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

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

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

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

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 then, or in the previous census. It occurred though, that he may have been lurking in other clothes. That is, living 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 was born.

There were some immediate “aha” in this find:

o       Our grandfather’s adoptive family was located by River Clyde in Partick in 1891.³

o        John Pratt’s parents were not disclosed in this 1871 encounter. He could be spinster Sarah’s son, via an unknown Kelly.

o         Isabella and Sarah were reported as born in St. Cuthbert’s Edinburgh. So was Grandfather’s adoptive mother.  Primary surnames associated with her, were Dickson, Gemmell and Young. 

o         Coincidence led us on; we then determined that Isabella Pratt was born Bookless, and was wife to Alexander Pratt, of England.² ³

o         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.

o         Bookless, Pratt and Young persons mentioned here, lived in St Cuthbert’s, minimally, for 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, 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 unmarried niece from England, resided in the 1871 Partick household.  This tidbit helped to anchor the 1860 US family with Pratt of 1851 and 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:

o       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.

o       Samuel may have taken John to Scotland just after a second marriage, thus,  missing US Census 1870.  It 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 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.

o      The couple was found in US Census 1880 for New York, with three children. 4 Samuel gave his name as Bennett, a dry goods clerk. John was not with them.

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, John W Pratt was elsewhere.

Just as “B” 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 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.



COPYRIGHT, 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 © 2018 Marilee Wein.

2.        Documents accessed at FMP: Findmypast Ltd, Website: ©brightsolid online publishing ltd. ©2017 Findmypast and with thanks to Findmypast The underlying data are attributed as follows:

Census data at ScotlandsPeople 1841-1911 are © Crown Copyright National Records of Scotland

Birth, Marriage and Death data (BMD), including Old Parish Records (OPR) at ScotlandsPeople are      © Crown Copyright National Records of Scotland

UK Census Data 1871 for John W Pratt at Runcorn, Cheshire are © British Crown Copyright, held at National Archives of UK, Kew Surrey. Site: this information is licensed under the Open Government License v3.0.

3.       –  Cited Birth, Marriage and Death data, above, were found in Old Parish and Statutory Registers at ScotlandsPeople   are © Crown Copyright National Records of Scotland.  Those of special interest are specified as follows:

1875: Bookless, Mary Ramsay (Statutory Registers Death) 685/2 197

1824: Pratt, Alexander to Bookless, Isabella (OPR Banns and Marriages  685/1 603/232) Edinburgh

1844: Bookless, Robert to Young, Mary ( OPR Banns and Marriages 685/2 450/379) St Cuthbert’s

         –  Cited census data 1841-1891 was found at ScotlandsPeople and are © Crown Copyright National Records of Scotland.  Included are information on Statutory Registers. Those of special interest are specified as follows:

1871: Pratt Sarah (Census 646/3 11/5)

1851: Pratt, Isabella (Census 685/2 83/25)

1881: Kelly, John (Census 65/2 12/23)

4.        Documents Accessed at Family Search (FS): ©2017 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. These include:

United States Census Data, Affiliate and data custodian: The United States Archive and Record Administration (NARA) College Park, MD.  US Censuses 1860 -1900

Connecticut, 1860 federal census: population schedules Connecticut: City of New Haven, wards 4-8 (NARA Series M653, Roll 87). Image 144 of 159. New York: 1900 federal census: population schedules New York: New York: New York County, Borough of Manhattan (cont’d: ED 120, sheet 6-end; EDs 121-135, 1075, 136-138) [NARA T623 roll 1086]. Image 24 of 39. United States Census 1880 New York, New York, ED 114,  Image 8 of 29 NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

United States Civil War and Later Pension Index, 1861-1917 and Copyright © 2018 Fold3 by Ancestry.

New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940 Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York

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