Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Whatever Happened to Jane Turnbull?

Jane Hunter Turnbull was baptised on 2 October 1841 at All Saints, Newcastle upon Tyne. She was the ninth child of John and Jane Turnbull (née Hunter).


Jane's baptism entry.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts. 

The entry says the Turnbull family were living in Shiremoor at the time of Jane's baptism, but I know that to be incorrect. They were actually living in Murton, a small village close to Shiremoor, but not exactly the same place. This was where Jane's siblings were all born, and where the extended Turnbull family had lived for many years. 

Jane's mother died in early December 1846 at Murton, when Jane was only 5-years-old. Jane's father, John, effectively goes missing, and I really have no idea what became of him. He registered the death of his mother in 1856, but he disappears without a trace after that.

On the 30 March 1851, Jane was residing in Earsdon with her elder sister, Margery Barrass, my 3x great-grandmother, when the 1851 census was taken. At this point, Jane is 10.

Margery had married Edward Barrass in 1849. Although she's not explicitly described as Margery's sister, I know she is. In the occupation column she's described as a "House Servant," which doesn't sound very kind. Her birthplace of "Murton," does match that of Margery's though. 

I don't believe that Jane was actually employed by Margery and Edward. I imagine she helped with the upkeep of the house, and helped Margery to care for the children - even though she was only a child herself!

Ten years later, and Jane is still living with her sister and brother-in-law. By 1861 the Barrasses had moved to Howdon, and Jane was 19-years-old. She was again noted to be a "House Serv."

This is the last time Jane can be found for definite. It would be so much easier if Jane had used her middle name, but as she didn't I can only guess and theorise as to what happened next...

In 1869 Jane Turnbull married Charles McKinnon at Newcastle. Charles was the son of Donald and Catherine McKinnon (née Campbell). He was born in 1841 in Walker, just outside of Newcastle. Although I do not yet have the marriage certificate to check, I know that Jane's father is named as John Turnbull.

In 1871, the McKinnons are living in Thornaby, not far from Stockton and Middlesborough. They have two young children, Kate and Donald, who were both apparently born in Walker. 

Jane's place of birth is interesting, as it states she was born in Newcastle, which of course wasn't true. On later census returns her birthplace is started to be Earsdon (very close to Murton), and Tynemouth, although her age is incorrect on the latter one.

A quick look at the newly improved GRO index shows the two McKinnon children. Catherine Jane McKinnon was born in 1869, and Donald was born in 1870. Both children were registered at Tynemouth, which would make sense. Both Catherine Jane, or Kate, and Donald's birth registrations note that their mother's maiden name was Turnbull.

Margaret Ellen McKinnon was born in 1872 while the family were still living in Stockton. She sadly died the following year, by which time the McKinnon family had moved back to Tyneside. Charles and Jane also lost their eldest child, Kate, around this time. She was 4-years-old.

The McKinnons' fourth child, James Turnbull McKinnon, was born in 1874 at Howdon. As was Malcolm, who was born the following year. 

After Malcolm's birth the McKinnons seemed to have moved back down to the Stockton area. Elizabeth McKinnon was born there in 1878, but by 1881 the family were back living in Tynemouth.


Jane McKinnon died in 1899 at Tynemouth - but was she really the missing Jane Hunter Turnbull? I think she was.


There are a few clues which hint that my theory is correct:

Jane's birthplace. Although it varies, it makes sense.
- Earsdon is very close to Murton. Historically, Murton was in the parish of Tynemouth, however, so it makes perfect sense for Jane's birthplace to be written as both places. We'll just forget the little Newcastle blip.

Their first child born in Howdon was named James Turnbull McKinnon in 1874. Is it merely a coincidence that my Jane's brother James ran a pub in Howdon?
- Could Charles and Jane have been living with James and his family when their son was born? 

Margery Barrass, Jane's elder sister whom she lived with for so long, was the tenant of the Hartley Arms in New Hartley in later life. She took it over after her husband Edward died in 1884. Margery was a popular landlady and host, and had a reputation as a very kind and genial lady. When the 1891 census was taken, Margery was living with one of her sons, a grandson, two boarders and a servant. 
- One of the boarders was Donald McKinnon, a 22-year-old labourer who was born in Walker. Conveniently, Charles and Jane's son Donald was missing from their home on that night. Was he staying with his Auntie Madge in New Hartley?

Hopefully one day in the future I will discover what happened to Jane Hunter Turnbull for definite. Until then, I will carry on believing this version of events. 

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