Solving Riddles…

I have 64 fourth-great grandparents, all with different surnames.  So do you.  Through my searches on Ancestry, aided by DNA testing, and Wikitree, and Gedmatch, I have been able to positively identify 29 of them, all born between 1740 and 1784 somewhere in the UK.

On my recent trip to Scotland I tried to track down something about one of these couples, John Riddle and Margaret Turnbull,  great, great, great, great grandparents on my Mom’s side of the family. (The photo accompanying this post has been identified as being this fine Scottish Borders couple).

This September, I stayed for a few nights in Melrose, a small town in the Borders District of Scotland and site of the Melrose Abbey.   I knew that this couple had lived in that vicinity, having been born just a few kilometers away. Coincidentally, the Crinklaw’s on my Dad’s side of the family also lived in this area.  I have written about them before and showed iconic photos of old Betsy Crinklaw, my third great grandmother and talked about her father’s fabled association with Sir Walter Scott, whose estate still exists and is a tourist attraction a short distance from Melrose.

Melrose Abbey pano 1

Melrose Abbey was built in the late 1300’s and  even when John and Margaret lived in Melrose, part of the Abbey was still in use as a parish church.  They would have walked these grounds.

I had hoped to find a gravestone from the Riddle couple but, alas, that was a bit of a wild goose-chase.  I saw lots of Riddle’s and Turnbull’s in the many graveyards I visited but none housed these relatives. It turns out that the Turnbull name had originated nearby,  assigned to a young man who saved Robert the Bruce sometime in the 1300’s from an attacking bull. He was named Turner of the Bull ( Turn-e-bull, eventually shortened to Turnbull) and given land.  There is even a statue commemorating this event in nearby Hawick (pronounced Hoyik). There is also a little hamlet named Riddell.  The Riddle name gets changed in the records from Riddle to Riddell with the wind so that makes some of the tracking a bit more difficult.

John Riddell Baptismal record

John Riddle/Riddell was born in Hobkirk, Scotland  on December 20, 1784 and baptized there along with three of his older siblings on December 28 (see the handwritten baptismal record)  was a shepherd, living at at Wauchope Farm, near Hobkirk. For more than 30 years he was a shepherd and spent some of his time fathering a large family.   In his later years, he rented a farm  not far from Walter Scott’s Abbotsford.   I was able to find this on old maps and correlate it with new maps of the area and tracked it down. It is now a running track sports field on the edge of Melrose.

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Cavers church.  Site of the church where Margaret Turnbull was baptized in 1777.

Robert married Margaret Turnbull in 1799.  He was only 16 and she was a mature 22.  Margaret was born near Hawick and  was baptized in the Cavers church in 1777.  I foumd that church which is on a narrow road out in the country with rolling hills and grazing sheep surrounding it one Sunday afternoon.  There are still some stones from the original church on that site as part of the building which has been renovated a few times in the 240 years since little Margaret was baptized there.

John and Margaret subsequently had 13 children, one of whom,  my thrice great grandfather, Robert S. Riddell, immigrated to Canada and is buried in Kirkwall Cemetery near Cambridge Ontario (and one concession over from the African Lion Safari).   Others in the family went to New Zealand and through finding DNA links, I have been happy to be able to correspond by email with two of them.

John died at Berryhall Farm on May 9, 1851 at the age of 66.   His wife, Margaret outlived him by 10 years and died in St Boswells, a stone’s throw from Melrose on January 21, 1862.  I have found the written record of her death.

Margaret Riddell death record

I thought I was on track to find them in the Bowden cemetery but got waylaid looking for them in another church yard where there were, indeed, Turnbull’s and Riddell’s but not this couple.  I guess I will have to go back! Many of the gravestones in these burial grounds are covered in moss or worn flat making the task of finding them more difficult.

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This is purported to be a photograph of John Riddle (shepherd) and Margaret Turnbull Riddle.     I have no way of  confirming if this is factual but for the sake of my sanity, I will believe it.                                                                 The photographer is Duncan Menzies, Albert Place, Abbotsford Road, Galasheils, Scotland.                  Photo was taken less than 2 km from the home of Sir Walter Scott and within a couple of kilometres of where John and Margaret lived with certainty (Berryhall Farm,  Melrose).

 

Each one of those 64 fourth-great grandparents gave me, on average,  1.5% of my genetic make up so theoretically 3% of my being is from this couple.  And it is measurable and I can even tell you which chromosomes contain their material. I know for certain that segments of my chromosome 6, 7, 10 and 21 came from them because I share (as do my kids) certain segments of these chromosomes exactly with other descendants of these relatives – too many long continuous segments to be coincidental and we all have confirmed that this couple were remote ancestors.   Fragments on these  chromosomes are specific little bits passed down from John and Margaret, something measurable and finite from these relatives from over 200 years ago that exists within me today.  Although we all know that we inherited our DNA from our ancestors, the fact that it is measurable and traceable and finite is something that for me is quite astounding.

RIddell links

The Geddes name in Scottish history

Maybe it is because I am getting closer to being an historic figure myself that I have become very interested in my ancestral background. In September, I  traveled to Scotland, a trip that was, in part, inspired by the option of exploring parts of the country where my forefathers once lived and roamed.

My trip started in  Edinburg where my first stop, after an overnight flight from Toronto, was at St Giles Cathedral.

Book_of_common_prayer_Scotland_1637I revisited the place where Jenny Geddes (not my niece, the other one) threw a stool (a wooden one, not the other kind) at the Pastor who was attempting to read from the Common Book of Prayer that was being introduced (forcefully) on the Scottish Church by Charles I at St Giles in July, 1637.

Legend (Or “constant oral tradition” as the plaque says) affirms that Jenny Geddes,  a local market woman, picked up a wooden three-legged stool and threw it at the vicar, yelling something like ““Devil cause you colic in your stomach, false thief: dare you say the Mass in my ear? This started a riot, causing the minister to have to flee for his safety and this event is reported to have been the beginning of events that led to expulsion of the Anglican bishops and archbishops, establishment of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and further conflict in the Bishop’s Wars and Wars of  Three Kingdoms (England, Ireland and Scotland) from 1639-1651.

St Giles Kevin

Friendly guide, Kevin at St Giles.

I talked at length with two of the guides in St Giles.   Maybe Jenny Geddes never really existed.  Maybe she did and was a set-up.  Maybe she was a man in woman’s clothing ready to start a riot.  Maybe she really was Janet Geddes.    Regardless,  this July day in St Giles was historic for both the church and the country and today there is a small (modern) monument in the church where the event was said to take place and a brass plaque marking the occasion. Much of the church is still the original 1400’s pillars and bricks.  Kevin pointed out a lot of the architectural details to me and was very friendly and informative.

JennyG
I have no indication that this Jenny Geddes was any relation to me although she likely came from the Geddes clan that originated in the North of Scotland.   I can trace my own tree back to a Charles Geddes who was born in 1520 and lived in Edinburgh. My ninth great grandfather, George Geddes was born on May 17, 1603 in Leith,  a “suburb” of  old Edinburgh, not far from Holyrood Castle and lived in Edinburgh when the infamous Jenny G. caused the commotion.

So this is a story that links me to Scottish Geddes history (loosely) and whether it is true or not, it is fun to hear it told.  53_350x350_Front_Color-NAPatrick Geddes was also an interesting and well-respected biologist, philanthropist and town planner from the late 19th century who is commemorated in several plaques and small streets throughout Edinburgh.  (also no relation except for the shared original Geddes lineage).  The Geddes coat of arms has three fish on it and the name may be derived from the word “gedd” which means pike.  Or, my friend Judith Adam might be pleased to know that it could actually be a derivative of MacAdam (the letter G sometimes representing Mac in Gaelic and “eddie” being a substitute for Adam)

Patrick Geddes 2

So I have started my exploration with some name dropping (I could have also mentioned actress Barbara Bel Geddes or Australian photographer, Anne Geddes ).  This is all the Geddes name exploring I did on this trip but I will be back for sure to dig deeper into that history.  In the meantime I did a lot of travel around the Borders and will document that in subsequent posts about the Riddell’s and the Turnbull’s and the Crinklaw’s.

Here is a little video of my time wandering about St Giles Cathedral.