James Sinclair, Caithness 1887

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Canisbay
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James Sinclair, Caithness 1887

Post by Canisbay » Wed Dec 21, 2016 7:08 pm

I am looking for James Sinclair, who was the father of another James Sinclair, the latter being born in Wick on 2.9.1887 to Margaret Simpson (born Stroma, Canisbay Parish 5.10.1861). On the 1887 birth certificate, James the father is recorded as James Sinclair, Ploughman, Hillhead. It was rumoured that he was drowned but no record has ever been found. The younger James lived with his grandmother Mary Simpson (nee Cook) in Wick in 1891 census, and with John & Annie (nee Simpson) Clyne in 1901 census, before moving to Edinburgh and marrying May Jane Maguire. Margaret Simpson married John Dunnet in 1893 and moved to Castletown. But James the Ploughman is not known of before or since. Help!!!!

AndrewP
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Re: James Sinclair, Caithness 1887

Post by AndrewP » Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:14 am

[TS_welcome]

I had a look at the 1887 birth certificate of James Sinclair. As his parents were unmarried, you have very little to go on to find James senior. Am I right to assume James senior never did marry Margaret Simpson? (before she married someone else in 1893).

A marriage certificate would have given ages and parents of the couple. They were never together as a household at a census time - that would have given ages and birth places. There are far too many James Sinclairs of the general age group to go looking at death certificates, and even if his death took place in Caithness, Sinclair is a very common name in the county. The only economic way to look at that many death certificates for James Sinclair is to spend a day in the ScotlandsPeople Centre or one of its various outposts around Scotland. Even then, I have my doubts you could look at a death certificate and positively say that is the right one. You may find a drowning amongst the causes of death, but I would still want something more to say that is the right one.

Unless you can find some other supporting document, I have my doubts that you will ever find the right James Sinclair, and be absolutely confident you have found the right one.

All the best,

AndrewP

Canisbay
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Re: James Sinclair, Caithness 1887

Post by Canisbay » Fri Dec 23, 2016 11:53 pm

Thank you Andrew, I fear that you may be right. I have drawn up a list of James Sinclairs in Caithness who would have been 18-40 in 1887. Then I have identified all the JSs who died by drowning or at sea in the 5 years after the birth, all JSs in newspaper reports over those 5 years, I have looked at a list of James Sinclairs who emigrated during the same period, and I have checked the death certificates of any James Sinclairs of a likely age who are recorded as dead during that period on Scotlands People. Separately, I have pulled together lists of all the Hillheads in Caithness, from Ordinance Survey 1873, Valuation Rolls 1875/85 and Censuses 1881/91. The far, there is no connection between any of the above although I still need to check some of the Hillheads against census names, and also check census names against the mother's family (Simpsons). I am 95% certain now that I will not find the death - the only possibility left is that the main local paper, the John O'Groats Journal, is not yet online for the 1880s-90s, and his death by drowning would probably be in there (e.g. 8 fishermen died in Jan 89 but I cannot find their names online). I am also 90% certain that I will not find him before the birth, but that is still possible if more than one source matches another and then I can take that further. My last hope then is DNA matching, also unlikely but I am trying it. I know it is unlikely that any posts on sites like these will turn up something different, but I can but try :) PS no they did not marry, and she had a separate baby with another unknown father before she married John Dunnet in '93. The drowning claim comes from one of the children of the marriage who I used to holiday with as a boy, but no one knows now if was a fact or a story contrived to remove him from the boy's life.

SarahND
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Re: James Sinclair, Caithness 1887

Post by SarahND » Sat Dec 24, 2016 10:06 am

Canisbay wrote: My last hope then is DNA matching, also unlikely but I am trying it.
If James Sr was your great grandfather (I'm guessing) you should definitely carry enough of his DNA to show a strong match. If you can test your father, even better. It will all depend on whether James had other children (or if his siblings did) and if their descendants also test. And if those descendants know something about James that you don't. Quite a few "if"s, but as you say, you can't know if you don't try. More people are being tested all the time and one day the answer might just arrive in your match list! At least, I'm always hoping for that in my own searches!

Best wishes,
Sarah

Canisbay
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Re: James Sinclair, Caithness 1887

Post by Canisbay » Mon Dec 26, 2016 11:15 am

Thanks Sarah, I have just located a cousin in the USA that is also doing the DNA test - she is a great grandchild of the known James Sinclair: we are both great great grandchildren of James Sr. My Dad is still alive, as is his sister, so I guess I could encourage them to do it as well if nothing clear comes up. I am no expert in DNA so will do one step at a time as I get to understand it a bit. I am trying to find other cousins to see if there is any different information about James Sr., but I suspect I have all that there is to know. I had also hoped to find him from his 'Hillhead' address but now realise that almost every hill in Caithness seems to have had a Hillhead house on it!

SarahND
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Re: James Sinclair, Caithness 1887

Post by SarahND » Mon Dec 26, 2016 11:49 am

If you have taken the autosomal DNA test, then it is important to have the oldest generation tested, since the DNA gets further fragmented at each generation. The Y test (only available to males) could be taken by either you or your father and could help track down your Sinclair ancestry. I believe there is already a Sinclair Y-DNA project at Family Tree DNA with quite a few members. It would be interesting to see which, if any of the documented Sinclair lines you belong to.

Good luck!

Sarah

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