By Christine Ewart
I’M NOT sure whether it was fate, coincidence or the stars were correctly aligned but it definitely pays to know a little bit about your personal family history.
A visitor to our Welcome to Langholm tourist shop was enquiring about his Murray ancestors in the area. They were colloquially known as the Black Murrays of Georgefield.
Our visitor Keith Murray of Brisbane, Australia had arrived in Langholm in search of kith and kin.
Our paths may never have crossed but for the help of Margaret Pool who was able to use her expert knowledge on all things about the town and the Murray family in particular.
Margaret and I had recently had a conversation about this family and I mentioned that I thought they appeared in my own family tree.
A quick call from Margaret was all it took to arrange to meet our man and exchange our family tree information.
Keith is a descendant of Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Murray (1748-1811) who lived in Georgefield, Bentpath, and worked for the East India Company.
He married Contity, a native of India, who bore him three children – John, Julia and James Murray. All were born in Kerala, India.
Sadly, Contity died giving birth and the children returned to Georgefield with their father.
Keith is descended from Matthew and Contity’s third child James (1798-1856).
He married Wilhelmina Reid (1799-1879) in Langholm and they went on to have 12 children before the whole family emigrated to New South Wales, Australia.
We found our connection through Wilhelmina’s parents, James Reid and Janet Armstrong, our common ancestors.
The Reid family had six surviving children and I am descended from Wilhelmina’s sister Helen Reid (1802-1864). Or, to put it in simpler terms, we are fourth cousins, once removed.
Our connection is proven further because we share a small portion of the same DNA. We had both uploaded it to Ancestry in the past but neither of us was aware of the other until we met and consequently checked the match list.
This particular flavour of DNA has passed down six generations of my family entirely through the female line until my grandmother, Janet Bell passed it onto my father Billy Bell and Billy’s DNA happens to match Keith Murray’s DNA.
That’s one small DNA match ticked off my list of 702 DNA matches and one giant leap into a whole new set of ancestors to explore.
Keith’s quest to look up some of the Black Murrays, so called because of Contity’s Indian descent, may not have been fruitful but, instead, he found a whole new connection to the Reid side of his family.
It was a superb discovery to learn I shared a common ancestor with a stranger from another continent but one I can now refer to as a black Murray-Reid cousin.
On a side note, the E&L Advertiser’s former office in Murray House in the High Street formerly belonged to descendants of James’s sibling, John Murray.
I’d like to thank Margaret Pool for enabling this discovery to be made.
If you think you are connected to either the Murray family or the Reid family and want to know more, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.