Brick Walls

For more than 60 years, I have been engaged in extensive research putting together my family tree and have published a website listing 14 of these ancestor trees and 6 descendent charts. Along the way, I have encountered numerous "brick walls", which are genealogical research problems that seem impossible to solve. While my website includes a list of these brickwalls, I have decided to supplement it with this blog. Some of the brick walls you will read here have been resolved, while others have not. My hope is that readers will perhaps have answers or possible different solutions to the ones I have presented.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mary Beith Research Notes

The Problem  There are two possible birth records for Mary Beith.

The life of Mary Beith Many details of her life are known, because of her Poor House Case, filed 13 July 1843.  Born in Campbeltown, Argyllshire, she moved to Paisley, Renfrewshire before her marriage.

Mary Beith and John McKaig were married 22 Jun 1798 (Church of Scotland, Abbey Paisley, Renfrewshire, Parish register for 1798 p.109).  Both of them were "of this parish" at the time of the marriage.  John died in September 1824.  No death has been found for Mary.  She may be the Mary Beith, age 74, but born in Renfrewshire, who was living with the Robert Andrew family in 1841 at 90 Canal St. in Paisley.  That is in the same area as Causeyside, a location mentioned in her Poor House Record.

Mary and John had two children who were named in Mary's Poor House Record:
  1. Archibald McKaig, born 20 Oct 1802 Paisley, baptized 29 Oct 1802 High Church, Paisley (Parish registers for High Church, Paisley 1802). He died after June 1840 "fighting in Mexico".
  2. James McKaig, baptized 28 Jan 1807, Middle Church, Paisley.

Birth Records in Campbeltown  According to Mary's Poor House Record, she was born about 1768 in Campbeltown.  There were two children named Mary Beeth (AKA Beith) who were born in Campbeltown, Argyll, Scotland around the time of Mary's estimated birth.
  1. Mary, daughter of John Beeth and Henrietta Glass was born 6 Apr 1766 (Church of Scotland, Campbeltown, Argyllshire, Parish register for 1766).  Other children of John and Henrietta: Finuel 1757, Henrietta 1759, Margaret 1764, James 1768, poss John 1775.
  2. Mary, daughter of Alexander Beeth and Barbra McLarty was baptized 17 Jul 1767 (Church of Scotland, Campbeltown, Argyllshire, Parish register for 1767).  Other children of Alexander and Barbra: Margaret 1761, James 1763, Hellen 1769, Kathrin 1771, Archibald 1772, Barbra 1775, Alexander 1780.

Mary Beith marriages  There were two known marriages:
  1. John Gray and Mary Beeth 24 Feb 1795, Campbeltown, Argyll, Scotland (Church of Scotland, Campbeltown, Argyllshire, Parish register for 1795).  Their children: Barbra 1795; Margaret 1798; Neil 1800; Ann 1803; Mary 1804; Elizabeth 1805; Catherine 1807; Flora 1810.
  2. John McCaig (AKA McKaig) and Mary Beith 22 Jun 1798, Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland (Church of Scotland, Abbey Paisley, Renfrewshire, Parish register for 1798 p.109).  Their children: Archibald 1802; James 1807 (the only children named in her poor law record, no others found in parish records).

Clues or lack of them 
  • Neither marriage identifies the parents.
  • Neither Mary died at a time when civil death records were available.
  • Both families had children that suggest ties to Alexander and Barbra: Barbra Gray and Archibald McKaig.  The descendants of Mary Beith and John McKaig have a strong tradition of connection to the Clan Campbell of Argyll.  Efforts to prove this connection have so far been unsuccessful.  However, Archibald Campbell, 3rd Duke of Argyll (1682–1761) may explain the appearance of the name Archibald among the Beith family.


  • Mary Beith Gray and Mary Beith McKaig cannot be the same person since the births of their children overlap.  John Gray and the Gray children were not named in Mary McKaig's Poor House record.
  • Mary Gray emigrated to Ontario, Canada with her husband and children in 1832 and died there in 1846 (gravestone). (See Pringle/Kall family tree, Ancestry.com).  There is no evidence that she ever returned to Scotland.
  • Mary McKaig was living in Paisley at the time of her Poor House record in 1843.  She probably died soon after that.  (There are no burial records in any of the Paisley parish records).
  • Mary Gray was age 79 at her death in 1846 [b.c.1767].  Mary McKaig was age 75 in 1843 [[b.c.1768], but in a possible 1841 census record she is age 74 [b.c.1767].  Based on the death age for Mary Gray and the Poor House age for Mary McKaig, Mary Gray should be the older of the two.
  • The descendants of Mary Beith Gray believe that she is the daughter of Alexander Beeth and Barbra McLarty.
  • Were John and Alexander Beeth related?  If so, that might explain why Mary Gray had a brother Archibald and Mary McKaig had a son Archibald.  Another explanation may be the possible connection to Clan Campbell of Argyle.

Summary  Even though one of the Mary Beiths has been claimed by another line, no clear evidence has been found to support either choice of parents for Mary (Beith) McKaig.


Go to Mary Beith in the McKaig-Allan Ancestor Chart


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