Genes Reunited Blog
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This week's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? Followed Annie Lennox's journey into her past where she discovered poverty, illegitimacy and royalty connections in her paternal family line whilst learning the truth about some family myths.
Annie started her journey by visiting her Aunt Jean, where she reminisced about her Grandparents who she knew. Her Aunt showed pictures of her grandparents and great grandparents on her father's side, and Annie was keen to learn more about her g-grandparents, Charles Henderson and his wife, and beyond. When Annie was growing up she was taught hard work and doing the right thing were the family values and she wanted to see if this was instilled within her ancestral line.
On visiting Aberdeen, where Annie was raised, she quickly discovers Charles was married to Jessie (named as Janet) Fraser. Tracing back through the census collection Jessie is aged 3 in the 1851 census which shows her living with her mother, Mary and four siblings, who is described as a Pauper. Sadly Mary is a widower and later dies in 1853 of TB. Parochial board records from 1858 show Jessie living with a Mrs Cruickshank until she was aged 10, when she was deemed as 'no further use...'. There is a further twist when it emerges Mary was illegitimate , the daughter of a solicitor James Rose. Mary lived in poverty, whilst James, a solicitor lived in grandeur employing servants just around the corner to Mary's house. Records indicate that Mrs Cruickshank was James Rose's sister, Jessie's great aunt, but clearly there was no loving relationship between the family.
By 1861 Jessie was working in a flax mill in Aberdeen, across the road from where Annie grew up. Jessie died in 1885, aged just 35 after a life of "tremendous hardship and very few opportunities".
Having learnt about her father's side, Annie is intrigued about her mother's family and discovers her grandfather, William worked at Balmoral as a gillie. By talking to her cousin Shirley, the family story is that William actually danced with the Queen Mother at a staff ball! Annie had heard other family stories stating that William was illegitimate. In fact William was born in wedlock, but his grandmother Isabella had two children illegitimately and had to face the Braemar's Kirk session, a form of religious court to be judged about her morality. Despite facing the court twice, she was clearly a strong character as she stood before the court again to request they pay for the education of her son George.
"I have a sense of the Victorian times here in Scotland," says Annie, "and they were incredibly tough." She believes her own family story helps her better understand why she feels so passionately about poverty.