McRae/McCrae From Ayrshire

Visitors since - OCTOBER 1, 2004

Last Revision - Friday, March 24, 2007
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John Hair McRae, George Drennan McRae, Jane McRae

John McRae & Hannah Drennan McRae

Dalleagles School House

New Cumnock, Ayrshire


The search for the history of the ancestors of Mary Wilson McRae has been an uneven one. Mary was born in Glasgow (Drummond Street) on 20 June in 1905 and had lived in Glasgow and (perhaps) Motherwell. However, her father, George D.McRae, had been born in New Cumnock. More precisely, he was born at the Dalleagles School House outside of New Cumnock, where his father was the teacher - 1860's-1890's. In fact his two older siblings, John Hair McRae and Jane McRae, were also born at the School House. John McRae's mother, Jane, with whom he had lived most of his life, died at the Schoolhouse on 22 April 1878. Hannah Drennan McRae, George's mother, died in Dalleagles on April 12, 1891. In 1892, John Hair McRae married Marion Davidson and settled in Carfin, Lanarkshire. In August of 1892, John McRae retired and moved down the road three miles to Pathhead. According to George Sanderson's "NEW CUMNOCK Far and Away", the retired Headmaster received a small pension, the first payment of this kind by the school board. Jane McRae was residing in Pathhead when she married John Howatson Paterson in 1898. When John McRae died on September 16, 1899, George was the only child still at home and listed as"informant" on the death certificate.


It was thought that after his father's death, George may have moved to Carfin, Lanarkshire to be with his brother and family. By that time, John and Marion had four children. At some point, George may have sought work as a "grocer" which is the occupation listed for both brothers in various places (Though in the Census of 1901, John is listed as a "Chemical Labourer"). In the Census of 1901 George is residing at 12 Church Street in Ayr with his Aunt, Isabella (Drennan), her husband, Thomas Lees and their two sons:Thomas and Robert. George is listed as "Nephew" and his occupation as "Grocers Assistant."

In the Census of 1901, Mary Harper was living with her family at 66 Black Street in Glasgow and employed as a "Cash Girl." George met Mary and they were married in Dennistoun, Glasgow in 1904. George's address was listed as 286 Springburn Road, Glasgow. The "Witnesses" are listed as "Mary Hunter, John H. McRae". Mary Wilson McRae was born in Glasgow on 20 June 1905. When asked about the significance of her middle name "Wilson", Mary said that it was the name of a relative of her mother. However, we have found that Mary Harper's mother's maiden name was Mary-Ann Wilson. If one recognizes that Mary-Ann Wilson Harper died in August of 1903 almost 2 years before Mary Wilson McRae was born, the confusion may be better understood. On 21 July 1909, John George McRae was born in Glasgow. In late March of 1911, George, Mary and their two children boarded the SS Saturnia to go to St.Johns, New Brunswick en route to Niagara Falls, NY, USA where George had been offered an employment opportunity. On the Passenger Manifest, George listed his brother John of "Carfin by Motherwell" as his closest living relative.


In 1915, the last of the children, William A. McRae, was born in Niagara Falls, NY. In 1924, William (9 years old) sailed with his mother for a visit to Scotland. They returned on 4 October on the SS Columbia - departing from Glasgow and arriving in New York on 13 October.

On July 24 in 1926, Mary Wilson McRae sailed from New York harbor on the SS Transylvania for a visit back to Scotland. For Mary it was a chance to visit with friends and family she has not seen in 15 years. She arrived in Glasgow on Monday August 2. She returned from Scotland on the SS Caledonia on September 11, 1926 and arrived back in New York on the 20th September (after a stop off in Boston). Mary took a number of pictures during her visit. Many of these photos survive, however, the notations on them does not always clearly indicate the identity of those pictured. However, Mary kept many older photographs which she saved (the opening photo on this page is an example), which are treasures which might have been lost.

In the search for the McRae family origins, we were fortunate to make contact with Ken Lees and his wife, Karen McCrae Lees of Lancashire, UK. Ken and Karen have spent many years tracking down the McRae/McCrae lineage. As fate would have it, Karen's great-grandfather is John Hair McRae/McCrae. The credit for most of the early McRae/McCrae information belongs to them. One point which was always a "bother" in searching out information is the variant spellings of the surname. There are too many to list. However, as children of a school teacher, the McRae children in Dalleagles were fortunate indeed. The level of literacy in the 19th century was not great among the population at large. Reading and writing were the benefits which accrued to the children of the school teacher. In accessing the "official" government records, the surname for John and each of his children is spelled "McRae". It is clear that the children of John and Hannah could write (and neatly too). Exactly how one spells his surname is not ultimately crucial in tracking down family lines. But, the lack of consistency does make it more "interesting".


Finally, the task of uncovering and understanding the Ayrshire past has been made easier through the kind assistance of author, George Sanderson. And we cherish the encouragement and friendship of Olive Sharpe "Ollie" whose husband, Ron, is a "Cumnockian".


William George "Bill" Paterson of Brisbane, Australia recently contacted us. It seems that in his preparation for an up-coming "Paterson" reunion in Australia, he looked about for information about his grandmother, Jane McRae Paterson, What a wonderful surprise!

After years of fruitless searching, we now know what became of Jane following her marriage to John Howatson Paterson in 1898. It seems that John had recently returned from Australia where he had been working for his uncle. And following their marriage in New Cumnock, John and Jane boarded the SS ORUBA (Friday 6 January 1899) for Australia. Fragments of a Diary kept by John and Jane during their voyage have survived and Bill was kind enough to send along a copy. We were also thrilled to receive a photo of their Golden Wedding celebration in Brisbane in 1948. We will (in time) revise this page with information and photos to celebrate this connection.

Golden Wedding Anniversary, Brisbane, 1948

the PARISH of


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