Helen Smith – Genealogist of the Week

2 Oct, 2017

Helen Smith – Genealogist of the Week

What started your interest in genealogy?

My interest in genealogy was sparked when I was 12 years old and my grandfather related a story about the Arran Murderer.  We were walking along the promenade at Prestwick, Scotland, looking over to the hills of Arran.  He pointed to Goatfell and said that he had a great uncle who pushed someone off the mountain in 1889.  The rest of the family said it was nonsense, but the story stayed with me and I have always been fascinated by it.  It was years later when a programme ‘Murder not Proven’ was  on television and I recalled that this was the same person my grandfather had mentioned all those years ago.   I started to visit local libraries and accessed old newspapers to find out more about the story.  This was in the 1980s – in those pre-computer days.

I had a neighbour and family friend who was tracing his family tree and he helped me with my first ever visit to register house, Edinburgh.  I traced my Laurie family back a few generations and also tracked back John Watson Laurie’s family, but I could not find any connection.  I did find out however, that we weren’t really Lauries at all as my great great grandfather had been born illegitimately and his mother had later married a Laurie.  The census records clearly showed that he was a step-son.

Most exciting discovery?

The most interesting ‘find’ was with my husband’s family tree.  His father had been adopted but his natural parents were always known to him.  I searched and searched for Hugh Gordon who was born in England and by tracing all trees of Hugh Gordons born in 1871 I managed to eliminate each one as being the correct one.   There was also no marriage record for his marriage to Mary Anne Duke, despite this being noted on all subsequent Scottish records for the son.  By searching on first name and occupation I found that he was actually born Hugh GORMAN.  It took a while but often disproving something can go a long way in tracking down the source required.   It was a sorry tale thereafter as he left his wife in a workhouse in Kent in 1872, moved to Scotland with his son and changed his surname to Gordon.

Main interests?

My main interest lies with Scottish research which has resulted in correspondence with people all over the world.  At the moment it is an expensive hobby but once I retire, I hope to dedicate more time in solving other people’s brick walls.

Helen’s Profile

Clare O'Grady