Double apologies if anyone feels a sense of déjà vu reading this, as I posted it to reddit.com/r/genealogy last night as well.
My great-grandparents (parents of my maternal grandmother) were Robert MacGregor (23 Nov 1905 to 15 Nov 1993) and Annabella McKenzie (02 Oct 1912 to 02 Jan 1997), and they were married on the 20th of July 1935 in Elgin, Moray, Scotland. I am confident these details are correct as they are traced back from me to my mother, to her mother, to Robert and Annabella and the paperwork matches my mother's recollection of her grandparents.
On Robert's documents, his parents are listed as follows:
- Marriage Certificate: Alexander MacGregor and Jessie MacGregor, m.s. MacKintosh
- Birth Certificate: Alexander McGregor and Jessie Webster McGregor, m.s. McIntosh
- Death Certificate: Alexander McGregor and Jessie Webster McGregor, m.s. McIntosh
Clearly the spellings on the marriage certificate differ from the birth / death certificates, but this is not uncommon. I am still certain these are correct as they follow a clear line back to this point.
I know from 'family knowledge' and some correspondence in the form of letters between Annabella and her daughter (my grandmother) that Robert was one of thirteen children. I have birth certificates for all thirteen kids, and the information on them is reasonably consistent - but with a few anomalies. This is a table of that information.
As you can see - there's some variability on the spelling, and a couple of instances where the date of marriage sways by a couple of days. The biggest question mark is on Alexander's birth certificate, which states his mother's name as 'Rosie'. However, the certificate is of poor quality - if anyone has opinions of what it says, either Rosie or otherwise, please feel free to chip in. I've asked for this certificate to be rescanned at SP. Folks at /r/genealogy are pretty certain it says Jessie, what do you think?
In my opinion, looking at the 13 birth certificates, we're safe to assume that Alexander and Jessie were married on the 13th of Oct 1893 in Kinloss. For arguments sake, I look at the list of marriages in Kinloss between 1880 and 1893 (156 marriages in total, it's a small parish) and there was only one McGregor / MacGregor marriage in that period, and this is the certificate for it. So this certificate seems to say Rosie as well. Opinions?
Normally I would then use the information provided by the age, and the parent's names to look for a birth and / or death certificate. Because there's debate over Jessie / Rosie's first name, I decided to look for a death certificate as it meant I could use the two last names. I know she was still alive in 1935 when Robert and Annabella married, and died some time before Robert's death in 1993 (obviously it would likely be a good few decades before then). Using these search criteria, and the various spellings of McIntosh / McGregor, I came up with only one likely candidate. So this death certificate says that her parents are James McIntosh and his wife, first name unknown, M.S. Webster. This is clearly different from the marriage certificate who stated mother as Jane McKay. The informant on this death certificate is a David E. MacGregor, listed as her son, which fits with Alexander and Jessie's son David, born 1904.
The death certificate also says that Alexander is still alive, so I decided to find his death certificate. My thinking is that if I could find a death certificate that I was sure was him, that had his parents names on it, then I could confirm / deny the parents on the marriage certificate. Not ideal, but we're trying to exhaust all avenues here! So after searching through certificates I find the death of Alexander McGregor, widow of Jessie McIntosh, who died in 1957 in the same area the family lived. The parents listed match the parents on the marriage certificate for Alexander and Rosie, and the death is informed by Alexander's daughter Elizabeth Fordyce - upon checking, it appears that Alexander and Jessie's daughter Elizabeth (b. 1906) married William A.G. Fordyce in 1925. So this is looking highly likely to be the Alexander McGregor in question, and by extension gives back-up to the Alexander-Rosie marriage certificate being the correct one.
From the evidence so far, it seems likely to me that Jessie's parents are James McIntosh and Jane McKay, and that the questioned death certificate is in fact her - the anomaly in parents' names could be put down to David not knowing his grandmother's name (she possibly died before he was born), and assuming her maiden name was Webster as that was his mother's middle name. Opinions on this please?
Still with me? This is where it gets even more fun. So if the above is correct, we're looking for a Jessie (possibly Rosie) Webster McIntosh born c. 1873 to a James McIntosh and his wife Jane McKay. To narrow down the search, I looked for censuses that I could say with confidence were the correct Jessie McIntosh - so I looked at censuses for 1901 and 1911, as these were after her marriage and would have her husband and some of the children on them. I found them no problem, and both censuses state Jessie's place of birth as Fortrose, in the county of Ross and Cromarty, and corroborate a birthdate c. 1873.
There was no Jessie McIntosh born in Ross and Cromarty between 1871 and 1875. There were two Janet McIntosh's born (in 1874 and 1875) but the parents and birthplaces were incorrect. However, there was a Jessie Webster born in Fortrose in 1874, illegitimately to James McIntosh and Kennethina Webster. If you can hear distant screaming right now, it's me - sorry!
Anyway, Kennethina Webster isn't exactly a common name - so let's see what we can do with that. There is only one Kennethina Webster in the 1881 Scotland census; if figure that the most likely option is that Jessie, aged 7, will be with her mum. But Kennethina is listed as single, and living with her mother. There is no record of a Kennethina Webster getting married or dying between 1874 and 1881. Presumably this Kennethina Webster is the same who gave birth to Jessie Webster, so where is Jessie? A search of records for a Jessie Webster dying between 1874 and 1881 also came up blank (which would have ruled out that this is the Jessie we're looking for). I should also note that the only death for a Kennethina Webster in SP is in 1924, and the age matches that 1881 census I found. It also refers to her as 'Kennethina Tina Webster' - just to be safe, I repeated the same searches with Tina Webster and found nothing.
So my next thought after that is that illegitimate Jessie Webster went to live with her father, after all he knew she was his and signed the birth certificate. This would then also maybe tie in with Jessie believing Jane McKay was her mother, when in fact she was simply her dad's wife.
In the whole of Scotland, for the entire period we have used statutory records, there has only been one marriage between a James McIntosh and Jane McKay. This occurred in 1865, 9 years before Jessie was born. For this couple to be the James and Jane that Jessie believed were her parents, it would mean that James had fathered and admitted to fathering a baby as the result of an affair - and has remained married to Jane afterwards. For them to then take this baby into their home and raise it as their own seems almost too fantastic.
Lo and behold, James and Jane McIntosh are on the 1881 census in the correct area, with the correct ages. Their 7 year old daughter Jessie is listed as being born in Inverness. There were two Jessie McIntosh's born in Inverness-shire between 1872 and 1876, neither of these belong to James and Jane McKay. Names known to use to Jessie as a pet name (Janet, Jane, Jean etc.) also turned up nothing.
From the above, I think the most likely answer is that Jessie Webster was born illegitimately to Kennethina Webster and James McIntosh, while James was married to Jane McKay. James and Jane raised the baby as their own for whatever reason, and led Jessie to believe they were her parents. At some point in her adulthood, she was told / found out the truth - hence why she correctly lists her birthplace as Fortrose in her later years, and why her son did not know her mother's Christian name, only her surname. I believe the use of 'Rosie' is a particularly annoying red herring.
Please, please, please pick this apart and find holes in my patchwork and come up with other solutions. What I've come up with seems almost too fantastic, but I know there's some weird family stuff that goes on!
BONUS MYSTERY: Alexander and Jessie's son Alfred Macgregor, born 1911, later went missing after visiting Annabella and Robert and was never heard from again - but that's a brickwall for another day!
EDIT: I've just realised I have a note on file that says there's a 14th child I'm still to find, but I doubt having their details would shed any light on the situation we have above.