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A wee bit of info to help you in your journey to discover your Scottish Ancestors and maybe even crack a brick wall or two!



Sunday, 31 October 2010

More on Hugh Crawford (1894-1947)

At long last, the Coroners Report for Hugh Crawford has arrived. Recall that Hugh went to America and never returned. There have been lots of stories about him.

Hugh Crawford was born on 6 September 1894 to Hugh Crawford and Agnes Fowler (Granny Mack). Hugh, the third son, was named after his father. Hugh married Kate McDonald on July 17, 1914. The couple had two children, Mary Livingston McDonald in 1914 and young Hugh Daniel McDonald (Danny) in 1919. Like his father and brothers, Hugh was a coalminer.

In early 1920, Hugh left Scotland and headed for Canada aboard the SS Cameronia. He arrived on January 26, 1920 at the age of 25. From his immigration documents, we learn that Hugh’s intention is to settle in Canada. He is destined to his employer, the Ridge Coal Company in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Interestingly, Hugh lists himself as being single, although we know he left his wife, Kate, and their two children behind in Scotland.
From the Border Crossings records, we learn that Hugh emigrated to Detroit Michigan on April 24, 1923. By now he lists himself as a “fire builder.”

By 1936, Hugh is in Oakland California where he manages Bayme’s Turkish Baths, Dry cleaning business and Barbershop. Hugh uses the name “Doc” Crawford and appears to be doing well in his business. The business itself is state of the art for the times. It obviously caters to the elite businessman in that each of the 14 barber chairs is equipped with a telephone for the customer to use while he is being groomed. We also know that Hugh is dead 9 years later.

His death certificate lists his occupation as “janitor” so it is evident that Hugh has fallen on hard times. His cause of death is in keeping with severe alcohol poisoning and yet, the cause of death is listed as “accidental”. The death certificate goes on to say that Hugh died from drinking “cleaning fluid.” It is curious that a janitor would accidentally confuse cleaning fluid for alcohol.

The death certificate also makes note that there was an autopsy and coroner’s report. From the death certificate we learn that Hugh has a second wife, Janet Crawford. No marriage record has been found to date, so it is unclear whether the couple actually married or whether they were common-law partners and Janet merely assumed Hugh’s surname. Given that his first wife was still alive and well and living in Scotland, it is not unlikely that Janet was Hugh’s common-law spouse. Janet lists her age as 60 at the time of Hugh’s death, so we know that she is about 8 years his senior.

Hugh is buried at Cypress Lawn cemetery and a letter sent to them yielded little information. However, Cypress Lawn staff did suggest that the funeral home, Halstead & Company may have more information to share. A letter to Halstead & Company ended up being more productive than the funeral director had thought. From his records, we learn Hugh’s SSDI number. To this point, no research has elicited that information. We also learn the cost of the funeral ($250 – including a $10 fee to the Reverend conducting the service). Included in the information on the funeral directors records are copies of the obituary, which was published in both the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle. In addition, we learn the date and time of the funeral service itself, Thursday June 12, 1947 at 11: a.m. with the Reverend Vogt officiating.

A letter to the San Francisco coroner’s office, finds that their archives are, in fact, held by the San Francisco Public Library. The library archives were contacted and, finally, the Coroners Report for Hugh Crawford arrived. According to the Coroner’s Register, Record of Death, “The deceased resided with his wife at 970 Chestnut St. On the afternoon of May 30th, 1947 the deceased drank from a whiskey bottle which supposedly contained cleaning fluid, thinking it was Gin. Shortly after he drank the liquid, his wife came home and he complained of being ill. On 6-1947 she called Dr Vance Strange and he sent the deceased to St Francis Hospital where he was admitted at 8:30 pm 6-1-47 treated for cirrhosis of liver and died at 9:15 am 6-10-47. Deceased had supposedly been drinking all day May 30th, 1947.”

The witnesses to the death are listed as “Jenny Crawford, wife”, “Dr V. Strange, attended” and “Officer G.F. Crofton, Northern Station.” The death is listed as a “supposed accident or suicide”, the nature of which is “Ingested Cleaning Fluid” Hugh is described as being 5’4” tall, 194 lbs with blue eyes and balding gray hair. Included on the Record of Death was the autopsy surgeon’s report. Hugh died at 9:15 in the morning of June 10th and his autopsy was conducted at 4:30 that same afternoon. The pathologist’s diagnosis, which is also the cause of death listed on the original death certificate, is: “acute toxic atrophy of the liver. Cloudy swelling of the liver and kidneys. Primary pulmonary infarction. Early pancreatitis.” The result of the inquest conducted on June 26th, 1947 is by jury verdict which states that “said death was accidental” The Necropsy Surgeon’s report to the Coroner was that the death was possibly the result of poisoning from the ingestion of cleaning fluid 10 days prior to the death.

One can only surmise whether in fact Hugh’s death was “accidental” as the coroner ruled or whether the “accident” of drinking cleaning fluid poured into a Gin bottle was pre-meditated murder on Janet’s part. Perhaps today, the ruling would have been quite different and the outcome for Janet would have meant charges and jail time. Hugh left Scotland and headed to America looking for the great white dream. In reality, he met that dream when he was in Oakland California, managing the Turkish Baths, Barbershop Dry cleaning business. Yet just two years later , Hugh fell on bad times and had moved to San Francisco. He was, apparently, a heavy drinker and we will never know how that changed his behaviour. He may have been nasty and abusive and that in and of itself may have been the motivator for Janet in filling his gin bottle with cleaning fluid before she left for the day. In reality, she likely anticipated that the poison would have killed him instantly rather than slowly rotting his organs over a 12 day period. Surely there was lots of time for regret while he lingered in the hospital. But would that regret be that she had attempted to kill him in the first place, or that he had not died immediately? We will never know.

Once can also only imagine the anguish that Agnes felt back in Caldercruix when she learned of her beloved son’s death. He had been her golden boy. He had gone to America to make something of himself. She has proven to be fiercely loyal to him and protected him from his first wife, Kate, by never disclosing his whereabouts. She showed off his photo and newspaper article with pride. Then a few short years later, he was dead. Gone from her forever. Her health started to slide downhill after the death of young Hugh. She died on February 2, 1951. Just 3 ½ years after the death of her beloved son.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Tracing Their Tracks

I recently found a new search method and was playing around with names. The first one I entered, of course, was Hugh Crawford (the son) to see if I could find any more pieces to the puzzle of his life. Lo and Behold, I found him - and found his immigration papers to boot. I entered the names of Harry and this other two brothers, Joe & Tommy. I found Joe on the ships passenger lists. He came to Canada in 1929. He left Greenoch (port near Glasgow) aboard the SS Antonia on June 8, 1929. He landed in Quebec on June 16, 1929. A pretty quick passage for those days. He sailed third class and paid his own passage. He was destined for his brother Hugh who at the time was living in Windsor, Ontario. Windsor is on the border with Detroit, Michigan. Joseph lists his next of kin as his wife, Elizabeth (Lizzie). Their address in Scotland at the time was 7 Preston Street, Rosewell. I sent the information to Joe's son, Bob and learned that his dad came to visit in the US with either his brother Hugh or his cousin, Henry Fowler, who at that time was a butler for Henry Ford in Detroit. (Henry Ford actually lived in Dearborn Michigan - on the outskirts of Detroit).

Joseph's cousin, Henry Fowler, was already in the Detroit area and managed to get Joe a job. Not long after, Joe's wife, Liz arrived in the US and also worked for the Ford family.  While Joe & Liz were in America, their son Hugh and their daughter May were being looked after by Granny Mack at Forrestfield. It is thought that daughter Agnes may have been staying with Harry & Dora at that time.  Harry and Dora would already have had son Hugh, 6 months of age.

Armed with that information, I went looking for the cousin Henry Fowler. Remember we have no less than 37 Henry Fowlers in the family tree. However, narrowing it down to Henry Fowlers of the same age as Agnes' sons leaves us with about 15 to choose from. Joseph arrived in Canada in June 1929. The nearest census that would show Henry living in Detroit would be the 1930 census. I found him living in the Hazel Park area with his wife, Margaret and their two children, Joseph, aged 6 and Agnes, aged 2. A quick look through the family tree helped me pin Henry down to a couple of possibilities. I went searching for his ships list or his immigration papers and found him there as well. This Henry is the son of Granny Mack's brother, Joseph. Joseph married Granny Mack's sister in law, Agnes Crawford (sister of Hugh and daughter of Tom Crawford and Mary Ann Sherry). Joseph and Agnes' son Henry was born in 1901 in Caldercruix. He married Margaret Reid McKay. Margaret was also born in Caldercruix - in 1904. Henry emigrated to Canada aboard the SS Pretorian on January 28th 1920 along with his father, Joseph. Both men were destined to a Mr. Roberston in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Henry's Passenger Declaration has him destined to work at the Ridge Coal Company. This is the same Coal Company that Harry's brother Hugh went to work for when he landed in Canada 2 days prior on January 26, 1920.
At some point, Joseph returned to Scotland and remained there. Henry returned to Scotland as well and then came back to America on August 11, 1923. His wife, Margaret arrived a month later on September 26, 1923.
The 1930 census for the Hazel Park area of Michigan shows Henry and Margaret as home owners. Their home at that time was valued at $1,000. A fairly decent home. And likely one that would have enough room for visiting family members. Henry is listed as working in the auto industry. So, in stating that he worked for Henry Ford, it was more likely that he worked for the Ford Motor Company than for Mr. Ford himself. I have not been able to locate any census records listing a Crawford or a Fowler working as a servant in the Henry Ford household. (If one did, it wasn't during the time of a census). Mr. Ford's home was valued at $400,000 in 1930. One can only imagine the oppulence of his home!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

My Two Elusive Hughs

The search continues for my two elusive Hughs, father and son. The first Hugh is Hugh Crawford, father of Harry, Tommy, Josey and Hugh. The other is son Hugh. Father Hugh, Granny Mack’s first husband, we are told went off to fight in the Boer War and never returned. Agnes received a letter saying Hugh was MIA—presumed dead. No record of his death has been found to date. Thanks to Jeanette and her genealogy links, we now have the attestation papers for Hugh when he joined the forces. The first time Hugh signed on was 22 December, 1887 when Hugh joined the Highland Light Infantry. Hugh was 18 years 6 months at the time. Hugh was discharged 43 days later on 2 February 1888. Hugh once again signed on to be a soldier on 8 March 1889 at the age of 19 years, 7 months. This time Hugh signed on with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. Hugh signed on for “short service” which meant 5 years in the field followed by an additional 7 years in the reserves. Hugh was discharged from the KOSBies 258 days later on 22 November 1889. It is
unclear at this time whether he later was called up to serve in the Boer War or whether he chose to enlist with another platoon. More research continues.



Hugh (Jr) left Scotland and headed for Canada. He arrived on January 26, 1920 at the age of 25. He lists himself as being single, although we know he left his wife, Kate and their two children Daniel and Mary at home, Daniel being only a year old at the time. Hugh states on his immigration papers, in St John New Brunswick, that he is destined to his employer, the Ridge Coal Company in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He further states that it is his intention to settle in Canada. His time in Canada requires more research. We know that Hugh eventually made his way to California where he managed a barbershop and dry cleaning business. We also know he died a lonely man after poisoning himself with cleaning fluid. Hugh had a second wife, Janet, in California. She assumed his surname but it is unknown whether the two formally married.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

A new piece of the puzzle

My granddad had a brother, Hugh, who went to America and never returned. Lots of stories about him. He died young. I'm not sure what possessed me, but I went looking for his death record in California. I found the index and sent away for the actual certificate. The certificate arrived last week and raised many more questions than it answered. By the time of his death – 9 years after a newspaper article where he was managing a barbershop, drycleaners and turkish baths, his death certificate lists his occupations as  a"janitor” and  states that he died of an accident. His means of death “drunk cleaning fluid” I read that and thought “what the hell??” There was an inquest and a coroner’s report. Now I am on a mission………..like a mad dog with a bone………..crazy how it only takes one little thing for us to get this possessed………..hope when I am dead and gone 60 years, someone has this passion about my records……….

I have also since discovered his immigration records AND a record of my granddad coming to Canada   We were always told he went to Detroit in the USA. Well, he may have, but he was in Canada first! Now I absolutely MUST visit Pier 21 when we are in Nova Scotia this summer.