Saturday, October 3, 2009

It Was a Tragedy Nonetheless

The loss of a loved one is always a difficult time in life. When that loss occurs suddenly and without warning, it can be even more devastating. Such would appear to be the case in the circumstances surrounding the death of my 4th great-grandmother, Mary Gaull (nee Christie).

Mary Christie was born on February 22, 1818 in Broomhill, Kintore, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the daughter of Alexander Christie and Mary Divorty. In 1843, Mary married John Gaull, a farmer who was 12 years older than her. John Gaull seems to have experienced success for in 1861, John and Mary were living at Whitehaugh, Chapel-of-Garioch, Aberdeenshire in a house with five windows, certainly more than any of their neighbours could boast. Living with them was their daughter, Mary Jane and their grandson, Mary Jane's son, John Gaull (my great-great grandfather).

Tragedy struck the family however on August 19, 1879 when Mary (Christie) Gaull went missing. Her body, sadly, was discovered at about noon, four days later on August 23rd in the River Don near her home. Her death was registered as a "supposed" suicide, as neighbour Albert Edward informed the local registrar.

An interesting element of Scottish civil registrations is the ability, generally on the basis of an affidavit, for the civil record to be corrected. A separate Register of Corrected Entries was maintained and the original record was marked with a 'margin'-type note cross-referencing the original record with the appropriate corrected entry. And so it was with the death of Mary (Christie) Gaull (or Gauld as it was sometimes spelled).

One of Mary's first cousins was Dr. Peter Divorty (Mary's mother and Peter's father were sister and brother). On September 22, 1879, the registrar accepted the corrected cause of death information as certified by Dr. Divorty. The corrected entry indicated that Mary was "Between the 19th and 23rd days of August 1879 Found in the River Don in a place known as the "Dam Pot," and about 400 yards from the Dwelling house at Whitehaugh parish of Chapel of Garioch and County of Aberdeen" and that the cause of death was "drowning" - not the "supposed" suicide as originally recorded. A family tragedy still but at least one now without an affixed stigma.

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