The Adoption Witness: Materializing Ghosts

Elizabeth Hanson appeared in the 1851 Census of Bothwell, Scotland for Bo’ness Road.1a Captured at ScotlandsPeople (SP), the record was posted in this order: herself and her Hanson children, a family of five Moore lodgers, and Eliza Kelly. The order suggested three family types.

Of the Hanson children, Sarah was 11, Agnes 7, Richard 5 and Thomas 2. It said that Thomas was born in Chapelhall. Our interest, though, was in Eliza Kelly. She was posted as Mrs. Hanson’s daughter, also born in Chapelhall.

The record was messy. SP interpreted that widow Hanson was 30, and Eliza 2. We could not wrap our heads around Mrs. Hanson having two two-year olds, one Hanson and one Kelly. indicated Mrs. Hanson was 50, and Eliza 12.2a Eliza, at twelve, would mean a liaison before Hanson, which seemed likely under the circumstance.

In looking for before-and-after, it seemed that 1851 was the only census for the mother, in the name of Elizabeth Hanson. That is, at least at Ancestry. (This is not a complaint; we know that what we receive is an interpretation of old data and we are often helped by independent eyes). They had a family fixed in 1841 as Haman of Chapelhall.2b Luckily, Sarah had been born at decade’s turn, such that at 8 months of age, we could discern that the Haman family was likely hers. SP actually had it as Hansan.1b She was listed a sole child in the household of Thomas, born 1821 Ireland, and Elizabeth, born 1826, Scotland.   Eliza Kelly, thought 12 in 1851, was not in sight. Nor did such person seem to be boarded-out in 1841, due to recent marriage.  

Curiously, it was Sarah again, who saved the day in locating Mrs. Hanson of 1851, now for 1861. That is, even if Sarah Hanson and her siblings, Richard and Thomas, were misidentified as Henderson.1c Her step-father was Philip Kelly of Ireland. The family was located on Biggar Road, Holytown, where they would remain through 1871.

The latter two censuses suggested that Elizabeth Hanson, now Kelly, was born between 1820 and 1823. Two new family members were added: Janet Kelly, born about 1852, and her brother, John, about 1856. Eliza Kelly appeared in neither.

That the 1851 report of two two-year old children with different surnames was followed by the presentation of Kelly children in the next survey, suggested that the entry for Eliza’s age in 1851 was meant to convey neither 12 nor 2, rather, 2 months.

Mrs. Hanson was a widow in 1851, who in due time would marry a Kelly. There would be no reason for Eliza Kelly not to be included in the 1861 household. It seems likely she was a pre-marital child of 1851, who soon demised.

Miss Eliza Kelly: We found no official announcement of your coming or going; only an inadequate notice of your in-between. We are honored to have called your name.


We wanted Eliza Kelly to be twelve in 1851 and shipped off to the United States following her mother’s widowhood, from her Hanson marriage. We would have her become an out-of-wedlock mother to John Kelly there, about 1859. John would have made a heritage trip to the Holytown area of Eliza’s birth in 1881, to become our great grandfather, in 1882.

US-born John Kelly may well have visited this family as relatives of some sort, during his Holytown tour in the Chapelhall area. This diversion has failed to identify him.

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] C1851 Bothwell. Eliza Kelly 625/21/30; 1b] C1841 Bothwell Sarah Hansan 625/15/5; 1c] C1861 Holytown. Sarah Henderson 625/2 13/12 and C1861 Philip Kelly 625/2 13/12

2 1841 -1881 Scotland Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006. Source citation Parish: Bothwell Holytown; ED: 7; Page: 6; Line: 670; Year: 1841; Parish: Bothwell; ED: 21; Page: 30; Line: 14; Roll: CSSCT1851_149; Year: 1851

9 thoughts on “The Adoption Witness: Materializing Ghosts

  1. I didn’t know there was such a place as Bothwell. I think of Mary, Queen of Scots, associated with Bothwell, as well as my first boyfriend ;). My maiden name was Hanson but there is absolutely no connection to these Hansons, alas.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hansen or any of the variations of the name are not that common in Scotland. There was a lot of fishing trade between Scotland and the Scandinavian nations to this day. One of our friends from the Fraserburgh, a fishing port in the north east, helped out his uncle, a fish salesman, when he was at university in the 70s. Boats still come in from all over the Baltic, many from Russia, so he was used to language problems. One small group came in and spoke in an unknown language. He went to his uncle for help who burst out laughing because they were from Shetland. Speaking English…of a sort!


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