We were trying to define US-born John Kelly, that 22-year old mystery man who plowed the fields of Woodhall Cottage Farm in Holytown, Lanarkshire. The year was 1881. Dairyman, Andrew Barrie, and his wife, Agnes Shearer, Scots both, worked that same farm.1a We wondered, if by chance, they could explain John’s visit to the land of the Clydesdale horse.
It had been our experience in looking for John’s US heritage, that some few Scots had sojourned there; they were seen in Scotland censuses having increased their families by a couple of US-born children. These were miners of the latter 1800s. Our own grandfather alluded to some experience in Germany which seemed connected with education. That is, miners were motivated to learn best practices of other countries. We thought, perhaps our John was doing the same, in the agricultural field.
The Barrie couple had married in Shotts in 1862 such that they, and their children, were not John’s age peer.1b On the other hand, might they have US family with friendship to the Kelly family, on which John may have traded favor, for a situation in Scotland? It was worth a look.
We found that in June of 1889, four of the Barrie children who had been present on the farm, plus later-born William, were aboard the vessel Bothnia: spinster Mary at 18; printer Andrew, 17; laborer Robert, 16; and Archibald, 10.2a Their sister, Christine, was not among them. The youngsters were bound for New York, but where after, was not told.
The children would have been caught for our tracking purpose, by the 1890 US Census, which we all know was lost to fire. As luck would have it, we developed intelligence from lateral research. Their grandparents, James and Mary Shearer had emigrated to Kansas in 1870. Kansas conducted State Censuses, fortunately for us, in 1895.2b That survey was not very informative, other than Mary, Archibald and William were with grandmother, Mary Shearer, now 79, at Rock, in Marshall County, Kansas. The seniors had continued the farming tradition.
John Kelly had disappeared from the Holytown scene, so our first thought was that maybe he had sailed home with this Barrie group. Alas, that was not so. Still, we would persist in trying to associate him, with them.
We located a new candidate for “the real US-John Kelly” position, in their Marshall County, through US Census 1880. 2c If ours, he would have had to soon depart the US, for Scotland, to be counted there, in 1881. His too, was a farming family. He was age appropriate, but as he had no obvious link to Scotland, we had previously bypassed him for listing on our candidate list. Notably, he was out of state in 1885. Was he overseas?
The American Kelly and Shearer farms were a township apart, about fifteen miles. Such distance, though, was typically often crossed, by those in our vast farmlands, for hoedown or county fair. Community was further established through strong agricultural associations among the farmers.
Still, we could only locate the Kelly family in 1880, with no clue as to prior history. As noted, Candidate John was not found in Marshall County in 1885, which could have been a positive indicator. The problem is, his family likewise disappeared. We got the impression of short term residency. Such would not be conducive to the abiding relationship we had hoped to see; one that would have had James Shearer confidently send John Kelly to work alongside his Barrie children, in Scotland.
We were unable to follow Robert Barrie, but Andrew may have become a miner. If so, he laid tracks in Illinois and North Dakota, before moving to Manhattan by 1935. He was still single by 1940 and unhelpful in our bid to understand John Kelly.
We came away with some fine cream, but knowing we were at chapter’s end, bid farewell to our pleasant farmers.
Notes and Sources
John Kelly born about 1859 US drawn from the book “Double Genealogy: The Adoption Witness by Marilee Wein © 2018 Published by Booklocker .com
1 Birth(B), Marriage (M) and Death(D) data were found in Old Parish Records (OPR) and Statutory Registers (SR) at ScotlandsPeople https://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk also Scotland Censuses (C) 1841 – 1911 and are © Crown Copyright National Records of Scotland. This includes but is not limited to: 1a] C1881 for John Kelly 625/2 12/ 23. 1b] SRM 1862 for Agnes Shearer 655/ 32.
2 At Ancestry.com: 2a] New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 for Mary Bairie June 15 1889, Ship Botthnia. 2b] Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925; 1885 for James Shearer born Scotland. 2c] US Censuses 1840-1940, original source NARA including Census 1880 Clear Rock, Marshall County Kansas; for John Kelly born 1860.