These things make us wonder. And one such example of this is that of my great, great grandfather, Daniel Russell, who, had it not been for the unannounced knock of tragedy, would almost certainly have taken his family (including my great grandfather Harry) to the United States. This is his story, and the first I am sharing from my mother's side of the family.
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Daniel Russell was born February 10th 1872 in the village of Salsburgh, near Shotts in Scotland. He was the first of thirteen children to coal miner Alexander Russell of the same place and Catherine Millar of Whitburn, West Lothian. For reasons unknown his name among members of the family is pronounced as 'DAIN-YUL' as opposed to the standard 'DAN-YUL'.
|Daniel's entry in the Shotts district birth registers.|
Being a fireman took Daniel to the village of Cowie, near the famous town of Bannockburn and it was here that he met a young house servant called Jane Fyfe Russell, a non-relation despite them sharing the same surname. They were married in Cowie on December 31st 1897. Jane (or Jeannie as she was known) was a native of Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, and was born in 1879 to Walter Russell and Annie Mackie Hastie.
Daniel and Jeannie moved back to Lanarkshire around the time of having their fourth child, Catherine Russell, in 1902. It appears that at this time, the Russell's were living in Mossend, near Bellshill, and Daniel's occupation is still listed as a colliery fireman. However, only two years later when their son Daniel Jnr was born, Daniel Snr is listed rather incredibly as a Colliery Manager. Quite the rise up the mining hierarchy ladder, in a very short space of time too!
We're lucky to have photographs of Daniel and Jeannie, as can be seen below. Presumably, the clothes they are wearing are signs that the photos were taken while he was a Colliery Manager, therefore dating them to the first decade of the twentieth century.
Daniel and Jeannie had a total of eight children together, and after no doubt making a fair bit of money in such a good job at this time, Daniel's eye began to focus on a better quality of life outside of Scotland altogether. Although currently I cannot prove when he left, he set sail for America some time between 1906 and 1909, and a family story says he went over to look for possible places to live near Boston and New York. On return to Scotland he brought back a cabinet of stuffed birds and a revolver allegedly from the American Civil War era. While the birds were kept in the family for many years to come though, Jeannie refused to have a gun in the house with the children, and threw it in the local burn, much to Daniel's annoyance.
Then, tragedy struck the family when, on January 21st 1910 while working in an engine room at Aitkenhead Pit in the town of the same name, Daniel's heart suddenly failed him, and he quite literally dropped dead, at the age of just 37. Although buried in Fauldhouse Cemetery, his gravestone has since either disappeared or collapsed. When I went up there in 2014, I found the plot but alas, no memorial.
Daniel's death must have bee a truly awful shock for Jeannie and the children, which included my almost four year-old great grandfather Harry. All of a sudden the family had no income whatsoever, despite living comfortably for some years now. Following Daniel's death, Jeannie moved to Holytown and remarried, to a shoemaker named James Ross. With him she would have a further two children, but was widowed again in 1922 after ten years of marriage.
This story is one I have contemplated from time to time because I do not doubt that if Daniel's life had been longer, the family would almost certainly have made that move to America that he had started to plan. In fact it seemed a certainty until his life was so cruelly cut short, and his dream died with him. But had he survived, my family story could have been very different, and I'd probably be American. At least three generations of my family would be completely different people to those I know. It seems that, in a rather odd sort of way, the chain of events that led to my existence partly stemmed from the family being kept in Scotland by the cruellest of tragedies.
That's a rather profound thought, and testament to the twists and turns in any family that ultimately decide where generations end up.