James Rae 1804-1872

James Rae was my 3rd great grandfather and I don’t have a huge amount of detail on his life.  When it comes to tracing my family tree I’m very easily sidetracked. This seems to happen whenever I start looking at James.  But for now he has my full attention. I’ll start with his death on 5 March 1872 when he was 68 years old.  I’m starting here because his death record is the best source of information that I have. It tells me that he was illegitimate and that his mother was Isabella Wishart.  That being the case, why does he have the surname Rae? I don’t have a birth record but census records show that he was born in Penpont, Dumfriesshire.  I have never been there but I’ve seen pictures and it looks like a lovely little village. The first real record I have for him is the 1841 census.  By then he was married to Grace Halliday and they had seven children.

  • Robert (born 1827)
  • Isabella (born 1832)
  • Thomas (born 1834)
  • Hebron (born 1835)
  • Andrew (born 1838)
  • Grace (bon 1840)
  • John (born 1841)

Could their first child have been named after James’ father?  Grace’s father was Charles so they may not have stuck with family naming traditions.  Both mothers’ names were used however. Their eighth child, William was born in 1845.  James was working as a coal miner and the family were living in Carluke, Lanarkshire in a coal miners cottage. By 1851 they were in the Parish of Dalmellington in Ayrshire and James was still working in the mines. Robert, Andrew and young Grace were also recorded as coal miners.  A 14 year old girl!  Isabella had married and she, her husband, Andrew Brown and their son, William were also living in the house.

In 1861 John and William were the only two of the children living at home and both had followed their father’s footsteps into mining. Isabella and Andrew had gone but their two sons William and Andrew were living with James and Grace.

Ten years later both sons are still with James and Grace and by now the two grandsons were old enough for mining. Inevitable I should imagine. That is all I have so far on James.  He died of ‘senile decay’.  Worn out by years down the pits. I want to know the start of the story so I’ll have to keep digging.  I want to know about Isabella and why James didn’t have her name.  Was he in fact born in Penpont or maybe in Ireland as one census states?


Moving away from Scottish records I have found a birth record for a James Rae whose mother was Isabella Wishard. The year was 1804 which fits. He was not, however, born in Penpont but in Arthuret, Cumberland which is across the border in England! The father of this child is Benjamin Rae. Arthuret is not that far from Penpont so this could be right but I can’t say 100%. There is no other Benjamin in the Rae line. It’s possible he didn’t know his father. I’m still trying to find out about James from birth to the 1841 census. And now I need to know more about Benjamin Rae.

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