Fiona has always felt Scottish. She knows the Bruces are from a small Scottish fishing village called Hopeman on the north-east coast of Scotland and they were a fishing family. As a child she remembers returning to Hopeman for her grandfather's funeral and feeling a strange sense of belonging because everyone looked like her father, with jet black hair and pale blue eyes.
Fiona wanted to find out more about the Bruce family. She knew nothing beyond her grandparents and was keen to see how far back she could trace the family in Hopeman.
To try and find out a little bit more Fiona met with her great-aunt Helen Dundas, who grew up in Hopeman but later moved to Aberdeen. Helen had the most extensive family knowledge about the Bruces and an impressive family archive. She showed Fiona pictures of her great-grandparents John and Isabella Bruce, and explained that John was lost at sea during the First World War whilst serving in the Royal Naval Reserves. Amongst the family archive was a newspapers cutting that described how his boat HMS Charity was blown up by a mine, killing everyone on board. Isabella was left with eight children to raise in Hopeman.
Fiona visited Hopeman to try and understand more about the Bruce family and how they came to settle there. At the harbour she met with local historian John Barrett, who explained the local history.
Through census records we built an extensive timeline of the Bruce family. These records not only showed the movements of the Bruce family around Hopeman but they also helped us trace several generations further back. Most significantly, through this process we found the first Bruce in Hopeman, George Bruce: Fiona's great-great-great-grandfather.
Identifying generations of the Bruce family from the census records meant that local historian John Barrett was able to take Fiona on a tour round the Hopeman streets, pointing out the houses where Fiona's ancestors lived.
John also explained how the1871 census presented a little mystery. The census records seemed to show that the elderly parents always lived with one of the sons. Fiona's great-great-great-grandfather George Bruce had a son, also called George Bruce. However his father, aged 66, is listed as living not with his son's family but in a house round the corner, working for the owner as a net mender.
Fiona wanted to find out what happened to George Bruce. There was no sign of him on the 1881 census. Had he fallen out with his son and moved away, or had he simply died? Fiona visited Elgin registration office to order his death certificate. She discovered that he had died on 30 July 1876. He was listed as a pauper, formerly a fisherman, and died from general cohexia, (a type of malnutrition) at the Poor's House in Buckie.
We arranged for Fiona to look at the parish poor relief Records minute books at the Moray Local Heritage Centre to see if these records might hold any clues as to why George ended up in a Poor's House.
There were two entries listed for George Bruce. On 9 November 1872 he was granted poor relief of a shilling and was described as a 'pauper' and a 'drunken creature'. On 5 October 1875 his son submitted a letter explaining that he couldn't afford to pay his father any poor relief. This left him with no support and nowhere else to go. Sadly he died in the Poor's House a few months later.
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