The Adoption Witness: A Trip To The Dairy Farm.

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.

UPDATE November 29, 2020 on Andrew Barrie:

Prompted by a reader query, we re-analyzed Andrew Barrie. In doing so, we expanded his biography. His first foray into the US was likely Montana in 1900. (If so, that census is filed under Barrde – a “y” dropped from the line above, interfered with the “i “of Barrie, and could be interpreted as a “d”). Andrew apparently made it big by 1910, in North Dakota. Here, he lived on an owned, but mortgaged, farm and was both an employer and coal mine operator. His fortunes must have turned, for in Illinois (1920), he was regular coal miner, in a rented home.

He remained single and on his own. This causes uncertainty in asserting genealogical connections, for lack of family associations, especially when big moves happen. If Manhattan censuses of 1930 and 1940 are indeed for him, he would be a lodger ever more.  He was listed as a “fireman” in 1930, living in a rooming house. The establishment housed a doorman, butcher, watchman, etc. A guess is, that he was not a fireman in our sense, rather, one in heating maintenance for the building, such as coal furnace, caretaker. In 1940, he was still rooming at 67. His job was not specified, but while he had been fully employed the year prior, he was now looking for work. Hopefully, he just liked to keep busy in retirement.

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

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 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 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. 1900: Andrew Barrde Joliet, Carbon, Montana District 00004; 1910: Andrew Barrie Kirkland, Ward, North Dakota District 0235; 1920: Andrew Barrie Illinois> Randolph> Tilden” District 0126; 1930: Andrew Barrie New York> New York> Manhattan (Districts 251-500> District 0296; 1940: Andrew Barry New York> New York> New York District 31-265

15 thoughts on “The Adoption Witness: A Trip To The Dairy Farm.

  1. It’s fascinating to see how you researched the various angles and possibilities. It’s interesting how Andrew may have become a miner, and been in Illinois and North Dakota for awhile – followed by Manhattan (NY?, Kansas?). If it was NY, I won’t have expected to miner to typically head there.


    1. Sheryl, that was a wonderful query. One thing that has become clear, is that in this land of opportunity, persons could continue to define themselves. Your question drove us to re-analyze Andrew Barrie – see the Update, now at the end of the post. It could be that Andrew drew upon his coal miner past, to become a fireman, in the sense of building heating maintenance. He hit Manhattan in his fifties, and this makes more sense than a new career of rushing into burning buildings. Again, just a guess. Thanks much for that question!


  2. It must be so frustrating trying to track down ancestors with common names. I have been fascinated that so many went back and forth across the Atlantic even though it would be long and expensive. Perhaps their lives were so much more full than ours despite our capacity to travel the world? Not now, of course. 😷


  3. I so appreciate the fact that you explore the lives of what the world calls “ordinary” men and women, Marilee. These are the people who built the skyscrapers…and the pyramids, who feed and clothe us, who keep the world running. Their lives are endlessly fascinating. And they deserve recognition. If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it is that. ❤


    1. Corona has done that, Anna! So many drive themselves nuts wanting to ascend a pecking order. You just made me realize that I don’t find my subjects “ordinary” or holders of the mediocre card, with which we usually pillory ourselves. Rather, our lives always unfold, and account does not come until after we pass. We quite forget that the only important assessor is our God. However, we will review the tabulation of time, and perhaps someday, that ordinary Covid nurse will gain fame for a small act of great risk, accomplished humbly. He or she will take the rung of one of today’s lofty.

      Liked by 1 person

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