A cousin sent me an entry from the 1911 census for my great, great grandfather who lived in Old Kilpatrick in Scotland (which is where I grew up). James and his wife Ann Kemp are recorded as living at number 90 (Lusset Cottage) in Old Kilpatrick (the street isn’t explicitly named, I guess that is on the page with the first house on it).

This sparked an intriguing mystery, as there is a death certificate for Ann Kemp (nee Dewar) in 1890. Her husband James died in 1911 (for which I also have a certificate). His address on the death certificate is different to the census one (Smith’s Land, Old Kilpatrick – but the person reporting it is listed as a neighbour and lives in 2 Neil (or Hill) Street Kilbowie), It is hard to be sure as the 1911 census seems to have captured house names and street numbers  but not apparently the street name itself (although likely on the page with the first house on it).

Anyway it looks like something funny is going on. Here is what I know from four census returns on the same family:
1881 – the family was in Greenock, James & Ann have 5 children and Ann is shown as 37 and born in Kintail

1891 – Ann Kemp doesn’t appear and James is listed as a widower, and we have a death cert showing Ann to have died the previous year. There are five children, but the oldest from 1881 (would now be 20 if still alive) is missing and another 9 year old son is added.

1901 – Ann is back, this time as 61 years old (so a year older than James rather than 2 younger) and her place of birth has changed to Cupar in Fife. Only one son (22) is shown still at home, but the others would all could have been expected to leave by now being between 19 and 30 if still alive). I had thought at this stage that James had simply re-married at some point and it was a coincidence that his new wife was also called Ann, it being a common enough first name.

In the 1911 census Ann is shown at age 70, and according to the form married for 47 years, with 7 live births of which 4 are still living (and the range of the six shown on the census would be 29 – 40, one presumably not having survived long enough to be recorded on a census). This means that she’s not claiming to be James’s second wife (it would need to be less than 20 years for that), she’s his first wife (or someone made a mistake on the form).

In all the census records James is consistently a blacksmith (or associated trade) from Bishopsmill, Elgin. Given that he was legitimately widowed in 1890 I cannot think of a reason why he couldn’t just have re-married, unless the new Ann Kemp was already married to someone else and couldn’t get divorced. What reason can there be for her adopting someone else’s identity (or there being an erroneous death certificate for her in 1890)?

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