But which parish was it in…?

About a year ago I was looking at my Edinburgh-Irish Flynn ancestors and trying to fill in some gaps in the story by looking at all the birth and death records relating to the family. One of the certificates that I downloaded from the ScotlandsPeople website was the birth certificate of my great great uncle, Charles Flynn who was born on 20 May 1868.

His birth was registered by his father, John, a few weeks later on 4 June. The registrar, John Milne, recorded Charles’s place of birth as ‘East Craigie Cottages parish of Cramond’. I was a bit confused by this as my grandfather, also Charles Flynn, was born at the same address, 30 years later, and I knew that East Craigie was on the other side of the River Almond from Cramond, in the parish of Dalmeny. Not only was it in a different parish, it was in another county. The River Almond formed the boundary between the counties of Midlothian (also known as Edinburghshire) and Linlithgowshire (or West Lothian).

Birth certificate of Charles Flin [Flynn], East Craigie, Cramond. National Records of Scotland, 1868 Cramond 679/33

So, why does the 1868 birth certificate indicate that East Craigie was in Cramond parish? Or, to look at it another way, why, if East Craigie was actually in Dalmeny, did the Cramond registrar register the event? Surely he should have pointed Charles’s father in the direction of the Dalmeny registrar.

Other than posing the question on Twitter, I didn’t really give the matter much more thought, but then a few days ago, I noticed something on the National Library of Scotland’s maps website while looking at their boundaries viewer. The easternmost part of the county of Linlithgow/West Lothian – the part that included East Craigie – appeared to be part of Cramond parish. Cramond, in other words, seemed to extend over the River Almond and into Linlithgowshire. At least it did with the ‘dates of boundaries’ tool set to 1840s-1880s. If I moved the slider to the next available setting – the 1950s – the boundary of Cramond parish adjusted itself to follow the course of the River Almond.

National Library of Scotland – Boundaries viewer showing country boundaries (blue) and parish boundaries (red).

I checked a few more sources and quickly found confirmation that this part of Linlithgowshire had indeed once formed part of the parish of Cramond. The 6- and 25-inch Ordnance Survey maps published in 1856 showed the boundary between the parishes of Dalmeny and Cramond starting at the mouth of the Cockle Burn just to the east of Dalmeny House and running southwards across Dalmeny Park until it met the Queensferry Road before heading south-east to cross the River Almond at the old Cramond Bridge. On the 1857 1-inch map, the initial letter of the parish name was even printed within this section. The words ‘East Craigie’ can clearly be seen just above the letter ‘C’ of Cramond.

Ordnance Survey one-inch to the mile, Scotland, 1st Edition, 1856-1891. Sheet 32 (detail). National Library of Scotland

The entry for the parish of Cramond in the New Statistical Account of Scotland (published in 1845) simply states (in the section headed ‘boundaries’) that the parish was ‘bounded on the west by the parishes of Kirkliston and Dalmeny’ but then, in the following section on the botany of the parish it mentions:

The portion of the parish which stretches along the sea side from Wardie burn to the Cockle burn in Dalmeny Park

New Statistical Account of Scotland – Cramond, County of Edinburgh, NSA, Vol. I, 1845 p.590

I also found the family of Charles Rintoul listed in the 1861 census at East Craigie Farm: his 7-year old son, Robert, is recorded as having been born in ‘Linlithgow Cramond’.

It’s clear from all of this, therefore, that this part of Dalmeny Park, which was very definitely in the county of Linlithgowshire, had formerly formed part of the parish of Cramond and that when the Cramond registrar, John Milne, registered the birth of Charles Flin in 1868, he was doing exactly the right thing.

I was delighted to have solved the problem but there was still another question to answer. I knew that my grandfather was also born at East Craigie (in 1898) and, although his birth wasn’t registered, his older sister, Margaret, was. She was born on 26 March 1897 and her birth certificate records her place of birth as ‘East Craigie, parish of Dalmeny’. And the 1901 census returns for East Craigie confirm that the area was by then part of the parish of Dalmeny. So when did it change? When did this eastern section of Dalmeny Park become part of the parish of Dalmeny? I decided to see if I could find out…

I began by searching for references to Cramond and Dalmeny in the British Library’s British Newspaper Archive. I eventually found a useful source: each September, a notice appeared in the Falkirk Herald providing information about the registration of voters for the county of Linlithgow. Three courts were held each year (at Bathgate, Queensferry and Linlithgow) where people could go to revise and correct the list of voters. The parishes covered by each of the courts were specified and every year up to and including 1890, the Queensferry court was to deal with:

… the Parishes of Abercorn, Dalmeny, Ecclesmachan, Cramond, and Kirkliston (so far as the last mentioned Parishes are within the County of Linlithgow.)

Falkirk Herald, 20 September 1890, page 1, column c – British Library Newspapers

However, from September 1891, Cramond is no longer included:

… the Parishes of Abercorn, Dalmeny, Ecclesmachan, and Kirkliston (so far as within the County of Linlithgow).

Falkirk Herald, 12 September 1891, page 1, column e – British Library Newspapers

I now knew that the change had taken place between 1890 and 1891 and I was then able to search for relevant newspaper items in this time frame – and I soon found what I was looking for.

On 3 May 1890, the West Lothian Journal published the text of a draft order signed by the secretary to the Boundary Commissioners in Edinburgh, stating that:

… so much of the Parish of Cramond as is situated in the County of Linlithgow shall cease to be part of the Parish of Cramond, and shall form part of the Parish of Dalmeny in the County of Linlithgow.

West Lothian Journal, 3 May 1890, page 4, column a – British Library Newspapers

The draft order was evidently approved, and on 12 July 1890, the following announcement appeared in the West Lothian Journal:

West Lothian Journal, 12 July 1890, page 4, column a – British Library Newspapers

So, that was the answer. East Craigie ceased to be part of Cramond parish on 1 January 1891 – seven years before my grandfather was born. He and his uncle, Charles Flynn (Flin), were born in the same place, 30 years apart – but one of them was born in the parish of Cramond and the other, in the parish of Dalmeny.

In the greater scheme of things, this may not seem to be all that important but I always feel that it’s only by employing these investigative strategies, and attempting to get to the bottom of these aspects of our research that don’t quite seem to make sense, that we can begin to understand how our ancestors’ lives were affected by their political and social landscapes.

Apart from anything else, I for one, find this sort of micro-research utterly fascinating!

© David Annal, Lifelines Research, 24 July 2022

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