The Baird Family of Peterhead

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      The Early Days

The first member of this family that can be documented was John Baird or Bard who was born in about 1723 (details from St Peter’s cemetery records) in the parish of Tyrie, which adjoined Aberdour, the ancestral home of the Bairds of Auchmedden. In 1771 he married Janet Slesser (or Slessor) also of Tyrie. As he would have been in his late forties at this time, which is quite late for a man to marry for the first time, it is possible that he is also the John Baird who married Anna (or Jannet) Massie some years earlier. In 1767 a John Bard and Jannet Massie had a son named John.

In 1770 an unnamed child was born to John and Anna Massie. The fact that no name was given for this child at the time of baptism may very well mean that the child died soon after birth. It is equally possible that the mother also died resulting in the widower remarrying the following year. In 1773 Janet Slesser gave birth to a daughter Elizabeth and a son Alexander was born in 1778. Despite the fact that Alexander’s death certificate states he was born in Tyrie, there is no record of that birth in the Old Parish Records, although there is for Elizabeth. Registration of the birth of a child was not compulsory until 1855. In the late eighteenth century a fee was imposed by Church officials and this discouraged many folk from registering or baptising their children. Below are the few extant records for members of the Baird family in Tyrie:
(The spelling is as recorded in the various records) 

Anna Baird - spouse of James Shirer - died 9th Feb 1722 aged 70
John Bard (Baird) - born approximately 1723 (birth not recorded – known from Peterhead cemetery records)
Anna Baird - married William Murray - 27th October 1724
George Baird - born 6thDecember 1766 - to Alexander Baird
John Bard - born 3rdMay 1767 - to John Bard and Jannet Massie
Unknown Bard - born 4thFebruary 1770 - to John Bard and Anna Massie
John Bard - married Janet Slesser - 23rd June 1771
Elizabeth Baird - born 15th September 1773 - to John Baird and Janet Slecer
Alexander Baird - born 25th November 1773 - to Alexander Baird
Christian Baird - married William Lawrence - 22nd May 1774
Alexander Baird - born 1778 - to John Baird and Janet Slesser ( birth not recorded – known from death certificate)
Alexander Baird - married Jane Law - 16th April 1799 (At this stage it is not known whether this is Alexander born 1788.)
On 9th February 1739 an Alexander Baird died and was buried in the cemetery at Tyrie.

By 1801 John Baird had moved to the Peterhead area from Tyrie where he was employed on a farm.

Census of Peterhead, July 1801

Complied by Rev George Moir. -

Published by Aberdeen & NE Scotland FHS, 1993.

 

 Address  House No   Head of Household  No. of Families  Male   Female  Total Persons   Employed in Agriculture 
Scottsmill    216  John Baird               1   2   2   4   4
Scottsmill   217  William Baird    1   3   2   5   3

 

Scottsmill (or Scots Mill) was situated on the right hand bank of the river Ugie, close to Ravenscraig Castle near Inverugie.& (English Mill was situated nearby on the opposite bank.)

The William Baird mentioned in the census is probably the same William Baird who appears in the 1841 census at Roanheads.
There he is shown as a 60 year old farmer. Allowing for the inaccuracies of stated ages at this time, it gives him a date of birth around 1780. This is consistant with his being the son of John Baird and Janet Slessor who married in 1771 and had children born in 1773 (Elizabeth) and about 1778 (Alexander).
William Baird married Mary Simpson at an unknown date. In 1798 they had a child, William, born
at Longside. (I have been unable to trace this person. It is possible that he is the William Baird, a ships carpenter, who is mentioned as the deceased spouse of Margaret Baird who died in Peterhead at the age of 69 in 1867.)

The 1841 census shows William Baird, a farmer, aged 60, wife Mary also 60 and daughters Sophia 20 and Isabel 15 living at Roanheads. (Ages in this census were rounded down to the nearest 5.)
The couple also had a son, Peter, who in 1841 was a seaman, absent at sea. (Seaman's number 110230)

  • Peter was born in 1818 to William Baird of Ellishill (near Inverugie and in the same area as Scotsmill). In 1843 Peter married Ann Blackwood who died in 1850. He left the sea in about 1842 and became a cooper. He died of typhus in Aberdeen in 1868.
    Peter and Ann had three children:
           Ann born in1843.
           Williamena born in 1845 (a William Baird - grandfather/brother? - was one of the witnesses)
          Peter was born in 1848. He married Mary Henry in 1870 and had a son, also called Peter born
          1872.
  • Sophia was born about 1820. She married William Bruce in 1843 and died in Peterhead in 1909.
    Her death certificate showed her parents as William Baird, a gardener and Mary Simpson.
    (Ellishill was the location of a large country house owned at this time by James Reid and later passed to his grandaughters, known as  the "three Miss Andersons"   The name was changed from Alehouse Hill to Ellishill.  William had been a gardener on this estate.)
  • Isabella was born in 1822. At the time her father was a labourer/gardner living at Alehousehill (Ellishill). On 11 March 1842 she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter Margaret Brown Bain. The father was David Bain, a carter of Peterhead. In 1844 Isabella brought an action against him in the Sheriffs Court for non-payment of maintenance. She died in December 1847 and was buried in Peterhead cemetery.

By the time of the 1881 census, the only member of this branch of the family still living in Peterhead was Sophia.

John Baird’s other son, Alexander, 1778-1860, can be considered to be the patriarch of the family. He had four sons – William born in 1812, George born 1821, David Sangster 1826 and Alexander 1834. In addition there were four daughters, Margaret, Barbara, Ann Duncan (who died young) and Jean.

William married Jane (Jeannie) Buchan in 1842. For most of his life he was either a farmer or a carter living at Ugie Street Buchanhaven. He died in 1898.

George was an entrepreneur. He was a shipowner, coal merchant and owned considerable property in North Street Peterhead.See: The Laird of Peterhead David Sangster was a seaman. He married Jane Pyper in 1855. Alexander was a successful farmer, owning land in Ware Road Buchanhaven.

Almost all Bairds in Peterhead are descended from one of these men.

Alexander had another son, Alexander, who was born out of wedlock to Margaret  Fraser. This Alexander died in 1857 at the age of 51. (see Kirk Sessions )

Alexander’s four daughters were:

  • Margaret, born in 1819 married Alexander McRae in 1836. After his death she married George Milne in 1856. She died in 1889.
  • Barbara born 1826, married Alexander Cowie and later William McDonald.
  • Jean (Jane) born 1831, married Alexander Davidson.
  • Ann Duncan born 1828 died in 1843 and is buried in St Peter's cemetery, Peterhead.

The Baird family moved to the Buchanhaven area at some time between the census date in 1801 and 1810-1812. In 1810, Alexander Baird was cited in the minutes of the Kirk Sessions as living at Blackhouse, an area close to the Buchanhaven community and in 1812, at the time of his son William’s birth, his residence was shown in one source (Kirk Sessions) as Blackhouse and in another (Registration of birth) as Buchanhaven.  So it is possible that at this time the boundaries between the two areas were indistinct.

The following extract by the local historian Jim Buchan, gives a description of the early days of the village:

'It seems that the first use of the name ‘Buchanhaven’ was on a map in 1739 and that a school was erected in Ware Road in 1787 to serve a small fishing community. The site was developed as a ‘planned’ village by the proprietor of the lands of Blackhouse, James Ferguson of Pitfour, who placed the following advertisement in the Aberdeen Journal in December 1812:

White Fishing Station, Buchanhaven.

In the immediate vicinity of Peterhead. Being advantageously situated for the white fishing, having a good landing place, and plenty of various kinds of bait at hand, the proprietor is desirous that proper persons in this line come forward and settle here. Every encouragement will be given. There are houses already to accommodate three boat hands. Peats will be got at no great distance. Application may be made at the house of Pitfour.'


While several Bairds did become fishermen or seamen, they were primarily a farming family in these early days, owning land in the area of Ware Road and Ugie Street Buchanhaven.


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