Friday, 13 November 2009

A Family of Lunatics!

I received the case notes for Wilson BUCHAN today. The contents were very interesting. Wilson's case is sad but what strikes me from these notes is that the sense of family was very strong. It also strikes me that insanity very much runs in my family.

On the 17th June 1875, Wilson BUCHAN was admitted in the Royal Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum.

I can almost visualise Wilson - his description was more unique than that given for his sister Agnes. At age 60, he was a short man with a square, stooping figure. His eyes were black, his hair grey with a bald scalp and his complexion ruddy.

His history upon admission reads:

The present attack , supposed to be the first, has lasted for eight months during which time he has twice attempted suicide. There is a strong hereditary predisposition to insanity, his father committed suicide, his sister Mrs James Tait was in this Asylum two years ago, and his nephew James Third is at present a patient here.
According to the medical certificates, he distresses himself unreasonably about his wife's death, will not engage in his ordinary occupation, imagines that the Police are to apprehend him for murder & stealing, talks of committing suicide and has been found with a rope round his neck.

On the 7th October 1876, Wilson was "Removed by his friends - Much Improved".

I have become even more interested in these small fishing villages where everyone seems to be related and plan to do a bit more research on them.

Other facts I have managed to glean from these records:


  • Wilson's wife died before June 1875 (this was unclear on his death record)


  • his father (& Agnes') committed suicide


  • a sister Mrs James TAIT (also Agnes' sister) was in the asylum two years ago,


  • a nephew, James THIRD presently in the Asylum


  • a son John Buchan (and his address - 91 Cairnbulg)


  • 3 daughters - Mrs Mary BUCHAN or Stephen; Mrs Robert STEPHEN; Christian BUCHAN

Next steps:
Work out his sister's & daughter's names by finding their marriages
Gain more information about the locality (map of houses)


image via flickr

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Son of a Lunatic

I received another reply from the wonderful archivist at NHS Grampian archives. Apparently, Agnes' brother Wilson was also admitted into the Aberdeen Royal Lunatic Asylum. Wilson was suicidal when he entered the asylum in June 1875. He was released under the authority of John BUCHAN in October 1876. He had either recovered from his 'melancholia' or was being cared for at home.

While I wait for the case notes to arrive, I've been looking into John BUCHAN as he seems to be playing a vital role in his families lives. I don't know yet whether this John is Agnes' son or another family member. There are 2 or 3 John Buchans of the right age in the Lonmay parish in 1881. One married to a Mary PIRIE and one to an Isabella. I downloaded the death record of the only appropriate Lonmay death record (between 1876 and 1930) - this John was married to Mary PIRIE and his mother is recorded as Nancy BUCHAN (father - Arthur).

Statutory Death Record of John Buchan, 1907

Click for larger image


At first glance, it seems the other John in the 1881 census is my man. HOWEVER, the names Nancy and Agnes do sound similar - could this be an error? The informant was the man's son, who was 18 on the 1881 census and so very likely to know his grandmother well.

A quick google search reveals that Nancy seems to be a nickname for Agnes. This record is looking more likely to be a match. Hopefully, the case notes will give me a clue (at least to whether the John Buchan whom Wilson was released to was in fact Agnes' son).

Then it dawned on me, dear readers, the case notes had also given son John's occupation as 'carter'. The same occupation is recorded on these records and so, in a village full of fisherman, I can be fairly confident this is my man.

1881 Census Record
John BUCHAN & family and FINDLAY servant
Click for larger image

Before I go, however, the census record and the name Mary PIRIE seemed very familiar to me. Then I noticed the name of their servant, Agnes FINDLAY - this was a direct ancestor!

I even blogged about this Agnes' gravestone a few months ago. I had often wondered if this Agnes was related to her 'employer' as her mother was a Buchan. It turns out young Agnes (Mad Agnes' grandaughter) was living with her uncle. I will look into this situation more and report back. I LOVE genealogy!

If you've only just found this blog - this particular story starts here.