The curious story of Mary McFadyen and her mother


When my grandmother died, we found an old marriage certificate from 1882, for the marriage of her grandparents Mary McFadyen and James Walker. Mary McFadyen’s mother was Hannah McFadyen m.s. McKendrick, and her father was given as Allan McFadyen. The thing that intrigued me about it was the words “Married in her stepfather’s name”. I was determined to find out who her real father was. Along the way I found out a lot more.

Mary’s son, William Walker, had married Janet Flockhart, but we had no certificate, only a confirmation issued by the minister at a later date that the marriage had taken place - the certificate must have been lost. When I looked up the original marriage certificate in New Register House, I discovered that William’s mother’s maiden name was given as Cameron. But could I be sure if this was correct? Would her son have known her maiden name, when she seemed to have been raised by a stepfather? And even if it was correct, I still didn’t have her father’s christian name.

It wasn’t too difficult to locate the death certificate for Mary’s mother Hannah McFadyen, widow of Allan McFadyen, in 1900. Her father was given as David McKendrick, and her age 55 making her birthdate 1845.

I then looked for her husband Allan McFadyen’s death, finding it four years earlier, and discovered that he had previously been married to Eliza McEwen. I discovered she had died in 1969.

In the 1891 census for Catrine in Sorn Parish, Ayrshire, I found Hannah aged 73 (giving a birthdate of 1818), wife of Allan McFadyen aged 70 from Ireland. With them was a daughter, Elizabeth - a widow aged 29, and a grandson David Boyce. From Elizabeth’s birth, when her surname was given as McFadden, I found she was Allan’s daughter from his previous marriage to Elizabeth McKeown. David Boyce was Elizabeth’s daughter, and his father had died shortly before he was born.

It was more difficult to find the family in 1881, since they were listed under McFadzean, and Hannah’s name was given as Ann. I did find them, however, living in Dalmellington in Ayrshire. At this time Mary was living with them, but Elizabeth was not as she was married.

It was interesting to find out a bit about Allan McFadyen’s family, but I was really interested in finding out about Mary and her parents.

Ages for Mary were consistently giving her birthdate as 1864. I looked up the Mary McKendricks around this time, as I thought she might be illegitimate, but could not find her. I tried Mary Cameron, but there were so many that I quickly gave up.

I spent the next few years stuck at this point. Every time I went to New Register House I would look up Mary Cameron on the computer and feel frustrated that there were so many.

I wasn’t having any more luck with her mother, Hannah, whose ages gave birthdates that varied from 1818 to 1845. Also I didn’t have her mother’s name.

This summer, I visited New Register House for an afternoon, and didn’t expect to find out anything about this family. But I decided to try something different. I knew Mary had died between the 1891 census and her son’s death in 1958. It was a long period to search, and I didn’t hold out much hope. I decided to do a joint search under her married name Walker, and her possible maiden name Cameron, which was less likely to have spelling variations than McFadyen or McKendrick.

After a long search, I found the death of a Mary Park Cameron/Walker in 1943. I looked up the certificate and it was her. She had died within my aunt’s childhood. Mary’s father was Thomas Cameron, a shoemaker. I was immediately able to find her birth. I would previously have ignored the birth of a Mary Park Cameron as I had no evidence of a middle name. She was born in 1863 and her parents had married two years previously. So she wasn’t illegitimate!

Looking up Hannah McKendrick’s marriage to Thomas Cameron, I had trouble finding it. The only likely candidate was a Hannah Shields. I looked this up and was astounded to discover that Hannah was a widow! So she was married three times!

Hannah’s mother was Mary McKendrick m.s. Park. She died of asthma later on in the same year that Hannah married. Since I have asthma, I may have inherited it from her!

I had tried unsuccessfully on a number of occasions to find Hannah’s marriage to Allan McFadyen. I knew they must have married between his wife’s death in 1869 and the 1881 census. It was getting to the end of the day and I wasn’t concentrating - I went right past 1881 by mistake. I reached 1896 and found the marriage of Allan McFadyen and Hannah McKendrick. I looked it up and it was them. So for at least 15 years they had been living together, calling themselves husband and wife, when in fact they were unmarried! Since Allan died later in 1896 after suffering from Chronic Bronchitis for two years, it may be that they married because he was dying.