The Saga of Colin Campbell

What happens if there is an error in an original source document? When Colin CAMPBELL and Margaret MIDDLEMISS married[1], Colin’s father was listed as Peter CAMPBELL and his mother was listed as Elizabeth CAMPBELL M.S. DUNCAN.

A descendant of his[2] gave his mother’s maiden name as ANDERSON which raises two questions:

  1. Could there be another Colin CAMPBELL married to another Margaret MIDDLEMISS?
  2. Could the information in the Marriage Register is a mistake?

First, I checked ScotlandsPeople for his parents’ marriage (Peter CAMPBELL and Elizabeth DUNCAN) between 1876 and 1896 which is ten years either side of Colin’s estimated birth year (20 when married in 1916). This returned no records. This doesn’t rule out the possibility that Colin was illegitimate.

Second, I searched for Colin’s birth record between 1895 and 1897 and restricted it to the County of Lanark where they were married because CAMPBELL is a common name. This returned seven index records, but I had no way to differentiate between them.

Next, I searched for a Census record. The nearest available Census date was 1911 so I searched for Colin CAMPBELL aged between 13 and 15, restricted again to Lanark. It returned a single record[3]: in the district of Milton at 17 Grove Street, Glasgow, that showed a Peter CAMPBELL aged 47, and his wife Eliza aged 46, with children Elizabeth 20, Walter 17, Colin 14, and Alexander 5; all were born in Lanarkshire. This is the same street where he lived when he was married six years later, and I have researched enough of my Glasgow ancestors to know that it was common for families to frequently move and often only a few doors along the street. This could be the same Colin CAMPBELL, father Peter and mother Elizabeth.

I returned to the birth records where two of the seven were in Milton, but one had a middle name and Colin did not, so I chose to purchase that record. This was Colin CAMPBELL[4], born 16 November 1896, father Peter CAMPBELL, mother Elizabeth CAMPBELL maiden surname ANDERSON.

Jean’s father was Peter CAMPBELL, son of Colin CAMPBELL and Elizabeth ANDERSON. I am still not convinced that these two families actually the same people. CAMPBELL is a very common Scottish name, so is Elizabeth and Peter, and Glasgow in 1896 was very densely populated, there could still be two Colin CAMPBELL’s with a father called Peter, a mother called Elizabeth, and a son called Peter.

So, I have not yet answered either of the two questions. My next step is to research Peter to see if he provides any clues.


[1] Scottish Marriage Register, 1917, GROS Data 644/13 10 Margaret Middlemiss and Colin Campbell ( Accessed 22 September 2018)

[2] Adams, GF, Family History Workbook, unpublished, p 99-100.

[3] Scottish Census 1911 644/9 10/7 Page 7 of 35 Colin Campbell ( accessed 8 October 2018)

[4] Scottish Birth Register, 1896, GROS Data 644/8 1527 Colin Campbell ( Accessed 8 October) 2018)



Which Colin Campbell is which?

I love it when people contact me through one of my family tree sites and connect their family tree to mine. This happened a couple of weeks ago through FamilySearch. Jean appears to be my second cousin; her grandmother and my grandmother could be sisters. I say appears and could because I am yet to connect all the source information together.

It begins with Thomas MIDDLEMISS (FamilySearch entry) or (WikiTree entry). He married Jessie Jane ANDERSON and they had six children, Grace Hay MIDDLEMISS is my grandmother and Margaret MIDDLEMISS is Jean’s grandmother.

Whenever it’s possible, I like to fill in all the brothers and sisters for all my ancestors, when I have a bit of spending money and some time to spare. Recently I started to fill in the marriages for the children of Thomas MIDDLEMISS. I added, amongst others, Colin CAMPBELL[1] as the spouse of Margaret MIDDLEMISS, and this is what brought Jean into contact[2]. Jean told me that Margaret had a son Peter CAMPBELL, who was her father.

My method for entering collateral people (those not in my direct line) begins with a marriage record, so for Margaret MIDDLEMISS, I had created Colin CAMPBELL from the marriage record, then continued finding marriages for each of the MIDDLEMISS children. My next step is to return to the new person and fill in their parents, again from the marriage record. I had not reached this next stage when I received Jean’s message.

Next, I made a mistake. I merged my Colin CAMPBELL (L1TQ-4VH) with Jean’s (L1BL-LJF) before I had added Colin’s parents. Too late I discovered that his marriage certificate listed his mother’s maiden name as Elizabeth DUNCAN, but Jean listed his mother’s maiden name as Elizabeth ANDERSON. I had no choice but to undo the merge and begin researching Colin CAMPBELL again from the beginning.

Beginning again / starting over, is a good quality for a genealogist. Sometimes I just need to relearn a pre-learnt skill. I cannot resist a good genealogical mystery. I’ll be back


[1] Scottish Marriage Register, 1917, GROS Data 644/13 10 Margaret Middlemiss and Colin Campbell ( Accessed 22 September 2018)

[2] Adams, GF, Family History Workbook, unpublished, P 99-100

Solemn Grandure

On the ninth of February, 1895, a man known only as a “Special Reporter” described the scene of a recent bush fire, perhaps this was how John Davis may have felt that night.

He wrote:[1]

“Having left Echunga after sunset, I had at least one advantage of travelling in the dark. The innumerable burning logs and trees which mark the extent of the devastation caused by the recent fire presented a scene of solumn grandeur not easily to be described. For many miles in every direction these brilliant glaring objects shone with an intense ruddy light, which, in the deep silence and solitude of the forests, was most imposing to behold.”

It could not be easily described, because to describe something, is to equate it to some similar thing already seen and known. These early Europeans would have been used to seeing a bright star-lit night, something that amazes many modern people accustomed to light pollution. They would not have been used to seeing a brightly lit landscape, unless they had recently arrived from Europe, Adelaide was yet to have universal street lighting. Few if any would have seen fireworks and no one could imagine have imagined flying, let alone the visage of city lights far below.

No, the scene facing this nameless reporter would not have been easily described. It would not have been easily forgotten either. The landscape, many locals escaping with only the clothes on their back,[2]  having lost their entire life’s work, and some who lost their lives. Everything changed, and all in a matter of a few short days.


[1] 1859 ‘MACCLESFIELD.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 11 February, p. 3. , viewed 03 Feb 2017,

[2] 1859 ‘No title’, The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1889), 8 February, p. 3. , viewed 03 Feb 2017,


In 1859, John and Rosa Davis had been married for nine years[1]. had four young children,[2] and lived in Macclesfield, South Australia, a colony less than thirty years old. [3].  In February of that year, a bush fire ravaged the area and several lives were lost.

There are no less than ten contemporary newspaper accounts. The damage caused by the fire was so widespread that detail about individual losses is lost. An Inquest into the fire lists J Davis (among others) simply as houseless.[4] It found, “That the fire originated in a section belonging to Mr. John Heyward, near Echunga, but by what means it was started, there is no evidence to show.”

In 1859 rural Australia, communication was by post and printed newspapers. There were no fire engines, motorised or electrical devices, no weather reports, or warning systems. The Bureau of Meteorology.[5] and even the clichéd outback radio were more than fifty years away.

One can only guess at how this could have been experienced by these European inhabitants.


[1]Australia, Marriage Index,1850, p 160, Vol 14 John Davis and Rosa Sophia Marry Wills ( retrieved 31 January, 2017)

[2] Adams, GF, Family History Workbook, unpublished, p 83.

[3] Tourist Information Distributors, “Exploring Adelaide: Brief History” ( retrieved 3 January, 2017)

[4] 1859 ‘MACCLESFIELD.’, South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1867), 12 February, p. 5. , viewed 03 Feb 2017,

[5] Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, “Centenary of the Bureau, A hundred years young” ( retrieved, 3 January, 2017)

Interview with self

I spent the afternoon writing everything I could think of that I knew about the HARVEY  family. This is the branch I have decided to investigate.

I have purchased an A4 exercise book to keep a written record before anything is entered into the computer. Eek that’s right – pen and paper, that is so 20th century.  I rarely use this method because I like everything at the tip of my fingers, or available in my ubiquitous phone.

I have, however, learned a lesson about losing information to obsolete technology. In this case my back up of last resort is the faithful pen and paper.

Providing it is stored properly it could even survive the Zombie Apocalypse.