Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Jemima Strelley 1822- 1899 Don't disregard the maiden Aunts.

I had a note to follow up Thomas Strelley Rennie, Brigadier (1899-1949). Surely he was related to the Strelleys.

I knew that his father, Thomas Rennie had played a part in the life of the unmarried Jemima Strelley 1822-1898. He appeared with her in the 1881 and 1891 census and was noted in 1891 as his guardian. Further research shows his parents had died  and she was the Housekeeper to his siblings in 1881. I can find no relationship but Thomas must have been fairly important to Jemima as he acted as her informant at death and executer of her will.  Why did Rennie name his son after her family name one year after her death? 

So I worked backwards:

Thomas Rennie  from Glasgow married Mary Lilly Rennie 1 Sep 1897 in  Liverpool, Lancashire. What was he doing there? I knew that his son was born in Edinburgh and that he appeared in a subsequent census back in Edinburgh. It turns out Mary Lilly’s father, Charles Tait Stewart and Grandfather Robert Barclay Stewart were Edinburgh born.
Then up popped an ancestry record which blew my mind. Robert Barclay Stewart’s mother was Matilda Johnston who just happened to be Jemima’s mother!  Was this a very small world or a bit of matchmaking orchestrated by Jemima?  Mary Lilly Stewart was Jemima’s half grand niece, her father being her half nephew.

Up until this point I hadn’t realized that my great great great Grandmother Matilda had a marriage to Charles Stewart, a Teacher of music in Edinburgh or that there were at least 4 children from this 1803 union. To my mind she was married to William Strelley around 1820 and had three Strelley children- one of whom was Jemima.

Over the various census from 1841, the unmarried Jemima had lived with a variety of people some ascribed as nephew, niece, sister. These people didn’t seem to fit with her known brother and sister – they too were in my “follow up” notes. Elizabeth Lindley was as it turns out, her half sister (Matilda and Charles were her parents), Annabella Lindley was Jemima’s niece and Frederick Elliott (Lindley) and Robert Anderson were Annabella’s illegitimate children and as such were related to Jemima as grand nephews.  

All up I was able to flesh out the families of the four new children to Matilda, link up Jemima to people in her Census. This was a couple of big ticks on my followup lists – but how did she happen to be looking after the Rennie children in the first place? (Note to self –Follow up)

Tip of the Day:
Organize and record your research. Besides storing files and recording information into your data base, keep your research notes and follow-ups in a large note book (Beware- they breed). Number the pages and index them for easy retrieval of information. Revisit your “follow ups” from time to time. You will be surprised how pieces fall together a few months down the track.


  1. This comment was emailed to me ...
    My 3xgreat grandfather’s daughter married Charles Barclay Stewart’s grandson, Robert, in Liverpool, in 1853. I’ve newly found Charles’s son Robert Barclay Stewart, in the 1851 Scotland Census. His son, Robert Edward Stewart, became a dentist, and married Jane Blair Henderson. Jane’s brother Thomas John Henderson (a doctor) came to Edinburgh and married my 2xgreat grandmother. That branch of the family has stayed in Scotland ever since, down to my generation - though my two sons both live in England now - one almost within sight of Liverpool. There seems to have been a good deal of coming & going between Edinburgh and Liverpool during the late 18th & 1st half 19th centuries! Although I’m not directly related to the Stewarts, I find family history fascinating, and it’s always rewarding to fill in another leaf on the tree! Robert Edard Stewart’s dental surgery was in Rodney Street, Liverpool - and believe it or not, Rodney Street is STILL full of dentists & doctors! Jane died quite young, and Robert remarried after a few years (she left young children), so there was quite a Stewart clan in Liverpol eventually. I am in touch with a distant cousin on the Henderson side,, and we feed each other titbits of info about the Henderson diaspora!

    Best regards
    Fiona Cameron

  2. My reply
    Thanks Fiona,

    I don't know why my blog won't take comments any more- but glad you found me. I guess you have worked out I'm Australian.
    All this is very interesting. My Matilda Stewart nee Johnston later "married" William Strelley of the famous Strelley family from Nottingham (back to 1066) and later Derby. He was a black sheep. I'm not sure if it was because he married Matilda or he had fallen out with his father - he was disinherited and crossed off most trees. You didn't have to legally marry in Scotland- they are called irregular marriages but you probably know that.

    As you can see from my brief blog Matilda and William's daughter, Jemima was connected to all sorts of people in every different census starting with living with some Lindleys in 1840. I guess I kept asking "why is there a connection". All sorts of wrong names were put on certificates (when I could find them) which further confused things.After I worked out how my Strelleys linked to the Derby ones I was really trying to find out how Thomas Rennie was connected when I discovered he had married a Stewart. I worked backwards from 1901 census Then I found the Robert Stewart record on Ancestry mentioning Matilda Johnston- mother and there was no stopping me. I was very proud of myself and my obsession/ compulsion to work it through. The fact that there were so many dentists and people with similar names was a hindrance and a help.

    By the way William Strelley was a Doctor who trained in Edinburgh (and spent some time in Debtors prison). He took off back to Derbyshire "married" another lady -probably his housekeeper and died of old age. His three children stayed in Scotland.
    Matilda's father was a wigmaker and one of her brother's (Henry Erskine Johnston) was on the stage. He had a child who went to Western Australia as a pioneer surveyor (Harley Robert Johnston) and was quite a famous family in our history. Charles Stewart Matilda's first husband was a dancing teacher which conjures up all sorts of artistic/ creative notions.

    A few years ago I went to Edinburgh and couldn't get over how much it felt like I belonged there. I thought it was because I always thought I had a long Glasgow history. I went to Glasgow last August and didn't feel a thing and the reality is most of my family originates from Edinburgh, Ireland and England- I'm barely two generations from Glasgow on my Kerr side.

    Where do you want to explore from here? I can do a Family Tree Maker file of Stewarts back to 1800, Johnstons back to 1840s or whatever. I have a story of William and Matilda Strelley and family (written before my discoveries) which I have attached-I'll have to do another to tell the tale of Matilda's family. We don’t know there's a connection for sure but William Strelley's brother in law Dr Joseph Harris from Derby also went to WA as a pioneer. I know communication wasn't like today but don't you think there might be just a coincidence that Matilda's nephew in England happened to work on the same "housing development " plan that our Joseph Harris did in Australind WA . Different counties/ different countries- continent thousands of miles away.

    As you will see I try to make a narrative of my research. This is my excuse for spending more time on family history which I find fascinating like you. Perhaps something I've added may be useful to you or your Henderson contact (I had Jane on my tree already). I am a real bower bird as far as families go - I collect more uncles and aunties than I need. If I hit a brickwall I just search the women in the line- amazing where it takes you.

    Thanks for the email. Keep in contact.

    Cheers (from sunny and warm N.S.W.)
    Robyn Ford