I bought the album in 2014 at a Glasgow antique fair. Sticking to my own rule that an album must contain at least one clue to its first owner’s identity, this one actually held two clues. That should surely have been enough – except that I am writing this in 2021 after having finally cracked the mystery seven years later.
Clue No. 1 was written on the reverse of a photo of an elderly bearded man. On the opposite page was an image of a woman, probably his wife. (The Victorians often placed photos facing each other when subjects were related.) On the back of the first photo was written “Miss Scott, Lyne of Skene, Dunecht, Aberdeen”.
Curious Fox (https://www.curiousfox.com/) is a free UK message board based on village and place names. I posted my query on the site and not long after received a reply from a kindly stranger who had gone to the trouble and expense of first calling up the 1911 census to identify Miss Scott and then accessing her death certificate. This information enabled me to draw up a comprehensive family tree for Helen Scott (1871-1961), daughter of Alexander Scott and Helen Abel and sister of Magdalene Scott or Low.
Clue No. 2 was a postcard. Post-marked 1911, it was addressed to Miss Scott, Lyne of Skene and included the writer’s address of Ashenwell Cottage, Glorat House, Milton of Campsie. She (I was sure it was a woman) referred to ‘uncle’ and ‘Magdalene’ and signed herself ‘A.R.’ She had enjoyed her holiday and hoped uncle was feeling better.
The local library confirmed that the 1859 OS map showed Ashenwell Cottage in the grounds of Glorat House, ancestral home of the Stirling family. However, the cottage was too small to appear independently in the Valuation Rolls, and searching the 1911 census for A.R. in Campsie was a non-starter. None of the Stirlings was in residence on census night – I found later that the housemaid, Marion Black, was in charge of the house. So I couldn’t access and view the family’s household for those elusive initials.
My search had so far concentrated on properties and had produced nothing. So I went back to Helen’s tree and her maternal family, the Abels. With hindsight, I should have checked off her paternal and maternal cousins and their spouses right at the start of my search. Her maternal uncle, James Abel, had a family of six, and in 1896 his third daughter, Agnes Jessie Abel, had married a game-keeper called George Robb. The couple lived with their three children in the little cottage next to the kennels at Glorat House where he was employed.
I am glad Agnes enjoyed her holiday with her cousin in Aberdeenshire. It would have been good, though, if she had signed her name properly…