Farmer of 15 acres

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unklee
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Farmer of 15 acres

Post by unklee » Tue Jan 07, 2014 11:26 am

Hi, I have come across an ancestor living about 1780 to 1860 in Aberdeenshire who is listed in the 1851 census as "farmer of 15 acres". I note that various acreages are listed for farmers in the censuses, but it seemed as if 15 acres was a very common amount. I am aware that the last (and I think worst) stage of the highland clearances took place in his lifetime, and would have affected how he would have been able to farm.

Does anyone know, please, where this number had any special significance, or is it just coincidence that I have come across a good number of these?

Thanks.

Currie
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Location: Australia

Re: Farmer of 15 acres

Post by Currie » Wed Jan 08, 2014 11:00 am

Hello unklee,

There’s some info about Scottish farm sizes in “General report of the agricultural state, and political circumstances, of Scotland”, published 1818. http://books.google.com.au/books?id=0aI ... J&pg=PA177

For information more specific to a Parish the New Statistical Accounts may be worth a look. http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/sas/sa ... &passback=

Did you have a particular Parish in mind?

All the best,
Alan

Currie
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Location: Australia

Re: Farmer of 15 acres

Post by Currie » Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:35 pm

I almost forgot that you can easily get this sort of information from FreeCen. Just select 1851 and type 15 acres or whatever in the occupation box and keep the number of results under 2000, or whatever it is, by using the county, parish, or other filters. http://freecen.rootsweb.com/cgi/search.pl

From that Scottish farm sizes seem to be all over the place, and 15 acre farms in Aberdeenshire seem to be scattered fairly evenly. Try that at the parish level etc and see how you go.

All the best,
Alan

unklee
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Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 10:52 pm

Re: Farmer of 15 acres

Post by unklee » Thu Jan 09, 2014 12:10 am

Hi Alan, thanks for that information. IT seems you have answered my question, in the negative.

It seemed like there were a lot of "farmers of 15 acres" so I wondered if there was some significance in that amount. But your first reference showed that there were many different sizes of tenant farms, mostly well above 15 acres, and your third reference allowed me to check more accurately for Aberdeenshire, which showed me in 1851:
  • 125 farmers of 15 acres
  • 168 farmers 10 acres
  • 214 farmers of 20 acres
  • 146 farmers of 50 acres
etc.

Numbers are approximate because it is hard to search for all the exact wording used.) But it is clear that 15 wasn't special, probably just closer to bare subsistence than most.

The case I am interested in was Cottown of Badenscoth in the Parish of Auchterless, and it appears Mr Thomas Stephen was a fairly poor tenant farmer - although when he died in 1861 the bank owed him 111 pounds, so I don't know how that worked.

Thank you again. The FreeCEN site was new to me, so that was very useful, and I think I understand his situation in life better now.

AnneM
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Re: Farmer of 15 acres

Post by AnneM » Fri Jan 10, 2014 10:36 pm

Hi unklee. The clearances had very little impact in the North East which has a different history from the Highlands proper. Apart from anything it has very fertile farmland. Does the acreage farmed by your ancestor vary across the censuses?

Anne
Anne
Researching M(a)cKenzie, McCammond, McLachlan, Kerr, Assur, Renton, Redpath, Ferguson, Shedden, Also Oswald, Le/assels/Lascelles, Bonning just for starters

unklee
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Re: Farmer of 15 acres

Post by unklee » Sat Jan 11, 2014 12:26 am

Hi Anne

I have read very little about the clearances, but I had heard that they extended as far as Aberdeenshire, but perhaps, as you say, not as severely.

Thomas Stephen was born in Fyvie (on the property Rothie, so I assume his family were farm labourers there) about 1780, and his first children were born there (1814 & 1816 if I remember correctly - I don't have my notes handy just now). But his next children (1820s) were born in Auchterless, and he appears on the 1841 census as being a crofter at Cottown of Badenscoth, Auchterless, which is actually only a couple of miles up the road from Rothie. In 1851 he is recorded as farmer of 15 acres at Cottown, and he died just before the 1861 census.

My interest is in understanding the social conditions of the day. Many in the family were "farm labourers", which I take to mean workers who owned no farm land, but worked on someone else's land. So I wondered whether "farmer of 15 acres" was a step up from that and indicated ownership, or whether he was a tenant farmer, and whether 15 acres had any special significance. It seems it didn't, though it may have been close to the minimum a family could subsist on.

Thanks.

LesleyB
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Location: Scotland

Re: Farmer of 15 acres

Post by LesleyB » Sun Jan 12, 2014 10:06 pm

Hi unklee
My interest is in understanding the social conditions of the day.

Not quite the social conditions as such, but good backround information for any area of Scotland can be read in the Statistical Accounts at http://stat-acc-scot.edina.ac.uk/sas/sa ... ion=public

Best wishes
Lesley

unklee
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Joined: Sat Nov 13, 2010 10:52 pm

Re: Farmer of 15 acres

Post by unklee » Tue Jan 14, 2014 7:34 am

That reference is certainly full of interesting information, like the fact that one man in Auchterless parish lived for 132 years (from about 1630 to 1780), through the reigns of 10 sovereigns, and married for the second time at 120! One might suspect that this story has been exaggerated, but he reportedly could remember details in his childhood that fitted that age.

Of more direct interest to me is the fact that Thomas Stephen was a crofter, presumably a tenant farmer (only about 8 people owned land in the parish, but they let most of it out to small tenant farmers) earning a subsistence income, yet he had 111 pounds in the bank when he died. A farm labourer would only earn about 12 pound a year according to that source, but this would be in addition to the income they made off their own tenanted land. But saving up 111 pounds looks quite amazing, and one wonders how he managed.

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