Genealogy Imagined from the US Civil War, past River Clyde, to a UK Chemical Plant

Double Genealogy: the Adoption Witness; Update 2, Addendum 6

Little was known of John Kelly; he was born in the US about 1859 and resided in Lanarkshire Scotland from 1881-1882 where he worked as a farm servant.² ³ His family was not identified.

“Double Genealogy: the Adoption Witness” found that our grandfather was likely adopted and further that John Kelly was potentially our biological great-grandfather.¹

We thought it would be useful to find John as a youngster, ideally, with his family. However, he was nowhere to be found in all UK Census 1871, wearing our criteria.² Or, anywhere else that year, or in a previous UK census. It occurred though, that he may have been lurking in other clothes. That is, under another surname.

Two factors drove the search for John under a different last name.  Common in that day, were the many of non-wedlock birth, who held to their mother’s maiden name, which was subject to change with evolving life events. Perhaps John had such background. At the same time, the most common circumstance for adoption was that it occurred among relatives.  

Our underlying mission, then, was to uncover a familial connection for John Kelly, to someone within the adoptive family of our grandfather.  That is, if one existed.

Scotland’s Census 1871 held fewer than twenty John of any surname, who were US-born about 1860.² Only one was of a family name, but he was quickly eliminated from consideration.

John Pratt, born 1860 US, proved more interesting.  His 1871 census was for the Partick District of Govan Parish, in Glasgow.² ³ We could not find his birth registration. He was grandson to the widow Isabella Pratt, in a household otherwise, of unmarried women. One such was Sarah Pratt, a music teacher and Isabella’s daughter. She was a tad on the older side of child-bearing when John Pratt had been born.

There were some immediate “aha” in this find:

  • Our grandfather’s adoptive family was located by River Clyde in Partick in 1891.³
  •  John Pratt’s parents were not disclosed in this 1871 encounter. He could be spinster Sarah’s son, via an unknown Kelly.
  •  Isabella and Sarah were reported as born in St. Cuthbert’s Edinburgh. So was Grandfather’s adoptive mother.  Primary surnames associated with the latter, were Dickson, Gemmell and Young. 
  • Coincidence led us on; we then determined that Isabella Pratt was born Bookless, and was wife to Alexander Pratt, of England.² ³
  • The name Bookless was meaningful to us. Isabella Pratt (Bookless) was born about 1803, approximately the time of birth for one Mary Ramsay Bookless (Young).² ³ Mary was thought to be our grandfather’s adoptive aunt,  great-aunt, or, less certainly, his adoptive great-grandmother.
  • Bookless, Pratt and Young persons mentioned here, lived in Edinburgh’s St Cuthbert’s, minimally, for the four decades leading to 1861.² ³ Cozy enough to keep research alive.

It is often difficult to prove relationships behind the 1800s. Therefore, our next step was to locate John Pratt in the United States.

First though, Scotland Census 1851 gave up that Sarah had a brother, Samuel. He was born about 1833.² This detail led us to Samuel B Pratt, b, 1833 Scotland and John W Pratt, b. 1859 US CT who were found in US Census 1860 for New Haven, Connecticut.4 Margaret Pratt, b. 1831 Ireland, was with them, but US Census 1860 did not give relationships; she may have been Samuel’s wife. John W could be their son, or, possibly, an intake.  

As to Samuel “B”, it had been noticed that a Ms. Bennett, an unwed niece from England, resided in that 1871 Partick household of many unmarried women. This tidbit helped to anchor the 1860 US family of Samuel B Pratt of 1851 and with those of 1871, in Scotland. Similarly, fourteen-year-old Ellen White, born Ireland, was in the 1860 US home. She may have been related, making John’s W, for White. Perhaps not, who knows? We were encouraged to question further.

The potential for John Pratt to be aka Kelly was kept alive by John’s possible intake status in 1860, based on no relationship statement on that US census. As well as, being left with his Grandmother and “Aunt” Sarah Pratt. Sarah could have made a visit to Connecticut prior to the 1860 US Census, and been back in Scotland, for its 1861 capture. That is, a Kelly dalliance could have happened for Sarah. John Pratt could still be hiding John Kelly.

This is what we found:

  • Samuel had immigrated in 1852, according to his US Census 1890 and was a dry goods clerk.4 By luck, he was still home for his US Census 1860, or, the trail would have gone cold.  He served in the US Civil War from 1861-1865.4 As noted, his family was absent from US Census 1870. He seems, also, to have lost his wife in the meanwhile.
  • Samuel seems to have taken John to Scotland just after a second marriage, thus missing US Census 1870 which commenced in June. Widower S. Pratt married Annie McAfee, 23 May 1870, in New York City.4 The couple was not found in Scotland’s Census 1871, but as we have seen, John Pratt was. Presuming that is how John arrived in Scotland, it seems Samuel left an 11-year-old, in a country foreign to him, under his Grandmother’s care. That simply seems odd, should Samuel be the father.
  • The couple was found without John in US Census 1880 for New York, with three children.4 Samuel gave his name as Bennett, a dry goods clerk.

John Pratt was not in the United States in 1880. Nor in Scotland, in 1881. Could he, by any chance, have emerged still in Lanarkshire, as our John Kelly the farm servant?

Probably not! If John Pratt, resident of Partick in 1871, who was proven to be John W Pratt, somehow was aka John Kelly, he would necessarily be missing from the two censuses, above, because he would be recorded as John Kelly. But, one fairly convincing John W Pratt was elsewhere.

Just as “B” for Bennett sealed the deal in 1860, “W” satisfied the argument in 1881, for us.  A John W Pratt born 1860 US was found in Runcorn, Cheshire England, in its 1881 census.² He was a single lodger whose occupation was a Sunlight chemical analyst. The repeat inclusion of his middle initial reduced the research field and increased the certainty that the cited John Pratt was one and the same for 1860 US, 1871 Scotland and 1881 England. 

John W Pratt’s paper trail seemed compelling, although more research would be needed to claim it the truth. We found no document that associated Sarah Pratt with a fathering Kelly relationship.

We felt no need to study John Pratt further, regards our great-grandfather. This account was not included in the book. 

Still, one can wonder. We have not disproved the Bookless St. Cuthbert’s coincidence as a factual familial relationship.  It is true, that two persons named John, one Pratt and one Kelly, had ties to either end of the Bookless bargain. It is true they were both born around 1860 US and found themselves in Lanarkshire Scotland, within the same decade. Might they have, at least, heard tale, one of the other?


  1. We will leave the reader, if interested, to ascertain the parentage of John W Pratt.
  2. John W Pratt was not aka John Kelly.

John Kelly, US-born ca 1859, made Scotland Census 1881: Legbrannock area of Holytown District, Bothwell Parish. Who Was He?  No other Scotland count listed him, nor anyone similar, for decades around. This British Subject and ploughman did not wed his partner, but recognized their son’s birth in 1882, then disappeared from ledgers. Their son may have been adopted and become our history. We sought John Kelly in Double Genealogy: The Adoption Witness. CLICK for stories in our continuing search.


Notes and Sources for Double Genealogy: the Adoption Witness; Update 2, Addendum 6.

1 Double Genealogy: The Adoption Witness. Published by This is Update #2, Addendum #6 published September 2018 copyright © Marilee Wein
2 Documents accessed at FMP: Findmypast Ltd., © 2017 Findmypast and with thanks to Findmypast
Underlying Scotland BMD, OPR and Census data are Crown copyright © National Records of Scotland.
Underlying UK census data 1881 John W Pratt at Runcorn Cheshire are British Crown Copyright © National Archives, Kew Surrey and under Open Government License V3.0
3 BMD, OPR and Census data directly from are Crown copyright © National Records of Scotland. They are not limited to but include: Deaths: 1875 Mary Bookless 685/2 197. Banns and Marriages: 1824 Alexander Pratt to Isabella Bookless 685/1 603/232; 1844 Robert Bookless to Mary Young 685/2 450/379. Censuses: 1871 Sarah Pratt 646/3 11/5; 1851 Isabella Pratt 685/2 83/25.
4 Documents accessed at © 2017 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
US Censuses 1860-1900 from United States Archive and Record Administration (NARA)
United States Civil War and Later Pension Index 1861-1917 and Copyright © 2018 Fold3 by
New York, New York City Marriage Records 1829-1940, Marriages, Manhattan. New York Municipal Archives.

One thought on “Genealogy Imagined from the US Civil War, past River Clyde, to a UK Chemical Plant

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s