The early life of Jane Burges Gray
aka Jean Burgess Murray


Jean and Walter Murray My mother was always unwilling to talk about her early life. She was brought up in an age when there was a great stigma to being illegitimate. She did say that she had always wanted to be a nurse and that she couldn't because she was illegitimate. (One presumes the logic must be "bad family", since there is very little the child could have done to avoid it!)

All that my brothers and sister ever knew was that her mother had showed very little interest in her. She lived in her grandfather's house and was looked after by "Auntie Jean". It was long after my mother's death, when I was already in my 60's that I first learned the name of my maternal grandmother: Georgina Gray. Even now, I feel a little guilty in revealing the story my mother kept so hidden.

Summary of information found

In 1881 Georgina Gray was living with her family in Orran Cottage 2, Rathven. She was 19 years old and, like her mother, she was a dressmaker.

In 1883 Georgina's mother died. (Inscription on Rathven churchyard grave)

On 1 Jan 1885 Georgina Gray gave birth to a child Isabella Gray, who was the "Auntie Bel" who was subsequently the matriarch of the Booth family who my parents knew well. At the time Georgina was 23 years old. The father's name was not recorded. The name Isabella is the same as both Georgina's mother and her elder sister.

By the time of the 1891 Census, the child Isabella was living with her grandfather in Portessie. Georgina herself was recorded as a Domestic servant living at the "Mill of Bath Farm". This sequences near the Rathven Village Manse, so is possibly the mill building in Rathven village.

On 3 March 1895 Georgina had a second child Jane Burges Gray. This time the name of the father is given: William Burges. It would be interesting to know why the father's name appeared on the certificate, but there was never a subsequent marriage of the parents.

There are plenty of William Burges and Burgess entries in the 1881 and 1891 censuses for Scotland. However, many of them live much more than 20km away, many are significantly younger or older than Georgina (now 33 years old). The nearest lived at Bellie, which, at first appeared to be 10km distant, but see "New Information" below. He was 35 or 36 years old and his family were unusual in listing their name as Burges in the 1881 census, although they later began spelling it Burgess. The William Burges on the birth certificate is described as a Crofter, whereas William and his father describe themselves in the Censuses as "Salmon Fishers". These two occupations are not mutually exclusive, and salmon fishing is a seasonal affair.

By the time of the 1901 Census, the two girls, Isabella and Jane, are still living with their grandfather at Portessie. Georgina is living in a different house in Rathven as a "Boarder" and is described as a "General Farm Domestic". William, now William Burgess with the extra s, is married to a wife, who is not Georgina. They have two very young children, William and James; they live in Bogmoor.

Meanwhile, for those who like a touch or romance, the plot unfolds with Walter Murray's family moving from Foveran to a house in Buckie at 5 Cathcart Street. Eventually, the two will marry in Buckie and one day I will be born!

One mystery remains. Jane B Gray always said she saw little or nothing of her mother and was looked after by "Auntie Jean". This surely must be the Jane Kerr who lived in the house all this time. This lady is an enigma. She is described in 1891 as a stepdaughter and in 1901 as a housekeeper. Back in 1881 she was a Sewing Maid in the Edinburgh area. To be a stepdaughter to William Gray, she presumably was the daughter of William's wife Isabella. So, why was she called Jane Kerr? Isabella's maiden name was Isabella Findlay and she was described on the register of marriage as a spinster - not a widow or divorcee. If Jane was an illegitimate child then she would have carried the mother's explanation?


Major Error!

After all the above had been written I started to use the 1881 Census to look at neighbours of Georgina Gray. It was only when I realised that the little village of Rathven appeared to contain some thousands of inhabitants that I realised something was amiss. I had always known that Rathven Village sat within a huge administrative area called Rathven. When, years ago, my mother wrote down her birthplace for me, she wrote Rathven. I had always assumed that this meant Rathven Village. I was wrong!

Getting the truth was very hard. At the time of the 1881 Census there were no addresses as we know them now. Most places are unidentifiable. What I did was to work through a large number of consecutive neighbours in the census. Occasionally I would find one that could be identified on the modern 1:25,000 map of the area. From this I could deduce roughly the route the Census Officer had taken. Finally I located Orran Cottages in a hamlet now called Oran at NJ413620 which was 5km from Rathven Village ....and about 6km from William Burges!

See also an early map.

New information

I had assumed that William Burges' family had lived somewhere near the ruined church at NJ353610. I have now been told by his descendant, Sandy Burgess, that they actually lived at Wellheads NJ383602. That means William lived only 3.5km from Georgina along a convenient connecting road! Try clicking the link on the line above and then navigating up and right: you will see Oran on your map.

It now seems extremely likely that William Burgess is a Murray ancestor!

[Cont....Jane Gray's family

Likely relationships | 1908 Map
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