This is a brief account of the family story from 1671 to 1920.
Annie’s family history
The Moirs & Stephens
Beginnings in the 17th century
The earliest ancestors I can find were James Fyfe (b 1671) and Margaret Horn (b 1676) who lived in the small village of Rayne in north west Aberdeenshire. Horn was the name of an important family in that part of Aberdeenshire – for example, John Horn of Westhall was the “superior” (the person to whom small farmers paid tenancy fees known as the “fue”) of Old Rayne about this time – but I don’t know if they were related.
Around the same time, James Moir, one in a long line of Moirs, was living in Tarves, further to the east. The Moir family was quite an important one in Scotland, part of Clan Gordon, and first appearing in the 13th century. However this branch of the Moir family were of more humble origin, being, like most of Jock and Annie’s ancestors, poor farmers or tradespeople.
Life at that time
It appears that society was still semi-feudal at this time, with most people farming small crofts and paying their feu to the major landholders. Life expectancy was only about 40, though if you survived childhood, you could expect to live past 50. Occasional famines were a threat, and several occurred in the 1690s.
James’ son, George Moir (1713-1784) married Jean Fife (1713-1785) – spelling of names was not constant – in Methlick in 1734. It is clear even from this couple’s lives that people moved around within a small region, in this case Foveran-Methlich-Tarves-Rayne, a distance of about 40 km from east to west. They had six children that survived long enough to be recorded.
Their son, also named George (1746-1825) married Jannet Florence (1758-1846), daughter of John Florence and Issabel Walker, who also grew up in the same general area (Fyvie and Culsalmond).
George and Jannet’s son, also George (1790-1871) had a long life (he lived until he was 80) and spent all of it in the vicinity of Methlick. He was a farmer and a blacksmith. He married Margaret Calder (daughter of James Calder and Elizabeth Stephen – a name which re-occurs in this family, but I don’t know if she was related to the later Stephens), who also grew up in Methlick, in 1813.
They had 13 children, several of whom died very young, and the records seem to show that they were very much part of an extended family, “farming” some of their children out to other relatives at times, and at other times taking in other relatives or grandchildren. This seemed to be common at the time, with large families and small houses.
A most interesting character
George & Margaret Moir’s eleventh child, Elspet, was born in 1833, probably at the family home at the farm Little Ardo, just outside the village of Methlick. However it was a large family, and she lived for some of her childhood with her older brother, James, at New Deer.
In 1852, aged only 19, she married John Sangster from Belhelvie (a village close to the coast, just north of Aberdeen). They had three children in 5 years before John died in 1857, aged only 27. His cause of death suggests he had been drinking too much.
Elspet then moved to Aberdeen, for reasons we cannot know, leaving at least one child to live with her parents. In Aberdeen she worked as a dressmaker and shop owner, and had four more children to at least two different fathers, none of whom she seems to have married. The second of these children, Thomas Henry Stephen Moir, later known as Thomas Stephen, was the next in the family line.
The details of these children and the difficulties of knowing who was the father are detailed elsewhere on this site, but it appears that Thomas’ father was also Thomas Stephen, who grew up with his parents, Thomas Stephen and Jean Auld in Cottown of Badenscoth, a small farming hamlet near Auchterless. Thomas apparently left Elspet before the birth of Thomas Jr, and went on to become an Innkeeper, husband and father in New Deer.
The Cadenheads, Gibbs & Robertsons
Beginnings in the 18th century
The earliest ancestors I have found on this line were William Cadenhead and Katharine Cameron, who were born in the early 18th century and lived in the Parish of Craig, County of Angus, something like 80 km south of Aberdeen.
Their first child, also William, married Jean Smith of Old Machar in 1779 – I don’t know how or when he moved to Aberdeen, but this couple became the first of Jock and Annie’s ancestors to live in Aberdeen city. The second of their 11 children, Helen, married William Morrice in 1804.
William Morrice (with several different spellings) came from Ellon, a village north of Aberdeen. He was 12 years older than Helen, but outlived her, dying at the age of 84.
William and Helen’s eldest child, Elizabeth Morris, married Robert Gibb, son of William Gibb and Margaret Bain in 1842 in Aberdeen. William and Margaret were both born in New Deer and lived in the village of Garmond in north west Aberdeenshire, though Robert was born in Aberdeen (need to check this).
Meanwhile, Margaret Linton from Edinburgh and Gordon Robertson from Aberdeen married in the early 19th century and one of their children, Robert Robertson (born in Edinburgh about 1810) married Christian Pirie of Aberdeen in 1831. Christian was the daughter (born 1812) of Joseph Pirie and Jane Duncan, both of Aberdeen, who married in 1811.
Christian Robertson, Robert and Christian’s seventh child became pregnant to Robert and Elizabeth’s son Daniel (the fourth of seven children) in 1871 when she was 15 and he was 18. They married 1 month before her 16th birthday (which was technically illegal) and their daughter Annie Shepherd Gibb was born four and a half months later.
Unlike most other ancestors, this part of the family were not farmers or agricultural labourers.William Gibb was a mason, Robert Gibb a coachman, and both Gordon and Robert Robertson were rope makers.
Daniel and Christine lived in Aberdeen, with Daniel working as a baker and ship’s steward. But then Daniel disappears from view and Christine accompanied one of her children to Durham in England, where she died in 1930.
And so Annie was born
Annie Shepherd Gibb, married Thomas Stephen, a mason’s blacksmith, in 1891 in Aberdeen, and Annie Gibb Stephen was born in 1898. She and Jock married in 1916, and Ron was born in 1918 and Ian in 1926. Annie died in Newcastle, NSW, Australia, in 1986, not long before her 88th birthday.