Footnotes on Helen, daughter of Donald and Janet Stewart of Balcastle

Genealogical Record of a branch of the Stewart Clan commencing with Donald and Janet Stewart of Balhastle, Loch Tummel, Parish of Blair Athol, Scotland, to the year 1912, being a period of about two hundred years.

(Generation 2) THEIR CHILDREN

Alexander, born about 1758; married and settled in Perth; had a family. He died 1826.
Robert, born about 1760; father of Deacon Rob. and Donald Rob. Stewart of Lochaber, N.S.
John, born July 7th, 1764; died August 1st, 1824. Family came to Westchester, N.S., in 1832.
Christina, born 1768; married Alex Scott; went to P.E.I. about 1806.
Helen, born Sept. 3rd, 1770; married John Stewart (teacher) brother of Girzel, John's wife.

John Stewart, son of Donald and Janet Stewart of Balhastle, and Girzel Stewart of Balnald, were married 27th February, 1798. He died in Blair Athol, 1st August 1824. She died in Westchester, June 29th, 1861; aged 83 years.

The entries in the Old Parish Records for Blair Atholl are as follows:

Donald Stewart in Uchdnanetaig and Janet Stewart in Balintepaill of Fincastle, Parish of Dull were married July 17th 1754

1770 Donald Stewart and Janet Stewart in Bailchastail had a daughter Helen baptised 3rd September

The genealogical record provided tantalising snippets about Helen and her husband, John Stewart, but nothing else was known about her. There was no date of marriage and possible marriages recorded in the IGI (Blair Atholl: 8th Feb 1788, and Blair Atholl: 2nd Jun 1797), appear to be unrelated couples with the same two names.

No trace of Helen was found until quite recently, despite knowing that both she and her brother John had married into the same family. In December 2008, while determining the parents of William Stewart of Croftdouglas (the poor fellow died of a fractured skull in 1880), it was discovered that they were John Stewart and Helen Stewart. Helen's death certificate (1857) gives her parents as Donald Stewart, farmer, and Janet Stewart, maiden name, Stewart. Her daughter, Margaret, signed the death certificate with her mark.

Helen's husband, John, died in 1860 and the death certificate gives his parents as Donald Stewart, handloom weaver, and Margaret Robertson. Once again the daughter, Margaret, signed the death certificate with her mark. The death certificates state that both Helen Stewart and John Stewart are buried in the Borenich burial ground, and perhaps one of the un-named flat slabs marks their resting place.

It was fortunate that both Helen and John died after 1855, otherwise Helen's parentage could not have been confirmed. As Ross states that Helen's husband John, was Girzel's brother, it provides the conclusive proof that the parents of Girzel (or Grace) Stewart who died in Westchester, June 29th 1861, aged 83 years, were Donald Stewart, handloom weaver, and Margaret Robertson.

John and Helen were farming Croftdouglas at the time of the 1841 census, and the circumstances in which John and Helen became its tenants are revealed in a letter to The Duke of Atholl from his agent, James Stewart, dated 10th May 1817.

Let Croftdouglas to John Stewart from Dr Stewart's lands of Borenich, and Alexander Stewart who, with his mother, a widow in Croftdouglas, had before a part of it under Alexander McDonald in whose name the tow was held in tack. Alexander McDonald, having been seized with a palsy some time ago, had to subsett the tow except two acres and a cow's grass to others. He has five children, the last two twins.

The other tenant, Alexander Stewart, was the son of James Stewart and Isabel Stewart. James Stewart in Croftcarnach of Borenich married Isabel Stewart of Uchdnanetaig on 6th July 1792. They started off married life by farming at Balintochich, which is just up the hill from Croftcarnach and Uchdnanetaig, and this is where Alexander was born on 1st January 1794.

Three other children were born at Balintochich: Margaret on 17th November 1796; Donald on 30th September 1798; and John on 16th October 1801. Christian may have been born at Balintochich on 18th January 1804, but the Blair Atholl OPR just mentions Borenich. However, the last two children were born at Croftdouglas: Isobel on 19th October 1807; and William on 22nd June 1811. So James and his family must have been sub-tenants to Alexander McDonald in Croftdouglas for at least ten years prior to gaining the joint tenancy.

In the same way that there does not seem to be a record of the marriage of John Stewart and Helen Stewart, there appeared to be no entries in the Blair Atholl OPR for the births, or baptisms, of their children.

By 1841 John and Helen were farmimg Croftdouglas with their son William who was born around 1814. William had a older sister, Margaret, who was born around 1800, and another sister, Isabella, who was born around 1809. In addition, John and Helen must have had a daughter called Janet as, on 27th May 1827, Alexander Stewart of Croftdouglas, married Janet Stewart Croftdouglas.

The 1841 census also mentions that three young children: John, Isabella and Donald, aged 12, 10 and 8 years respectively, were living with John and Helen. Other children were living in the ajoining properties. James and Alexander aged 11 and 9 years respectively were living with Isabella, while Margaret Robertson was looking after 4-year-old Janet. Although the 1841 census does not show relationships within family groups, these were almost certainly the grandchildren of John and Helen, and evidence suggests that their absent parents were Alexander and Janet.

In the 1861 census John and Helen Stewart's daughter Margaret was looking after her invalid neice Isabella Stewart. Isabella's death certificate (19th April 1869) gives her parents as Alexander Stewart and Janet Stewart, both deceased. The certificate is signed by her sister Jessie (Janet) who could be the Janet Stewart, aged 4 years, in the 1841 census. It would also seem that Alexander and Janet's son Donald eventually emigrated to Canada.

In Canada it is not uncommon for gravestones to to be inscribed with "A native of Blair Atholl, Scotland", as the early settlers were proud of their ancestral roots, despite having left their homeland. It is less common for the exact location within the parish to be given, but this is the fortunate case for Donald Stewart of Burnstown. His monument in the White Lake Cemetery, McNab township, is inscribed:

Daniel Stewart died September 27th 1905 aged 72 years. Born at Croftdouglass, Perthshire, Scotland. His wife Catherine McNab died September 1st 1925 aged 70 years

The Blair Atholl OPR does contain two odd entries for children born at Croftdouglas: Isabella (20th March 1832); and Daniel (28th May 1834), but their parents are given as Alexander Stewart and Isobel Stewart. There is no marriage recorded for such a couple at this date, and no other children can be attributed to them within the whole of Perthshire. Can there really have been yet another Alexander Stewart at Croftdouglas who was married to a Stewart, having two children at virtually the same time as Alexander and Janet, and naming them identically? A much simpler explanation would be that the registrar made the simple error of writing Isobel instead of Janet. Now it may seem improbable for the registrar to have made the same mistake for baptisms which are two years apart, but the circumstances were unusual.

In 1854 it was announced that Civil Registration would commence the following year, and there was panic. Parents who, for decades, had never bothered to get their children baptised suddenly wanted their names entered in the Blair Atholl OPR before it was too late. The registrar was overwhelmed with births which were entered in no chronological order. The births of Isabella and Daniel appear one after the other in the middle of this clamour, so, perhaps it is not surprising that such errors were made.

The Descendants of Helen Stewart of Balcastle

The Descendants of Helen Stewart of Balcastle

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