Ann Clark, head of the household and wife of Alexander Baird the Blacksmith, was never enumerated as widow in Scotland’s census for 1851 and 1861. I always felt Alexander was out there, wandering somewhere, but contact was maintained with the family because his sons Charles and James marriage certificates did not include the word “deceased” adjacent to Alexander’s name in the parent column. I subconsciously categorised him as a runaway husband. Only recently did I find a death certificate for Ann’s missing husband, however, my excitement at finding it was short-lived.

Alexander was not surrounded by friends or family when he took his last breath in January 1870. His death was registered by a neighbour. Where I expected to see the names of his parents, to fill in the void, the column is empty, just one big space of nothingness. Not only that, there is also the question, which will never be answered, why he walked out on his family. One can only surmise the reason, but perhaps, the answer lies in the future.

In a similar way, Alexander Baird, son of Alexander the Blacksmith and Ann Clark walked out on his family. When retrieving the 1871 census for the family of Alexander Baird the son, and his wife Ann Nichol, there on the page, glaring out at me beside the name of his wife Ann Baird were the words “deserted by husband”. Ann Baird and her daughter Mary Ann, abandoned by their husband and father had taken in lodgers to support themselves.

Probably Alexander the son of Alexander the Blacksmith was forced to marry heavily pregnant Ann Nichol in December of 1846. A month and a half later they welcomed their first-born child John into the world and for the first twenty years of marriage, the couple lived in Old Machar, Aberdeenshire where Alexander worked for the railways. On paper, the census records portray a normal family life, but why or how did it become intolerable that Alexander the son, felt it crucial to walk out on his family?

Using census records to follow Alexander the son’s movements, he returned to the Montrose area and worked as a labourer until his death in a Dundee hospital on 27th May 1898. Unlike the witness to his father’s death, the witness to Alexander the son’s death was able to furnish the authorities with parent and spouse details.

Pondering reasons for Alexander the Blacksmith’s abandonment of his family as well as Alexander the son’s desertion of his family, I remembered the 2003 Obituary I had found for his fourth great-grandson. The fourth great-grandson’s Obituary had two parts to it. Firstly, about the man himself, his education, work, army career and sporting achievements. The fourth great-grandson was very successful.

The second part read: “… Baird was also – Baird. A beautiful woman inside and out suddenly left us. A lover of people and animals, the world will be a lesser place without her. She will be deeply missed by all those whose lives she touched. Her kindness and generosity reached even those who did not know her; a friend to all stray cats and lonely people, she will always be in our hearts. We love you and will always miss you, -. Please join us for a gathering of -’s friends to celebrate her life at …”

Whether I’m correct in contemplating that Alexander the Blacksmith or his son Alexander, had the same feelings as his fourth great-grandson or grand-nephew, who knows, but it certainly seems within the realm of possibilities. And if so, then how lucky was the fourth great-grandson, able to live life on his terms, accepted by his family and society. However, I recalled an incident which made me take a second look at the death certificate for the grand-daughter of Alexander the Blacksmith. There, on the 1935 death certificate, next to the informant’s name were the words ‘intimate friend’. Surely, ‘intimate’ conveys a relationship rather than close friendship?  Whatever the case, as society evolved, the grand-daughter and fourth great-grandson of Alexander the Blacksmith lived life on their own terms.  Perhaps Alexander and his son were victims of the period in which they lived.

The mystery of Alexander Baird the Blacksmith’s lineage continues to frustrate me.  Restricting my OPR search to the Kincardineshire area based solely on the fact that he and Ann Clark married at St Cyrus, scotlandspeople.gov.uk presented these results:

  • 24 June 1798 Garvock: William Baird/Jane Milne
  • 2 May 1803 Fordoun: Alexr Baird/Margt Murray FR 896
  • 1 May 1803 St Cyrus: Alexander Bard/Margaret Murray
  • 10 October1808 Arbuthnott: Alexr Bard – too young to be married in 1823?

Selecting the Baird/Murray record – “Baptised May 1st Alexander Bard & Margaret Murray at Lauriston had a son in fornication (born 28th April) baptised at Fordoun named Alexander” (1 May 1803 – Bard, Alexander OPR Births 267/00 0010 0174 St Cyrus). Presently I’m leaning toward these two as his parents.  Alexander and Ann named their first born daughter Margaret.

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