Chasing Samuel Ford

Samuel Ford

James Ford’s father, Samuel Ford, has proved elusive.  Despite extensive searches of the Scottish OPRs I can find no obvious reference to either his birth or his marriage to Margaret Wright.  The name ‘Samuel Ford’, a common name apparently, appears in the record on any number of occasions, but none that I found to date that might relate to James’s father.

Of interest is the obvious gap left in the birth of Samuel Ford.  Over a period of 20 years and the birth of ten children, the date of Samuel’s birth remained blank.

There are two pages in the OPR which record the births of ten children to Samuel and Margaret Ford. James is squeezed in at the bottom.

 If we accept that Samuel died in 1846 aged fifty, as recorded on the Ford Memorial in the Mid Kirton Cemetery, then his birth would have about 1786.  A search of the OPRs from all of Scotland for the years 1720 to 1800 reveal only two records for a Samuel Ford, one born in 1720 and the other 1746, well outside any likely date associated with the birth of James’ father.  Concerning ‘registration’ it worth noting the Scotland People website cautions; ‘Many people did not bother to register, particularly if they had to pay a fee or tax, as was the case 1783 -1794 … ‘ and Samuel’s birth falls squarely in this time frame.

A marriage record of Samuel Ford and Margaret Wright could also have been helpful in tracing Samuel Ford, as often such marriage records make a note where the husband and wife originated.  Unfortunately, no such record exists for Samuel Ford’s marriage.  I also contacted Hazel Menzies, Research Assistant, North Ayrshire Heritage Centre, in the hope of finding a marriage certificate but she responded with a note; ‘I regret that there was not a record of a marriage between Samuel Ford and Margaret Wright in the Bute Old Parish marriages’.

In some ways, my search for Samuel is frustrated by the fact that I can trace Margaret Wright’s, his wife, lineage back to the mid-1600s.   So, is there any other methodology that could be applied in the search for Samuel.  There are several.

The first is the recognition that Christian, or forenames, are just as important in tracing ancestory as surnames.  Here is the general principle as it applied to the people of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

In Samuel Ford’s family we can confirm this pattern.  The eldest child, Janet, is named after Margaret Wright’s mother (mother’s mother).  Their third daughter, Margaret, is named after Margeret Cowan (mother’s father’s mother).  It would follow that their second daughter, Mary, would be named after  Samuel’s mother (father’s mother) and their first son, Robert, would be named after Samuels’ father ( father’s father).  We can be reasonably assured that Samuel Ford’s parents were named Robert and Mary.  Again, unfortunately, even armed with this information I cannot track where Samuel may have been born.  But knowing his parent’s names helps eliminate many ‘possibles or probables’.

There are insurmountable difficulties in searching out the birth deaths and marriage registers (BDM) for England and Ireland.  (I have eliminated Wales as there is no indication that there may be some Welsh connection).  The English statutory BDM agency is no help with ancestry and simply directs genealogists to use expensive private websites.  Ireland BDM is of some help but cautions that many, much, of its records no longer exist.  Apparently, at some time the records were stored in an ammunition depot which became the target during part of the ‘troubles’ with obvious results.  On another occasion, a large chunk of the records was mistakenly incinerated.  These things do happen.

Apart from the missing information about Samuel’s birth, we do know that he was a quarrier.  Cumbrae freestone was much sought after as a specialist resource for the stone construction of harbours and canals.

A Statistical Account of the Isle of Cimbrae by a ‘friend of the Rev. Mr Henry Graham’ dated 1794 mentions an ‘unexechaustable [sp.] fund of freestone’ existing on the island noting that some sixteen masons/quarriers were employed, which suggests something of a productive industry.

There is any number of old quarries on Cumbrae but when scaled off against the nearby farm buildings and against the map legend the ‘quarries’ measure less than 100 feet in length.

Certainly, the early photographs on Millport show that buildings were of stone construction and there would be a requirement for both quarriers and masons (see census page 32) to supply the need for stone as building material. Indeed, such demand would support a small and productive workforce required to fulfil the demand for local building construction.

Further, a perusal of the  Fourth Report of the Commissioners for Roads and Bridges in the Highlands of Scotland presented to the House of Commons on 28 April 1809 contains the Report of the Commissioners for Making and Maintaining the Caledonian Canal (27 May 1809) illustrates how central Cumbrae was for accessing suitable stone for canal construction.

I quote from page 4 of the report;  ‘No free-stone has been discovered nearer that Cumbraes and the small quantity requisite is fetched from thence by two sloops which were built chiefly for that purpose.’  From Appendix A of the report, we learn that names of the sloops, Caledonia and Corpach, which were probably similar to the  Mary Kay each of which apparently had a crew of three.  It is also noted that some ten (12 Nov 1808) quarriers were employed at Cumbrae.

Mary Kay at Millport transferring cargo. Photo from Ayrshire Historical Society.

As work began on the Caledonian Canal in April 1804, with Thomas Telford as the appointed principal engineer, it would seem safe to assume that stone from Cumbrae was not required for this construction until after 1804.  But as early as 1770, when John Smeaton was constructing the Port Patrick harbour, stone for this construction may have been accessed from Cumbrae. In fact, Smeaton mentions in his plans that suitable stone would have to be accessed beyond the initial construction site at Port Patrick.

To be continued ..

Copyright John Ford 2018

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