLORIDA OF DEATH OF SON ROBERT HOTCHKISS, WHO WAS DROWNED AT LAKE AMATITLAN, GUATEMALA JULY 28.

2. AS LOCAL AUTHORITIES REQUIRE PROMPT ARRANGEMENTS, FOLLOWING ESTIMATES ARE PROVIDED FOR INFORMATION AND PLANNING. PUBLIC HOSPITAL WILL BURY AT NO COST. PREPARATION AND AIR SHIPMENT TO U.S. $1250. CREMATION IS NOT AVAILABLE IN GUATEMALA. SHOULD TELEGRAPH FUNDS AND/OR INSTRUCTION TO DIRECTOR, SPECIAL CONSULAR SERVICES, DEPARTMENT OF STATE, WASHINGTON D.C. 20520. INCLUDE IN MESSAGE NAME AND ADDRESS OF FUNERAL HOME IN U.S. IF SHIPMENT DESIRED, MAKE TELEGRAPHIC MONEY ORDER PAYABLE TO DEPARTMENT OF STATE. IF SHIPMENT DESIRED, NOK MAY PREFER TO HAVE LOCAL FUNERAL HOME MAKE ALL ARRANGEMENTS IN CONFORMANCE WITH THIS MESSAGE. UPON RECEIPT OF REQUIRED FUNDS INSTRUCTION WILL BE CARRIED OUT AS PROMPTLY AS CIRCUMSTANCES PERMIT.

3. IN VISIT TO THIS EMBASSY LAST WEEK REGARDING REPORT OF DEATH FOR FRIEND GEORGE RETTIE, SUBJECT PRESENTED COPY HIS OWN WILL INDICATING IN EVENT OF DEATH ABROAD HE DID NOT WISH TO BE RETURNED TO U.S. FOR BURIAL.

4. LATEST INFORMATION AVAILABLE TO EMBASSY IS THAT INTERMENT MUST TAKE PLACE BY 13:00 HOURS LOCAL TIME JULY 29 IF OTHER INSTRUCTIONS NOT RECEIVED PRIOR THAT TIME.

MELOY
NARA – AAD, Electronic Telegrams, 1/1/1975 – 12/31/1975, Document Number: 1975GUATEM03980, Markings: Margaret P. Grafeld Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 06 JUL 2006

30 Jul 1975

FM SECSTATE WASHDC TO AMEMBASSY GUATEMALA IMMEDIATE

SUBJECT:DEATH OF HOTCHKISS

1. MRS. HOTCHKISS ADVISED DEPARTMENT THAT SON WISHED BE BURIED WITH RETTIE IF CREMATION NOT POSSIBLE AND THAT SHE WILLING PAY COST IF BURIAL HAS NOT ALREADY TAKEN PLACE. ACCORDING MRS. HOTCHKISS, COST OF RETTIE’S BURIAL WAS SIXTY DOLLARS. FYI:MOTHER STATED DECEASED HAD EXPRESSED DESIRE TO DIE WITH RETTIE.

2. MOTHER HAS DECEASED’S WILL OF WHICH SHE IS EXECUTRIX. SHE ESPECIALLY INTERESTED IN DECEASED’S JOURNEY LOGS AND REQUESTS INVENTORY OF EFFECTS BE SENT TO HER ASAP.

INGERSOLL
NARA – AAD, Electronic Telegrams, 1/1/1975 – 12/31/1975, Document Number: 1975STATE179510, Markings: Margaret P. Grafeld Declassified/Released US Department of State EO Systematic Review 06 JUL 2006

So it seems that Robert HOTCHKISS was so upset at his friend George RETTIE’s death that he took his own life. And it emerges that he had told his mother of his wish to be buried with his friend and that he had no desire to be repatriated to the USA in the event of his death abroad. I wonder why the antipathy towards his homeland? And could the friends have been lovers?

Well, one thing is certain and that is that the friends were inventors!

Patents

Together they lodged a number of patents to the U.S. Patent Office:

  • US 2905762, FIRE AND BURGLAR ALARM SYSTEM, Filed 10 Apr 1957
  • US 2949508, TELEPHONE DIALING DEVICE, Filed 7 Oct 1958
  • US 3173686, COIN OPERATED KIDDIE RIDE, Filed 18 Jul 1962

Interestingly, the patent applications show the friends living at the same address together in North Miami Beach, Florida. We also learn that Robert’s middle initial was D.

Genealogy Data

George Weston RETTIE was born 04 Apr 1908 in Illinois and died 15 Jul 1975 in Guatemala.4 His parents were Robert M RETTIE (born about 1880 in Michigan) and Mary C VEIRS (born about 1882 Canada).1,2,3,4 George had an older brother called Robert (born about 1905) and a younger sister called Doris (born about 1913).1,2,3 His father Robert M RETTIE was born on 08 Apr 1878 in Michigan and died on 05 Feb 1973 in Florida.5

Robert D HOTCHKISS was born 26 Mar 1929 in New York and died 28 Jul 1975 in Guatemala.7 His parents were Frank and Katherine (both born about 1905 in New York).6 Robert had an older sister Betty (born about 1925 in New York).6

Sources

  1. “United States Census, 1910,” index and images,
    FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MKCB-VVF : accessed 4 July 2012),
    George W Rettie in household of Robert M Rettie, Chicago Ward 15, Cook, Illinois.
  2. “United States Census, 1920,” index and images,
    FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MJ3P-B8S : accessed 4 July 2012),
    Weston Rettie in household of Robert Rettie, City Of Chicago Ward 15, Cook, Illinois.
  3. “United States Census, 1930,” index and images,
    FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XSP4-JCL : accessed 4 July 2012),
    George W Rettie in household of Robert M Rettie, Chicago (Districts 1001-1250), Cook, Illinois.
  4. “Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922,” index and images,
    FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/NQB4-YCM : accessed 4 July 2012),
    Robert M Rettie in entry for Rettie, 1908.
  5. “Florida, Death Index, 1877-1998,” index,
    FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VV6B-BD3 : accessed 4 July 2012),
    Robert M Rettie, 1973.
  6. “United States Census, 1930,” index and images,
    FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/X4T7-R4P : accessed 4 July 2012),
    Robert D Hotchkiss in household of Frank E Hotchkiss, Mexico, Oswego, New York.
  7. “United States Social Security Death Index,” index,
    FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JKGW-ZZ9 : accessed 4 July 2012),
    Robert D Hotchkiss, 1975.

Like Father Like Son

Well, I certainly hit the mother lode with this ‘IRVING’ folder. As well as the postcard and photo of my Great-Grandfather Hugh IRVING, I also found an envelope stuffed with primary sources – birth, marriage and death certificates (some of them originals). Seems my Dad was in correspondence with his second cousin Evelyn IRVING and his cousin Lizbeth HAY re the IRVING family tree.

Will take me a while to enter it all into my genealogy software of choice (MacFamilyTree), but I can already see that Frederick IRVING had a son called Hugh (after his Grandfather) and that he too joined the Forces, but this time in World War II.

In the envelope is a testimonial from his unit commander:

TESTIMONIAL
14363857 Serjeant IRVING, HUGH.
MILITARY CHARACTER-EXEMPLARY.

Joined this unit in August 1944 and has since served in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. A first class and dependable soldier in every way who has had an excellent record since being with the unit.

He has been employed as a fitter and through hard work has worked his way to his present rank.  He is honest, sober, clean and a first class organiser, and has shown great initiative in handling men.  Is intelligent and a good sport, and should be a great asset to any future employer.

[Signed] (FD PILE) Major, Comd 1st Royal Tank Regiment.
BAOR [British Army of the Rhine]    September 1946.

I’m sure his Dad, and his two Uncles who all died in World War I, would have been proud.

Postcard from the Trenches

Oh boy, this is going to be hard to convey how emotional I feel right now…

One of my previous posts concerned the five IRVING brothers – none of whom survived the Great War.

Well, I was just going through the box of family history research that my Dad gave me recently. He had traced the direct line of RETTIE ancestors back to 1678 (before the internet, with many hours trawling through microfiche I bet). The box is full of his hand-drawn charts, magazine articles, newspaper clippings, hand-written notes, etc. There was a separate folder labelled ‘IRVING’ which I hadn’t looked into before now.

And inside I found something more precious than any medal…

Postcard from Hugh IRVING to his daughter Charlotte (front)

Postcard from Hugh IRVING to his daughter Charlotte (front)

Postcard from Hugh IRVING to his daughter Charlotte (back)

Postcard from Hugh IRVING to his daughter Charlotte (back)

Dear Lottie.
Can you find me out in this Photo. This is the place w[h]ere we were digging trenches. 
I am away at the back with my hat the wrong way.
Are you still getting on well at school and behaving yourself.
Are you still going [for] Grannies messages.
From Dada with love and kisses. x x x x x

Lottie is Charlotte, my Nana (my paternal Grandmother) and this postcard is written by her Dad, Private Hugh IRVING of the Scots Guards, killed 19th June 1917, Flanders.

I also found a picture titled ‘Sgt E.H. Trinder’s Squad, Scots Guards, November 1915’. I presume my Great-Grandfather is somewhere – this time with his hat the right way round!

Sgt Trinder's Squad, Scots Guards, Nov 1915

Sgt Trinder’s Squad, Scots Guards, Nov 1915


I shall treasure these items forever and endeavour to find out more about Corsham trenches, the photographer(?) Spackman and Sgt Trinder.

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.

Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood

My last few posts have concentrated on the RETTIE line of my family tree, specifically the brothers of my Dad’s paternal Grandfather George RETTIE.  This post concerns my Dad’s maternal Grandfather Hugh IRVING.

I knew Hugh was my Great-Grandfather a number of years ago, as I visited his grave in Belgium in 2001.  So too did my son Bryan last year, on a school History trip to Flanders’ fields.

What I didn’t know until the other night was the devastating affect of the Great War on his family – on top of already great sadness at the early deaths of two other brothers…

My previous post re John RETTIE had made me aware of the War Graves Photographic Project, a partner site to the CWGC. I thought I would see how their picture of Hugh IRVING’s grave compared to my own and duly typed his name into the Search facility. What I didn’t expect was an entry coming up for Edinburgh Eastern Cemetery!

I could see it was a memorial inscription for the whole family, so duly ordered an email copy of the photograph (costs are suggested donation of £3.50 for email copy and £5.50 for hard copy).

The email arrived promptly the next day with the photo of the headstone:

IRVING family headstone, Edinburgh Eastern Cemetery

IRVING family headstone, Edinburgh Eastern Cemetery. Courtesy of The War Graves Photographic Project.

Erected by Hugh & Charlotte Irving in loving memory of their sons.
JOHN died 13th January 1895, aged 18.
WILLIAM died 30th July 1909, aged 18.
HUGH killed 19th June 1917, aged 36.
CHARLES killed 13th July 1917, aged 29.
FREDERICK killed 20th October 1918, aged 37.
Also the above
HUGH IRVING died 18th August 1928, aged 77
and his beloved wife
CHARLOTTE LEEDER died 6th September 1928, aged 78.

Hugh IRVING was a Blacksmith and before the Great War, he and his wife Charlotte had lost their sons John and William (both Apprentice Boilermakers) to illness – Tuberculosis and Appendicitis respectively – at the tender age of 18.

If that wasn’t bad enough, imagine the grief when, within a month of each other, two more sons are killed in battle and, a year later, the fifth and final son is killed in France? Truly incomprehensible…

The three brothers killed in action had all joined separate units – Hugh the Scots Guards, Charles the Highland Light Infantry and Frederick the Royal Scots Fusiliers. If this was an attempt to spread out to avoid them all being unlucky enough to be in the same place at the wrong time, it proved a futile tactic.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
‘For the Fallen’, Laurence Binyon, 1914.

Headstone of Hugh IRVING, Ferme-Olivier Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium

Headstone of Hugh IRVING, Ferme-Olivier Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

Headstone of Charles IRVING, Coxyde Military Cemetery, Koksijde, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium

Headstone of Charles IRVING, Coxyde Military Cemetery, Koksijde, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Courtesy of The War Graves Photographic Project.

Headstone of Frederick IRVING, Willems Communal Cemetery, Nord, France.

Headstone of Frederick IRVING, Willems Communal Cemetery, Nord, France. Courtesy of The War Graves Photographic Project.

Rule #1 – Never Assume Anything

…because it makes an ass out of u and me!

France and Flanders

A decade or so ago, whilst preparing to visit my Great-Grandfather Hugh IRVING’s grave in Belgium, I remember searching for RETTIE on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission‘s excellent web site, and wondering if any of the casualties could be related to me.

Recently I had another look and went through the 16 entries for World War I, examining the Additional Information which can list next of kin and/or address. Knowing that my family hails from the North-East of Scotland, I examined the 6 members of the Gordon Highlanders first as most likely candidates to have a family connection. Nothing jumped out and then I turned to the other regiments. There was a John RETTIE in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers listed on the Arras Memorial:

Son of James and Janet Carruthers, of Carlisle Place, Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire.

I discounted this immediately as a) he was from the South-West of Scotland and b) his parents weren’t even called RETTIE! He couldn’t possibly be related to me.

Well…

Nipper In Stone Yard

In my last couple of blog posts, I recounted the transatlantic adventures of my Great-Great Uncle James RETTIE and the sad death of my Great-Great Uncle Adam RETTIE in the Poor House. Next I decided to find out more about their brother John.

Sons of Adam RETTIE and Harriet MIDDLETON

My starting point was the 1881 Census record of the household of my Great-Great-Grandfather Adam RETTIE and his wife Harriet MIDDLETON. John was listed as:

Nipper In Stone Yard, age 13, born about 1868 in Methlic Aberdeenshire.

10 years later he is listed as a “Stonecutter”, still living with his parents. However, he is nowhere to be found on the 1901 Census. Had he emigrated like his brother James?

Shotgun Wedding?

Then I found a marriage for a John RETTIE in Glasgow for 30 Mar 1896. Hmmm, could it be him? He was around the right age, but what had taken him to Glasgow from Aberdeen?

The marriage certificate confirmed it was him, listing his occupation as “Mason” and giving his parents as “Adam Rettie (deceased)” and “Harriet Rettie M.S. Middleton”. However, what was this in the second last column?

1896 Marriage of John RETTIE and Janet WALLACE

1896 Marriage of John RETTIE and Janet WALLACE, Glasgow, ScotlandsPeople (SR Marriages 644/03 0160)

Warrant of Sheriff Substitute of Lanarkshire dated 30th March 1896

So, it was an Irregular marriage via a Sheriff’s Warrant – what did this mean?

I then checked to see if they had any children and a record came up for a John RETTIE born in Kilsyth on 19 May 1896:

1896 Birth of John RETTIE

1896 Birth of John RETTIE, Kilsyth, Stirlingshire, ScotlandsPeople (SR Births 483/00 0160)


Ah, so Janet was already 7 month’s pregnant at the date of their marriage and would have shown – perhaps why a Church Minister would have nothing to do with them and they had to apply for a Sheriff’s Warrant to get married? (A re-inspection of the marriage cerificate also highlighted that they were living together before the marriage).

Tragedy

Whilst looking for “John RETTIE” in the 1901 Census, I had turned off the age filter and had noticed a record for the parish of Hoddom in Dumfriesshire and it listed a John RETTIE and an Adam RETTIE living with a family named CARRUTHERS. Eh? Had these boys been adopted?

1901 Census of Household of James CARRUTHERS

1901 Census of Household of James CARRUTHERS, Hoddom, Dumfriesshire, ScotlandsPeople (Census 1901 829/00 002/00 021)


Viewing the original image showed them listed as “Step Sons” of the householder James CARRUTHERS. Where was their Dad? Had he and Janet divorced so soon after their marriage?

I found the birth certificate of Adam RETTIE for 2 Nov 1898 – and was dismayed to see to word in brackets after the father’s Occupation:

1898 Birth of Adam Rettie

1898 Birth of Adam Rettie, Buittle, Kirkcudbrightshire, ScotlandsPeople (SR Births 859/00 0021)

I then searched for death records for “John RETTIE” between May 1896 and Nov 1898 and found the following entry for 16 Jul 1898:

1898 Death of John RETTIE

1898 Death of John RETTIE, Edinburgh, Scotlands People (SR Deaths 685/05 0725)

My Great-Great Uncle John had died (from Peritonitis) when his first son John was just 2 years old and, worse, 4 months before his second son was born. How sad. Neither child would grow up remembering their father.

Double Tragedy

Then it struck me: the John RETTIE I had previously seen listed on the CWGC site as having died in France during World War I and my Great-Great Uncle’s son John was one and the same person!

So, poor Janet – she loses her first husband John (aged 30) and then her eldest son John (aged 20).

The next time I’m in France I will endeavour to visit the Arras Memorial to pay my respects to my newly discovered first cousin twice removed.

John RETTIE Descendant Chart