Blanks, Missing Records, and Other Defects ..

So what happens when the family researcher comes up with a blank, when the search engines return a ‘nil’ response?

The reaction can be unsettling to say the least.  But sometimes the way out is a simply email.  When I could not find a marriage certificate I finally contacted the national actives.  The result was welcome but also gives some insight why your best attempts to locate the missing data are not without good reason.

Read more here.


Why Immigrate to NZ

I have rewritten sections of James Ford: New Zealand page.

I have rethought several matters and tidied up a number of others.

The important addition to the research is the significance that the evangelism of the recently formed (1843) Free Church of Scotland had on a young James Ford.  The claustrophobic conditions created by the industrialisation of labour around the Glasgow area of Scotland could only have served the visionary gentlemen of the Free Church to promote far away places as places of refuge.

The Wright Inheritance

In writing a historical story one is continually confronted with the changing nature of the material accessed.  As a result of new information being accessed the story itself must change.  Following my recent purchase of the publication by J.R.D. Campbell, Clyde Coast Smuggling, I have found it necessary to review any number of historical facts concerning James Ford’s father, Samuel Ford.

The information provided by Campbell has alerted me to readjust the location of Margaret Ford’s residence at the time of the 1841 Census.  Not only have I had to rethink my previous assumptions, but the valuable information concerning the distribution of the ‘feu plan’ of 1781/2 confirms what I had hitherto suspected, that Samuel Ford’s marriage to Margaret Wright had important social and economic implications.

For instance, the fact that the ‘feu plan’ confirms that One Thomas Hunter was given a plot of land along Stuart Street which tallies with the record of the 1841 census where Hunter, now aged 79 is still in residence, supports my readjustment of the Ford’s residence on Stuart Street.

Further, Campbell’s publication confirms that the residence occupied by the now widowed Margaret Ford and her family was initially granted to Alexander Wright, grandfather of Margaret Ford.  Remembering that Margaret Ford’s father, Robert Wright was the son of Alexander Ford and a mariner on the revenue cutter the Royal George, it appears and is probably true, that Alexander Wright bequested the property to Samuel Ford on his marriage to his son’s sister, Margaret Wright.

Such benevolence would explain why an otherwise unknown quarry labourer came to be known a feuar, an owner of property in Millport.

The full details can be found on the page The Wright Inheritance.

Revision time

I am re-writing the life of James Ford; Island Footprints.

In The Story Behind the Story of Samuel Ford I have outlined my reasons for thinking James’ father, Samuel Ford came to Millport courtesy of the revenue cutter the Royal George.  Others may disagree and are free to reach their own conclusions about such matters.


Some correction

Researching family history is challenging.  Certainly, it is rewarding but other times can be frustrating and then at other times downright embarrassing.

I find I have made a huge error.  Backtracking through my records I realised things did not add up.  Collecting birth dates for the family of James and Elizabeth Ford I ‘suddenly’ found I had three of their offspring born in Wellington, not two.  I checked, and indeed James and Elizabeth raised three daughters in Wellington, New Zealand.  Janet Muir Ford (1865), Mary Ford (1866), and Margaret Ford (1867).  And here I was all the time thinking only two daughters were born in NZ.  How could I have made such an error?

I made the error because the birth certificate of Robert Muir Ford, James and Elizabeth’s fourth child born in Ballarat, Australia, clearly indicates that only Janet and Margaret were siblings of the newly arrived Robert Muir Ford (see birth certificate below).  There is no mention of Mary.

It will also be noted that the said birth certificate indicates that James and Elizabeth were married in May 1854.  The correct date of their marriage is 11 May 1864.

On the other hand, how can I be sure that the James Ford born to Samuel and Margaret Ford in Millport, Scotland is the same James Ford who married Elizabeth Muir in Waikouaiti (Otago) in New Zealand?  Where is the continuity in the record?

There is a record in the 1851 census of Scotland of a James Ford, aged sixteen, living at Kilmarnock and working as a wright (carpenter).  Fortunately, the census record also includes his place of birth, Millport and his age, given the times, fits within an acceptable allowance of his recorded birth in Millport in the last week (27th) of December 1834.

How then to link the James Ford at Kilmarnock with the James Ford who married Elizabeth Muir in New Zealand?  For one thing, there is no record I can find of James Ford in the 1861 census.  He could be anywhere.  Unfortunately, the New Zealand marriage certificate is no help in assisting with continuity with the past.

But we can establish continuity with James Ford and Elizabeth through the Australian birth certificate for Robert Muir Ford, their son born in Ballarat.  Allowing for the errors in this particular certificate as noted above, here we find that Robert Muir Ford’s father, James Ford, aged 34, was a carpenter and born in Millport.  The recorded age is within acceptable limits.  It might be noted that Millport, which was in Buteshire at that time, is recorded as being in Ayrshire which perhaps more reflects local custom and acceptance.  For the record, Cumbrae became part of Ayrshire in 1975.

Robert Muir Ford’s Australian birth certificate. 

Elizabeth Muir is recorded as 24 years of age coming from Greenock, Scotland.  Her age confirms that she was, in fact, a ‘minor’ when she married, as recorded on the New Zealand marriage certificate.

This is clear continuity with James Ford born to Samuel and Margaret Ford in Millport in 1834.

To date, I have not discovered how James arrived in New Zealand.  Like his siblings who left Millport for the colonies, he probably paid for his ticket.  In a time before government bureaucracies were given the task of recording the day to day activities of their citizens unless someone at sometime has kept a record of fare-paying passengers arrivals there are no other means of establishing James’ arrival in New Zealand.  If he had come through as an ‘assisted passage’ there would be some government record.  I can find no such record.

Similarly, I can find no record of James sailing from New Zealand to Australia.  The next record we have of James is when his son Robert Muir Ford is born in Ballarat.


Copyright John Ford 2018.