In this first selection, what first caught our attention was a series of receipts from Crichton Royal Institution in Dumfries for the care of Mrs McMURDO. The Crichton was a pioneer in mental health care, and in its day it was one of the most renowned psychiatric hospitals in the world. It was one of the first institutions to introduce art therapy, and the hospital's records - currently being preserved and catalogued by a dedicated team of researchers and volunteers - include patient artworks as well as more conventional medical and patient records. You can read all about the project here. (Opens in a new window)
The next document is an 1822 baptism certificate from Edinburgh for Marion Jessie CORRIE, daughter of Thomas CORRIE WS (Writer to the Signet) and his wife Clementina Blair ROSS. This is a printed slip with the details completed by hand (by one Robert BONE). Such slips were regularly issued by many parishes, although being ephemeral, relatively few of them survive.
The collection also contains a number of receipts, including one from 1888 for £2 19s 2d from Brandon’s Limited of Oxford Street in London, a self-described “fashionable millinery establishment”. Another receipt was for Poor Rates for the parish of Troqueer levied in 1897 on a Mrs M J MCMURDO. This was clearly a well-to-do family.
Given the fairly uncommon family name – McMURDO – we wondered if there was any connection to Admiral Archibald McMURDO, after whom McMurdo Sound in Antarctica was named. A little bit of digging confirmed our suspicions. Admiral Archibald William McMURDO’s death record  shows that he had been married to Marion Jessie CORRIE, and that his parents were Archibald McMURDO, an army officer and Catherine McMurdo WILSON. Archibald McMurdo senior died in October 1829 in Dumfries, just a few weeks after Catherine Martha Wilson/McMurdo’s affidavit about her son’s birth. One possibility is that this affidavit may have been drawn up to allow Admiral McMurdo to inherit his father’s estate of Cargenholme in Troqueer.
We looked online and found quite a number of family trees with Archibald MCMURDO, and almost all of them claim he was born in 1812, as indeed does his Wikipedia entry. Some of the trees also give the wrong set of parents (John James McMURDO and Emily FLOWER: John James McMURDO died in Edinburgh in 1867, and his death was officially registered by Admiral Archibald, who was in fact his brother, not his son).
Taken together, these documents offer several important lessons for family historians and genealogists:
- Some events – such as the birth and baptism of Archibald – may simply not be recorded, or they may be recorded in unexpected places - in this case it's possible that there is some trace of the Admiral's birth in the Episcopal Church's records, although the affidavit and a search of various archive catalogues suggest otherwise.
- The use of alternative sources, such as family bibles, can help overcome barriers to research. In this case, there appears to be no surviving church record of Admiral McMurdo's birth and baptism.
- Perhaps most importantly, the golden rule of genealogy: you should always cite and check your sources. We found fifteen family trees online with the Admiral: 14 of them gave his date of birth as 24 September 1812 without citing a source for the date. One researcher did give what we believe to be the correct date of 24 August 1810, although unfortunately without citing his or her sources.
Old Scottish will always properly cite sources so that you can follow our research. Why not get in touch to see if we can help you discover your own Scottish roots?