The Graham Letters

How the letters came into my family's possession is fairly straightforward:

Who these Grahams were, and whether they were in any way related to Mary Graham, George Johnstons' wife, is more of a mystery.

There are two candidates for the parentage of the Graham siblings:

Given the naming conventions followed at the time it appears that the second couple are the more likely parents since their eldest son William was named after his father, and their second after Isabella's father George Donald.

The Graham Siblings
IGI references are included where available.

William Graham, parents unknown, born 5 June 1761 at Houghton, Stanwix married Isabella Donald, daughter of George Donald and Anne Mossop, baptised as Bella Donald 24 December 1761 at Dalston, on 17 August 1783 at Thursby [M058731]. Microfiche records at the County Archive in Carlisle indicated that he was a labourer at the time that his children were born in Scotby. He appears as the 'late' William Graham at the time of his last child's baptism in 1802. It is possible that Isabella became a grocer in order to provide for her family after her husband's death. Isabella was the eldest child of George Donald/t and Anne Mossop who married at St.Bridget Beckermet 25 April 1761 [M043021], and had younger siblings Thomas baptised 12 June 1764 and Nancy baptised 16 June 1766 [P001961]. A comment in James's letter of November 1824 implies that even if Isabella was able to read she was not necessarily able to write.

William Graham, eldest son of the above, was born 5 June 1785 at Stanwix [C060191]. In James's letters he is already married with a family by 1824, and there are clues that his wife was Mary Ridley, and that he had a son William (who was judged too young to go out to the West Indies) and it is possible that the child referred to as 'little Mary' or 'little May' in James's letters and 'my niece Mary' in Thomas's letter was his daughter. A William Graham married a Mary Ridley at Brampton 3 August 1809 [M004782]. Since one of James's letters refers to 'Mary's brother William Ridley' the parents may have been William Ridley and Ann Scott, whose children were baptised at Lanercost - Mary 6 December 1783 and William 23 November 1786 [P001921]. However there is no record of a William and Mary born to a William and Mary Graham in the area in the years following 1809, but the 1841 census shows a William Graham aged 30 living in Little Corby nextdoor to David Johnston, my great-great-grandfather, with the occupation of both given as Cotton Dyer.

George Graham, the second son, was born in the parish of Wetheral and baptised 29 November 1789. He appears in the 1841 and 1851 censuses, where his occupation is given as farmer, but his age varies - 45 in 1841 (although ages were rounded to the nearest 5 years), 63 in 1851, and 70 when he died in June 1859. James mentioned that he hoped George was living with his mother in his 1825 letter. Thomas's letter of 1832 was addressed to George care of William Harding at Little Corby, and in 1841 George was shown as the head of the household with William Harding as an annuitant at the same address. George appears as unmarried in both censuses, and in both Mary Johnston appears as a 'servant', although mention is made in Thomas's letter of 'your partner Mary'. A boy, Robert Graham, aged 15, appears in the 1841 census, but the surname may be a coincidence, although James does imply that all three of his brothers had families in his letters of 1825 and 1828.

Thomas Graham, the third son, was baptised in the parish of Wetheral 13 October 1793. He married Elisabeth Hoggarth in Kirkoswald 24 May 1817 [M002111], and they had three children, William in 1818, Peter in 1820 and Elizabeth in 1822. William would have been named for Thomas's father, and Peter for Elisabeth's father who was born in about 1775 in Beetham, Westmorland. Elisabeth died in 1823, and Thomas married again 14 July 1824 [M002111], to Elizabeth Fisher, daughter of Wilfred and Ann Fisher, baptised in Harrington, Cumberland 22 October 1784 [C057962]. The family emigrated to Canada in 1832 from Townend, Kirkoswald, and Thomas's occupation was given as Carter. Thomas died in Choisy, Quebec in 1863. His Canadian descendants are of the opinion that Thomas was the son of John Graham and Jemima Scott of Kirkoswald, who was baptised in 1803. However this would have made him as young as 14 at the time of his first marriage, and would have meant that his second wife was almost 20 years older than him.

Isabella Graham, the only daughter, was baptised in the parish of Wetheral 21 August 1796, but since she does not appear in any of the letters it can be inferred that she died before they were written.

Joseph Graham, the fourth son, was baptised in the parish of Wetheral 30 December 1798. He is not mentioned in Thomas's letter, and although James makes reference twice to a Joseph Graham as one of his mother's debtors, it is done in such a way that it is doubtful that he is referring to a brother. It would appear then that Joseph too died before the letters were written.

James Graham was the last and posthumous child of William Graham, and was baptised 6 June 1802 in the parish of Wetheral. He mentions a Mr.Pitt as his tutor on several occasions, and given the occupations of his parents this appears a little unusual. However there was evidently enough money in the family to pay for his passage to the West Indies and to sustain him there until he found a position on a plantation. His comments in his first letter imply that he had travelled little outside the immediate environs of Scotby until leaving for St.Croix.


Friends and Relations

James meets numerous individuals on his travels and his letters always finish with a long paragraph of requests to be remembered to people back home, so I have tried to track down as many as possible through the parish registers of the area.

Philip Thompson was the son of Ro(w)land Thompson and Ruth Dob(in)son, and was baptised at Scotby 16 May 1802 [C059661]. He was the fourth of their six children and their second son. Rowland Thompson married Ruth Dobinson 24 August 1795 at St.Cuthbert, Carlisle [M055981]. Rowland Thompson was baptised at St.Cuthbert, Carlisle 25 November 1771 [C055981] and Ruth Dobson was baptised 30 May 1775 in Wetheral [C059661].

Thomas Scarrow baptised at Wetheral 16 September 1787 and his brother John baptised 26 July 1789 were the sons of Thomas Scarrow and Jane Ross of Wetheral [C059661].

Mrs.Steel and Miss Steel: Elizabeth Steel baptised 1 April 1804 at Wetheral [C059661] was the only surviving daughter and second of eight children of George Steel and Elizabeth Warwick of Wetheral. George Steel and Elizabeth Warwick were married at Kirklinton 13 July 1797 [M057991]. George, a joiner, and his wife Elizabeth appear in the 1851 census living in Wetheral, aged 75 and 73 respectively, with Elizabeth's birthplace given as Thursby. It is unusual that James asks only to be remembered to Mrs. and Miss Steel, but it is possible to speculate that since his mother and Mrs. Steel came from the same area they could have been either related or childhood friends. Elizabeth Warwick was baptised at St.Giles, Great Orton 2 August 1778 [P001931], the daughter of Guy Warwick and Mary Fidler who married at Wetheral 7 June 1772 [M059661] - so no apparent family connection there!

Joseph and Isaac Bond: It is possible that Joseph Bond was the son of Isaac Bond and Elizabeth Smith, who were married at Kirkoswald 7 November 1770 [M002111]. Joseph was baptised at Kirkoswald 10 December 1775 [P002111].

Thomas and Joseph Sewell: there are two sets of brothers with these names, both baptised in the parish of Wetheral. The first are the sons of John Sewell and Isabella Graham, with Thomas baptised 23 July 1797 and Joseph baptised 20 June 1802 [C059661]. The second are the sons of Thomas Sewell and Matilda Wilson, both of whom were baptised 7 April 1793, although only Joseph appears in the parish record [C059661], with Thomas appearing on Film # 446145.

Timothy Plaskett baptised at Crosthwaite, Cumberland 1 December 1780 [P003011], was the third son of John Plaskett and his wife Isabel nee Sergeantson [Sarginson]. The connection with Mr. & Mrs.Sarginson implied in the letters is probably through his mother.

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