Ann Wylie or Annal

Ann Wylie…also known as Ann Annal

The story of how the ancestry of an illegitimate daughter of an Orkney farmer/fisherman was uncovered…

In the summer of 2001, while my parents were on their annual visit to Orkney, they met Sonia Keith who was staying at the same hotel in Kirkwall and they (naturally) got talking about the Annal family. Sonia told them that she was descended from an Ann Annal who had married someone named Andrew Herdman. Sonia had discovered that Ann’s father’s name was William Annal and was even able to direct my parents to Ann’s grave in St Olaf’s cemetery in Kirkwall which showed that Ann had died in 1949 aged 91. Armed with this information my dad got straight on the phone to me to find out where Ann Annal fitted in to the various branches of the Annal family. And this is where the problem started and a mystery began to unfold.



Ann’s gravestone in St Olaf’s Cemetery, Kirkwall

Many years ago, I listed all the Scottish Annal births, marriages and deaths from the indexes at New Register House. Over the years I’ve used the information from the indexes together with details from the certificates themselves and combined with census returns, parish registers and various other records to enable me to identify individuals and to fit them into family groups. So when someone contacts me claiming Annal ancestry I usually have little difficulty in connecting them to a particular group.

The problem with Ann Annal was that she didn’t seem to appear in my lists. I had no record of her birth nor of her death and I couldn’t find her in the South Ronaldsay census returns. I had, however, found an unexplained marriage of an Ann Annal to an Andrew Herdman registered in Kirkwall in 1876. This was clearly the marriage which Sonia had discovered and checking through my notes I found that I had a full transcript of the certificate. This indicated that Ann’s parents were William Annal (a Farmer) & Jessie Wylie which tied in with Sonia’s information. It also told me that Ann’s parents were not married to each other.

I started by getting in touch with a contact in America who had access to microfilms of the Orkney birth, marriage and death registers at her local Mormon Family History Centre. She was soon able to email me a scanned copy of the birth certificate of Ann Wylie who was born on 29 August 1857, the illegitimate daughter of Jessie Wylie – there was no mention of a father on the certificate and no link with the name Annal. However, I did have a lead to go on as the certificate indicated that Ann was born on the Island of Burray.

Armed with this information, I was then able to turn to the 1861 census returns for Burray and I soon found the entry for Ann – who was entered as Ann Annal, aged 3. She was living at Hillhouse on the west of the island with her grandmother, Barbara Wylie, her mother, Jessie, and an uncle and aunt (William and Isabella).

Ten years later, Ann (again listed as Annal) was still living in Burray at the farm of Ness in the eastern half of the Island. She was aged 13 and described as a lodger and a ‘Beggar Girl’. What had happened to Ann in the intervening ten years to leave her in this situation? The story is made all the more intriguing by the fact that her mother was living just a few miles away at Newhouse on the other side of Burray. By now Jessie’s mother Barbara had died and Jessie had another illegitimate child, James. So, why was Ann not living with her family and why was she described as a beggar girl? Unfortunately the answers to these questions are lost in the mists of time.

Just five and a half years later, now aged 19, Ann Annal (or Wylie) married Andrew Herdman, a 23 year old farm servant from Calder Head, Kirkwall. The marriage certificate names Ann’s father as William Annal, a farmer. However, “William” was a relatively common name in Orkney and there is no clue to suggest which William Annal.

Ann and Andrew had at least nine children over the next twenty five years; Andrew (born 1878), Christina (1879), Jemima (1884), John William (1887), Jessie (1890), Isabella (1893), William (1896), James (1897) and Margaret Ellen (1899). The family lived at 29 Victoria Street, Kirkwall from the time of their marriage until at least 1932, when Andrew died there, aged 79. Ann survived her husband by another 17 years, dying in February 1949, aged 91.

On Ann’s death certificate, there is a blank where the father’s name should be. Her mother is shown as Jessie Wylie (deceased) – but as on her birth certificate 91 years earlier, there is no mention of the name Annal. Yet her gravestone clearly says Ann Herdman or Annal.

So, who was the William Annal that was named as Ann’s father on the 1876 marriage certificate? There were three William Annals born in Orkney between 1820 and 1840 – all born in South Ronaldsay. The first of these, born in 1825, emigrated to Liverpool in the early 1850s, and married Mary Wright in 1857. So he was clearly out of the picture by the time Ann was born. That left two Williams, one born in 1829 and the other in 1835, and there simply wasn’t enough evidence to prove which one was Ann’s father.

The older of the two William Annals lived in the north parish of South Ronaldsay in an area known as the East Side. He married Jane Rosie in 1858 but Jane died of breast cancer just two years later after giving birth to a daughter, named Mary. This William married for a second time in 1861 and went on to have a large family, living at the farm of Balaclava in the Grimness district of South Ronaldsay.

The other possible William married Margaret Cumming in 1868. They lived at the farm of Biggan or Biggings in the East Side.

Either of these two could have been Ann’s father but the question was, which one? Unfortunately, there was just no way of knowing from the evidence we had.

And so the mystery remained unsolved for about six months until one day I was sorting out some of my research files and came across a list of cases from the Orkney Sheriff Court records involving Annals and the following reference jumped out at me:

Date & Case No.: 1859/19
Pursuer & Designation: Wylie, Jessie, Northside, Burray
Nature of Action: Summons, Filiation and Aliment
Defender & Designation: Annal, William, Fisherman, Cauldhame, South Ronaldsay

A quick check in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary revealed that ‘Filiation’ relates to parentage and that ‘Aliment’ is the Scottish legal term for alimony. The document evidently referred to the question of a child’s parentage and payment for the child’s upbringing – of most interest to me was that the child in question was presumably our Ann Annal (or Wylie). The older of the two William Annals had been born at Cauldhame, and I knew that his uncle James still lived there in the 1850s and ‘60s. This was enough evidence to convince me that Ann was the daughter of this William Annal so at last I had the answer to the problem. All that remained now was to contact the Orkney Library who hold the original Sheriff Court records and ask them for a copy of the relevant document which arrived within a few days.

Wylie v Wylie

Summons of filiation & aliment
Wylie vs. Annal
P S Heddle, Pursuer’s Agent

William Edmonstoune Aytoun Esquire, Advocate, Sherriff of the County of Orkney and Zetland, to Officers of Court, jointly and severally, Whereas it is shown to me by Jessie Wylie residing at Northside of the Island of Burray in Orkney, Pursuer, against William Annal, Fisherman residing at Cauldhame in the Island of South Ronaldshay in Orkney, Defender, in terms of the conclusions underwritten. Therefore the Defender ought to be decerned to pay to the Pursuer the sum of One pound ten shillings sterling, being his proportion of the expenses attending the birth of an illegitimate female child of which the Pursuer was delivered on or about the twenty ninth day of August Eighteen hundred and fifty seven, and of which the Defender is the father: Item the sum of Two pounds ten shillings sterling per annum in name of aliment for said child from the date of its birth until it shall attain the age of ten years Complete, the said aliment to be payable quarterly in advance, With Interest at the rate of five pounds per centum per annum on the foresaid sum of One pound ten shillings sterling from and since the said twenty ninth day of August Eighteen hundred and fifty seven, till paid, and on each quarter’s aliment from and since the time it has fallen due, or may hereafter fall due, quarterly until paid, under deduction always of two shillings sterling paid to account of the inlying charges on the [blank] day of October Eighteen hundred and fifty seven. But superseding execution on the Decreet to follow hereon in so far as concerns the recovery of the aliment not yet due until it becomes exigible as aforesaid, and reserving all claims against the Defender for additional aliment at the expiry of the said ten years, if the said child shall then be unable to earn its subsistence, and for such space of time as its inability to support itself may Continue; Also to make payment of the expenses of process; And my Will is that ye summon the Defender to compear in my Court house at Kirkwall upon the sixth day next after the date of this your Citation, in the hour of cause (twelve o’clock noon) with continuation of days, to answer in the premises; with certification, in case of failure of being held as confessed; and that ye arrest in security the Defender’s Goods, Monies, Debts and Effects. Given at Kirkwall this Twenty fourth day of January Eighteen hundred and fifty nine years.
Robert Reid
Sheriff Clerk Depute of Orkney

This summons executed by me Samuel Norquoy, Sheriff Officer, against William Annal therein designed Defender, by leaving a copy thereof to the Will, with a just copy Citation thereto subjoined, at his dwelling place with Jane Rosie his wife to be given to him, because I could not find himself personally, and that in presence of Samuel Norquoy Junior residenter in South Ronaldshay, witness, this thirty first day of January Eighteen hundred and fifty nine years
Samuel Norquay Witness
Samuel Norquay Shff. Officer

The first thing to clear up was whether the document did indeed refer to the birth of our Ann Wylie (or Annal) and I soon came across a reference to “the birth of an illegitimate female child of which the Pursuer [i.e. Jessie Wylie] was delivered on or about the twenty ninth day of August Eighteen hundred and fifty seven.” As I knew from Ann’s birth certificate that she was born on 29 August 1857 that settled that matter.

Although most of the document is written in an archaic, legalistic style, there is some fascinating detail, in particular, a note by the Sheriff Court Officer, Samuel Norquoy. On 31 January 1859, Samuel went to South Ronaldsay to deliver the court’s judgement to William Annal’s home. Unfortunately, it seems that William wasn’t at home so instead Samuel left the copy of the summons ‘with Jane Rosie his wife’. If there were any remaining doubts about which William Annal we were dealing with, this cleared it up for once and for all.

We’ll never know whether Ann ever really knew her father, and if she did, what her relationship with him was like but at least we know which branch of the family she was connected to and I can now add her to the ever-growing Annal family tree.


Dave Annal
Watford, England © May 2002

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