Ministry of Peculiar Requests

Tonia Kelly had contacted us for advice on identifying the birthplace of her friend Ralph Greenhorn’s father.  Her email was entitled “Ministry of Peculiar Requests”, as Tonia thought that her request might have been sent there, but it was forwarded to us here in Special Collections.  The main hint Tonia had was that the place was on the outskirts of Glasgow, and was phonetically pronounced PASHERRY.  So began the search…

Tonia lives in Canada and, together with Ralph, she is writing his memoir.  Ralph believed that his father ROBERT ROY GREENHORN was born in Scotland in 1886, and emigrated at about the age of nine.  Ralph understood that his father was a British Home Child, sent to Canada as agricultural and domestic labour.  Following this trail, we looked at the records held on the website of the British Home Children Advocacy & Research Association.  A Robert Greenhorn is listed under Item No. 29365 (Library and Archives Canada, Ref: RG 76 C1b).  According to this record, he departed (at the given age of nine) from Glasgow on 15/03/1889 on the ship Siberian, and arrived at Halifax on 26/03/1889, destined for Brockville, Ontario.  (There is also an 11-year-old John Greenhorn travelling with him – one of around 120 children travelling together on the ship in a party from Quarrier’s Orphan Homes of Scotland – although it is not clear whether this is a relation.)

Of course, as with much family history research, there are some inconsistencies which might require further investigation.  For example, we checked the Canadian census: in 1891, Robert Grunhorn (12 yrs.) is working as a servant, having been placed as an orphan with the Haskins family.  In 1901 (19 yrs.), he is listed as Robert Greenhorn, and he has been adopted by the Haskins.  By 1911 (28 yrs.), his date of birth is given as June 1882, he is still living with the Haskins family, and working as a labourer in a saw mill.  Here, we see quite a lot of discrepancy in this individual’s described age from one census to the next.  However, this does happen occasionally, and for a variety of reasons: people might not have known exactly when they were born, or might not have wanted to be honest about their age…, the question of age might have been put to people slightly differently from one census to the next, and the answers to the questions may not have been given to the enumerator directly by the people themselves, or they might have been rounded down by the enumerator.  With such an example, our advice is to not to be immediately put off by some variation if the age given does not fit exactly with the birth date you already know.    

Then, we set about tackling the mysterious place-name.  Previous experience has shown that place-names can be tricky: for example, one well-known online genealogical database regularly transcribes Paisley as Parsley…  Speaking of which, a colleague had suggested Paisley as the answer here but we decided to keep an open mind.

Thanks to Scotland’s People, the official Scottish genealogy resource website, it was straightforward to locate a record for Robert Greenhorn that provided an answer to the place name mystery.  This Robert Greenhorn was born in Gartsherrie (a district of Coatbridge) North Lanarkshire (Old Monkland - Middle District), in 1879.  It seems that Gartsherrie was remembered as Pasherry!  The document image includes Robert’s full date of birth – 8th June 1879 – and his parents’ names (Norval Greenhorn, a journeyman iron moulder, and Margaret (née Fleming), as well as a date and place for their marriage.  All of this additional information will help with further research.  Indeed, Coatbridge is again mentioned in a record located on Ancestry, another online genealogical database, under the section uploaded by Ancestry’s Public Members, where a headstone for Robert Roy Greenhorn is pictured, with respective birth and death dates of 1879 and 1962.  
The gathering of all of this information helps to build up the full picture.  Another successful case for the Ministry of Peculiar Requests!  
As with all family history research, the key is perseverance: hints, such as a vaguely-remembered place name, are always worth investigating.  If the initial results you find are sketchy, try a different angle with another resource, for example.  Remember to check and verify one record against another as you go, until you can confirm, whether (or not) something is correct.

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