With the information about the Alexander and Mary Hall family that I found in the 1881, 1891, and 1901 censuses, I can trace them back in time to try and learn more about them.
The family of Alexander and Mary Hall is found living at Smallburn in the parish of Muirkirk in the 1861 and 1871 Scotland censuses. In 1871 there were five children in the family: James (18), Samuel (14), Elizabeth (11), Alexander (8), and Margaret (3). All were born in Muirkirk, except James, who is listed as being born in Prestwick, the same location as his mother. Alexander is listed as 45 years old, and born in Newton on Ayr.
The 1861 census shows a family with three young children: James (9), Samuel (4), and Elizabeth (1). As in 1871, Samuel and Elizabeth are listed as born in Muirkirk, and James was born in the same place as his mother. However, that place is listed as Monkton. And Alexander is listed as born in Ayr.
Given the age of their oldest living child, James, Alexander and Mary were probably married somewhere around 1851. A quick search through the Old Parish Registers on ScotlandsPeople turns up a marriage in the registers of parish of Monkton and Prestwick.
Alexander Hall & Mary Scott both in this Parish gave in their names to be proclaimed in order to marriage 18 Oct. 1851, & after having been three times proclaimed they were married.
Not only does this give me a marriage date, but it also tells me that Alexander and Mary were in the parish of Monkton and Prestwick in 1851. If there is more than one Alexander Hall in Scotland (and let me tell you…there is), the one living in Monkton and Prestwick is likely the one I’m looking for in the 1851 census
Fortunately, this is only one Alexander Hall listed in the 1851 census living in Monkton and Prestwick. However, this census record presented a new puzzle. Alexander is found living in the Village of New Prestwick in the Parish of Monkton and Prestwick, age 26, and born in Newton on Ayr. His name is clearly listed as “Alexander Hall”, but his parents and younger brother and sister all have the last name McCall:
Robert McCall, Head of Household, 48
Margaret McCall, Wife, 51
Alexander Hall, Son, 26
Jannet McCall, Daughter, 15
James McCall, Son, 13
Based solely on this record, Alexander Hall is the son of Robert and Margaret McCall, which doesn’t make any sense since Alexander has different last name. My immediate assumption is that Alexander may be Margaret McCall’s son from a previous marriage. After all, Alexander’s death register says that his parents were James Hall and Margaret More.
The 1841 census has similar information to the 1851 census, with the addition of one younger sibling: Hugh McCall, age 1 in 1841. (I haven’t checked further on him, but I assume he died sometime between 1841 and 1851.) The family is living in the Parish of Newton, but their address peaks my interest: Moirs Square. Also, living very close by is a 67-year-old man named Alexander Moir and a 27-year-old woman named Mary Moir.
So, my next stop on this journey was to find a record of Robert McCall marrying a woman named Margaret somewhere between 1825 and 1835, which would place the marriage after Alexander’s birth, but before Jannet’s. Not to limit myself, I searched the Old Parish Registers for a marriage record between Robert McCall and Margaret in Ayrshire between 1820 and 1836. Only one result came back: Robert McCall and Margaret Moir were married in the Parish of Newton on Ayr on 2 Oct 1832.
The marriage date along with the difference in surname makes it pretty clear that Alexander Hall was not the son of Robert McCall. But the match between the Margaret Moir on the marriage record and Margaret More on Alexander’s death record make it pretty clear that Margaret McCall (née Moir) was Alexander’s mother. (And now I’m wondering if the 1841 neighbors Alexander Moir and Mary Moir are Margaret’s father and sister. That’s for another day!)
This is where the trail becomes even more murky. There is a marriage record in Newton on Ayr for James Hall and Margaret Moir, who were married on 5 Apr 1824. There is also a death record for a James Hall, listed only as “a seafaring man,” who died of consumption on 17 Jun 1825 in Newton on Ayr. (Alexander’s death record lists his father, James Hall, as a fisherman. The only other James Hall to die in Newton on Ayr between 1824 and 1832 is listed as “a hosier”, which is far from a fisherman.)
The most intriguing part in all of this, however, is that I can’t find a birth record for Alexander Hall that matches any of this information. In fact, I can’t find any birth records for children whose parents are James Hall and Margaret Moir. There is only one birth record for an Alexander Hall listed in all of Ayrshire between 1820 and 1830. It happens to be in Newton on Ayr (a close or perfect match for the census records), born 9 Feb 1823 (three years earlier than all census records and his death record indicate). His parent are “James Hall Carter and Agnes Cowan his wife”. (“Carter” is James Hall’s occupation, not an additional surname. But not a fisherman or a seafaring man.)
So the mystery deepens. Who are Alexander Hall’s parents? Was James Hall married to Agnes Cowan, who is actually Alexander’s mother? Did Agnes die, and then James married Margaret Moir shortly before dying himself, leaving Margaret to raise Alexander?
So many questions…
UPDATE: Shortly after posting this and reading it over again, I realized that I needed to do some research to see if there is a second Alexander Hall, in order to verify if the son of Agnes Cowan and James Hall is a different person from my Alexander Hall. It didn’t take me long to find that there are, indeed, two Alexander Halls. The other, the son of Agnes, lived his life in Newton on Ayr. He died in 1892 in Ayr, and his death record says he was the son of James Hall, Carter, and Agnes Cowan, and was married to Agnes Watson.
So this clearly indicates that the Alexander born in 1823 to Agnes Cowan and James Hall is not my Alexander Hall, and just goes to show that sometimes you have to research other people in order to disqualify them in your research.