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I am looking for birth/baptism details of my mother’s paternal great-grandmother and her great-great-grandmother, if possible. Ellen MILLAR was born about 1852 in New Abbey Village, Kirkcudbright. She married (as Helen) Peter THOMPSON on 17th August 1877 and died on 5th July 1922. She had children including an illegitimate child, Stitt, who is my great-grandfather. On Ellen’s marriage certificate she states her mother was Helen MILLAR and William RICHARDSON was her ‘reputed father’.

The problem is that the only Helen MILLAR I have been able to find in this area is a Helen McNOE who married a James Millar in 1837. She was born in Gibraltar. Is this Helen McNOE the same as a Helen Shaw McNOE who married a James MILLAR on the same day? According to a great-great-granddaughter, Helen Shaw McNOE had the following children: Elizabeth, Mary, and William. Helen McNOE, meanwhile, is listed as having children as follows: Jessie c1835, two years before marriage to James; William 1841; James 1846; Agnes 1848; Helen c1852; and possibly a John in 1856.

I do hope you are able to shed some light on this matter.

Marion Wigginton


If we look at your problem logically and chronologically this make it much easier to see where research should lead. Ellen (Helen in 1881) and her children are all identifiable in the 1881, 1891 and 1901 census returns, and with Peter, her husband, in 1881 and 1891. The ages are reasonably consistent in all the returns, giving dates of birth for Ellen as 1851–53, Stitt as 1873–76, James as 1878–1880 and Peter junior as 1888–89. Ellen’s place of birth is always New Abbey, Kircudbrightshire.

The starting place for any Scottish research is the Scotland’s People website ( This site includes indexes to: the Old Parish Registers (OPRs) 1553–1854; the Statutory Registers of Births (1855–1906), Marriages (1855–1931) and Deaths (1855–1956); census returns 1841–1901; and various probate records.

Ellen/Helen’s marriage certificate had shown that she was the illegitimate daughter of William RICHARDSON and Helen MILLAR and the census returns had indicated that she was born about 1852 in New Abbey. The only entry in Kircudbrightshire in 1852 ±2 is a Helen, daughter of James MILLAR and Helen McNOE, who was born on 9th March 1852 – and this is in New Abbey. If this is her, then the information on her marriage certificate – ‘reputed father William RICHARDSON’ – is at least intriguing but possibly simply incorrect.

You have referred to the marriage of James MILLAR and Helen McNOE on 22nd November 1837; also to the marriage of James MILLAR and Helen Shaw McNOE on the same day. I do not know where this second entry came from but it is only the first that appears in the Old Parish Registers. Possibly the 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 census returns could resolve the questions that have now been raised.

In 1841 we find: James MILLAR, 45, labourer, born Kircudbright; Ellen, 25, not born Kircudbright; Jessie MILLAR, six, not born Kircudbright. In 1851 the family is: James MILLAR, 57, pauper, born New Abbey; Helen, 31, born Spain; with children William, ten, James, six, and Agnes, three. 1861 gives: Hellen (sic) MILLAR, widow, 44, day labourer, born Gibraltar; and children Hellen, nine, John, six, and Janet, six. In 1871 there is only Helen MILLAR, 63, agricultural labourer, born Gibraltar.

With the exception of Janet and John, entries in the OPRs confirm these children and add a couple of others: Elizabeth, born 22nd September 1839; William, born 15th August 1841; Mary Bairden, born 13th February 1844; James, born 18th May 1845; Agnes, born 29th January 1848; and Helen, born 24th March 1852. Therefore there is little doubt that Helen Shaw McNOE and Helen McNOE are the same.


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