We've written before about researching graduates, and finding ancestors who went to university in Scotland. The University of St Andrews recently launched a digital biographical register. The database covers almost 12,000 students, and is fully searchable. It is based on Robert N Smart's register, originally published in 2004 in print form. Not only is the new version fully searchable, it includes much information beyond students' time at university.
I have strong ancestral connections to East Fife (Ceres, Crail, Abdie and St Andrews), and am also fortunate enough to be a St Andrews' graduate, so naturally I was very interested. I have a copy of James Maitland Anderson's Matriculation Roll (published in 1905), so I was aware that some of my family had studied at Scotland's oldest university. Naturally, I was interested to see if the new register had additional information. I was not disappointed ...
My first search was for David Cunningham Graham, something of a black sheep in the family. I knew from the Fasti Ecclesianae that he was minister of Ormiston from 1911 to 1924. The register entry confirmed that he had studied at St Andrews, and showed that he had studied Latin, Greek, Mathematics, English Literature, Chemistry among other subjects, although oddly enough Theology doesn't seem to have been among his studies. Perhaps that might explain why some 20 years after he graduated, he was declared bankrupt while minister at Ormiston, with some suggestion that he might have been a bit too keen on spending other people's money.
Another entry that was even more revealing was for David's first cousin once removed, Robert Graham. I knew that Robert had been schoolmaster at Leuchars, but later moved with his family to Glasgow and became an accountant. I'd always assumed that he'd switched jobs to earn more money to raise his growing family. It hadn't occurred to me that he may have had other reasons for his sudden career change, as his register entry shows:
So not only do I now know why Robert stopped being a schoolmaster - he clearly didn't have a choice in the matter - I've now got references to some newspaper reports about the circumstances surrounding his departure. A quick check in the Fife Herald for 14 November 1867 leads to the first report:
A few days later, the heritors of Leuchars held a meeting, at which there was only one subject up for discussion - the absconding of Robert Graham (Fife Herald 5 Dec 1867):
Five weeks later, the Fife Herald carries an advertisement on the front page for a "Roup of household furniture at Leuchars" being held by warrant. Robert's victims clearly didn't wait long to try to reclaim their money. In its 20 February 1868 issue, the Fife Herald reported from the Sheriff Court:
Sheriff Court of Fife
Fast-forward two months, and Robert's case is heard by the Circuit Court in Perth (Fife Herald, 16 April 1868):
Breach of Trust and Embezzlement
A quick check of the National Records of Scotland's solemn database reveals that he was indeed declared an outlaw and fugitive on April 13 at Perth. At the time of the 1871 census, his wife Margaret Grant, was living on John Street with three of their children, her sister, and two lodgers. Robert is nowhere to be seen.
He next turns up in the 1881 census, reunited with his wife and two of his children. The family are now living at 9 Ibrox Place, in Govan, and Robert is still at the same address in 1891, although this time without his wife. He was evidently still keen to use his knowledge of maths and numbers generally, as - despite being declared a fugitive for embezzlement - he was working as a book-keeper!
Genealogy and Family History - A mix of our news, curious and intriguing discoveries. Research hints and resources to grow your family tree in Scotland from our team.