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Good afternoon from an overcast, yet still incredibly beautiful, Edinburgh.
This project is not just about a dress. One of the aims of the research is to find out a bit more about the life of Isabella, her husband Malcolm, their parents and children. I find it important that as much as possible is rooted in fact, which is why I have been at this wonderful place today
The National Records of Scotland
The National Records of Scotland are located in a very grand building just across from Waverley Train Station (very handy indeed!). I love the journey into Edinburgh on the train, especially as soon as I clap eyes on the old town!
I did some research on the National Archives’ Discovery database from the comfort of my sofa and soon decided that I need to visit the NRS. I had planned to come a few weeks ago, but also the elements had other ideas and dumped tons of snow on central Scotland.
The folks at the NRS couldn’t have been more helpful. I’ve used archives before, but the grandeur of the building and some very serious researchers looking at some very old documents was a bit overwhelming. Only one of the documents – well two, actually- were available today as someone else had booked the others.
Clan chiefs were pretty good at recording who owed them rent. Unfortunately the vast majority of the Fraser of Lovat Records were destroyed in a fire at Dounie in the 1930s (so I’m told by the author Sarah Fraser), so there aren’t huge amounts of documents relating to the area I’m looking at for this project. However, there are some.
CS96/938-9 are two hard back books from the early 19th century. They contain details of Lovat rentals between 1815-1820 (the full title is the Fraser Family of Lovat and Fraser of Strichen, Ledger Rental and Journal Rental, 1815-1820). My first concern was they might be in Gaelic, but alas thankfully they aren’t; they are in English. The first book, CS96/938 contains information on the rentals of large farms and estates, and CS96/939 contains details about smaller plots (e.g. cottages in Beauly). Tenants aren’t named in CS96/938, but they are in CS96/939. The sheer number of Frasers is amazing.
I decided to have a look for Malcolm Fraser first then widen my search to include where he was born (Bochruben in Stratherrick), where Isabella was born (Ruthven near Torness in Stratherrick), where Malcolm’s father was born (Erchit), and his mother (Achnabat). Quite a few places to keep an eye out for. No luck there.
I spent over two hours scanning through the places and the names, and the only success I had was Isabella’s birthplace – Ruthven.
I am not yet certain if John MacTavish was still working at Ruthven in 1815-1820 (annoyingly deaths don’t seem to have been registered frequently, just births and marriages).
I do not know who the main tenant was of Ruthven (and therefore John’s boss/landlord) at that period but whoever was renting it from Lovat was paying him £63 a year in rent (and 5s 3d for the school teacher’s annual salary and 7s 10d for roads). £63 in 1815 is about £4777 today (according to http://inflation.iamkate.com).
£4777 doesn’t seem much in today’s money, but when you take into consideration that the annual rents from the whole of Beauly – where the average cottage cost £1 5s a year- was £89 2s 2d, you soon understand that Ruthven was not a cheap place to live. Isabella had spent her whole life there until she was married (1760 – January 1785), which indicates that her father had stable employment there.
(Edited to add (22/1/19):
From the marriage record, I have found out that Isabella’s parents John McTavish and Anne McKenzie were both servants of Fraser of Belloan at the time of their marriage, living at Ruthven.
Next week I hope to delve into the 580 items in GD128/13 which may well shed some more light on the Frasers and McTavishes; ‘Frasers of Lovat: legal and estate papers relating to tenants 1670 – 1817’. Although I can’t share any photos of the documents with you, I will let you know about anything I find out about the families.
Edited to add, 22/1/19.
I have found out lots more. To be written about soon.