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Introduction / William Gray and Mary Robertson

Isabella Gray

There has been some confusion about the person recorded in the census records as Isabella Gray. The International Genealogical Index (IGI) has two listings for the oldest daughter of William Gray and Mary Robertson. One has the name as Elizabeth Isabella, and the other has the name as Elizabeth. Both indicate that the baptism took place in the parish of Westray and Papa Westray on 24th April 1825.

To William Gray and Mary Robertson his spouse a daughter born 11th April and baptised the 24th, 1825, named Elizabeth Isabella.

Westray and Papa Westray OPR

Isabella was recorded in her parents' household in every census from 1841 to 1881. The ages reported in the various census records varied enough that the birth year indicated was as early as 1825, or as late as 1827. Was the Isabella of the census records the same person as the Elizabeth Isabella of the christening record, and did the two christening records both refer to one child, in spite of the name difference, or were there two children?

One possible explanation for the two christening records was that twins were born, with both being christened Elizabeth, and one having the second name of Isabella. Then the one called simply Elizabeth died in infancy, and was never recorded in the census records, while the surviving one was always known by her second name. Perhaps there were twins born in 1825, and both died, then another daughter born in 1827 was named Isabella, but her christening was not recorded for some reason. It was not common, in that time and place, for people to have two given names.

Isabella died on 21st November 1886, at Quarryhouses on Papa Westray (called East Dykeside in the 1881 census). The Death registration gave her name as simply Isabella, and her age as 60 years. It didn't help to answer the question as to how many daughters her parents had in the period 1825-1827.

On examining the microfilm of the Westray parish records, however, it is apparent that the original christening record gave the name as Elizabeth, then the record was later amended by the addition of the name Isabella. Many of the christening records have been copied, and the copies have been included on the microfilm and in the IGI. In the case of Elizabeth/Isabella, the record which gives her name as just "Elizabeth" is a copy which appears to have been made before the original record was amended.

Therefore, it is evident that the Isabella of the census records, and the two entries in the IGI and the parish records, all refer to the same person.

Isabella never married, but had a son named John Harcus, recorded in the Westray Old Parish Records as follows:

To John Harcus and Isabella Gray, both natives of Papa Westray, a natural son born 5th November 1852 named John

Westray and Papa Westray OPR

The census extract below shows the household as recorded in the 1861 census. (This census is the only one in which Papa Westray was not distinguished from Westray as a place of birth.)

Newhouse No 6, Papa Westray
Relation Status Age Occupation Born
William Gray Head married 56 years Ag Lab Westray
Mary Gray Wife married 63 years General Housework Westray
Isabella Gray Dau unmarried 36 years General Servant Westray
Mary Gray Dau unmarried 19 years General Work Westray
John Gray Son unmarried 16 years General Work Westray
John Harcus G. Son unmarried 8 years Scholar Westray

No information has been found on what became of John Harcus after 1861.

Isabella's occupation was given in the census records as "day labouring" (1851), "general servant" (1861'and 1871), and "farm servant" (1881). In her Death registration her occupation is given as "domestic servant". She signed her name as informant on her mother's death registration, so, unlike her brother David, she was literate to that degree at least. She died of cancer at Quarryhouses, Papa Westray, on 21st November 1886. Like her parents, she is probably buried in the St. Boniface churchyard, Papa Westray, but there is no stone there for her.

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