Last night's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? featuring singer Annie Lennox was of particular interest to me due to its focus on the north-east of Scotland. Regular readers of this blog will know that that is where many of my ancestors are from. In fact, Annie discovered a Mrs. Cruickshank, who shares my surname. However, since this is a very common name in that part of the world I am sure there is no connection, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Annie began her WDYTYA? journey looking for details of her great-grandfather Charles Henderson. She first searched for his birth certificate, which revealed that his father was James Henderson and his mother Jessie Henderson nee Fraser. Annie decided to focus her research on her great-great-grandmother, Jessie.
After initially drawing a blank on the census records she soon discovered that Jessie's real name was Janet. Name changes such as this were actually quite common, which is useful information to have if you are searching for Scottish ancestors.
The 1851 census showed Jessie (Janet) living with her brothers, sisters, and mother in Banff. They were listed as paupers. Further research revealed that Jessie's father had died only a couple of months before the census took place.
By the time Jessie was five in the mid 1850s she had been orphaned. Records showed that at the age of ten she had been sent to live with a Mrs. Cruickshank. This is the point at which the mystery of Annie Lennox's ancestry really began to take shape. To cut a long story short, Jessie's mother Mary was illegitimate. Mary's father, James Rose, was a solicitor, and of a higher class than Mary's mother. He chose to marry someone else rather than taking responsibility for his daughter. Astonishingly, the census records showed that in 1851 he lived literally around the corner from his daughter and grandchildren. While he lived in comfort, they were living a life of hardship as paupers.
Baptismal records from the 1790s revealed that James Rose had a sister, Ann, who went on to marry a John Cruickshank. This then was the Mrs. Cruickshank who Jessie was sent to live with when she was ten. Annie Lennox speculated that this was simply a convenient arrangement, with Jessie working for her keep, rather than as a result of Mrs. Cruickshank feeling any love or kinship for her great-niece.
Annie then continued her research to find out about Jessie's later life. The first record found was of Jessie working in a flax mill in Aberdeen at the age of thirteen. Next was the 1871 census, which showed that she was married with a child, Annie's great-grandfather Charles. She went on to have three more children, but then died in 1885 at the young age of thirty-five.
This account is only half of Annie Lennox's Who Do You Think You Are? story. The second half of the program involves more illegitimacy, meetings with the kirk elders, and dancing with the Queen Mother at Balmoral. The episode can be viewed on the BBC iPlayer here.