The Annals of Windwick, Mossetter and Linklater

The progenitor of the Group B Annals is a man called Robert Annal of Windwick, who was probably born sometime around 1725, or possibly up to about ten years earlier. He appears as the father of two children, Margaret and Saunders (Alexander) whose baptisms are recorded in 1750 and 1755 respectively.

We don’t know what happened to Margaret but Saunders/Alexander later married Isabel Duncan and they had at least six children born between 1780 and 1798. Alexander is undoubtedly the person of that name who’s named as one of the four ‘executors dative’ of Magnus Annell [sic] ‘late in the Service of the Honourable Hudsons bay Company’ in July 1795. Magnus died in July 1794: he was killed at South Branch House by members of the Native American Gros Vertes tribe during an attack on the HBC trading post.

The ’testament dative’ of Magnus Annell names the following ‘executors’:

Peter Annell in Massatter Alexander Annell in Linklitter Marion Annell in Stoues in South Ronaldsay in Orkney and … Helen Annell in Stromness Brothers and Sisters of the said … Magnus Annell…

Testament dative and inventory of Magnus Annell, 1795
National Records of Scotland ref: CC8/8/130

We can therefore add the names of Peter, Marion and Helen to the list of the children of Robert Annal of Winwick. We can also tentatively add two more names: those of James Annal of Windwick (c.1768-1836) and Isabella (born c.1776).

When James married Janet Royan in 1790, the two witnesses were Peter Annal and Andrew Wishard. This is clearly ‘our’ Peter and when he married Margaret (‘Miserey’) Wishard five years earlier, Andrew Wishard had been one of the witnesses, along with William Gray. Then, when Isabella Annal married Alexander Gunn in 1801, James Annal was a witness.

Taken as a whole, these three marriage records suggest a close relationship between Peter, James and Isabella and the logical conclusion is that they were siblings.

What then can we say about their relative ages? Unfortunately, early death records in South Ronaldsay are few and far between. Other than a single register covering deaths in the South Parish between 1832 and 1844, the only other sources we have to fall back on for genealogical research in South Ronaldsay are wills (and there are precious few of them) and gravestones.

And here we get a stroke of good fortune as the oldest surviving South Ronaldsay gravestone relating to the family is that of Peter Annel of Mossetter who, according to the stone, died on 2 November 1814, aged 65 years. His wife, Margaret Wishard, who died on 26 April 1809 (the year isn’t that clear) is also named on the stone, which, the remainder of the (very hard to read) script, tells us was erected by ‘Margaret Annel in Mossater’ in memory of her loving father and mother.

This Peter is clearly the brother of Magnus and his age at death given on the gravestone points towards a date of birth sometime around 1749, which ties in very neatly with the known baptisms of Margaret and Alexander in 1750 and 1755.

And based on a number of other snippets of information taken from a variety of sources we can begin to piece together a convincing theoretical list of the children of Robert Annal and his unknown wife (who must have married sometime around 1747), together with their likely birth dates.

  • Peter, born c.1749
  • Margaret, baptised 1750
  • Alexander, baptised 1755
  • Magnus, born c.1760
  • Marrien, born c.1765
  • Helen, born c.1767
  • James, born c.1769
  • Isabella, born c.1776

This ties in perfectly with the names of the four ‘executors’ of Magnus’s estate and the order in which they’re named in the paperwork. James died in 1836. His death is recorded in the one surviving South Ronaldsay burial register where he’s described as a ‘Farmer in Mossater’, aged 67 years. When I initially attempted to sort the various branches of the family into groups, I identified James as the ancestor of the Group C Annals. I am now relatively certain that he was the youngest brother of Peter Annal of Mossetter and therefore part of the larger Group B.

Returning to Peter, we have the record of his marriage, to Margaret Wisherd, on 24 December 1785 in the South Parish and the record of the baptism of one child, Magnus, on 7 November 1790, which was witnessed by Andrew Wishard and Robert Annal (Peter’s father?). I don’t have any later sightings of Magnus but we know from the gravestone that Peter and Margaret also had a daughter called Margaret.

Margaret never married and sometime around 1821 she moved to Stromness where we find her at the time of the 1841 and 1851 censuses, living at an address in Gray’s Buildings/Biggings. Margaret died in Stromness on 7 February 1855, her age recorded as 68. Her death certificate records her parents as Peter Annal and Margaret (née Wishart).

So, it would seem that, with the death of Margaret Annal in Stromness in 1855, Peter’s line died out. But this isn’t the case. Because, between five and ten years before Peter and Margaret married, Peter fathered an illegitimate child called Robert Annal. Now, my ‘evidence’ for this doesn’t come in the form of a written document but from the oral report of my cousin, Alexander ‘Sandy’ Annal, who stated it as certain fact. While I know that this is far from constituting actual proof of Robert’s parentage, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence to support it.

For a start, Robert named his oldest son ‘Peter’, in line with Orcadian naming tradition, and, indeed, as the son of Robert Annal, we would expect Peter to have named his oldest son ‘Robert’.

Marriage of Robert Annall and Barbra Wishart, South Ronaldsay, Orkney
National Records of Scotland ref: OPR Marriages 29 20/273

On 1 March 1803, Robert Annal of ‘Linklitar’ married Barbara Wishart in the South Ronaldsay’s South Parish. The witnesses were James Annal (Robert’s uncle?) and Peter Wishart. Barbara was the daughter of Andrew Wishart (quite probably the same Andrew Wishart who had witnessed earlier family events) and his wife Isabella Dass. Robert and Barbara were to go on to have (at least) 13 children born at Linklater between 1803 and 1828. All but one of them survived to adulthood and many of them went on to have large families of their own. Between them his seven sons are responsible for spreading the Annal family name across the globe, with large numbers of Robert’s descendants living in England, the USA, Australia and Argentina today, not forgetting the branches which remained in Orkney and still live there today.

When we look at the names of Robert and Barbara’s children, there can be little doubt that Robert was closely related to the Windwick/Mossetter Annals. The oldest daughter and the second son (Isabella and Andrew) were clearly named after Barbara’s parents) while the use of the names James, Robert, Margaret and Magnus is a good match with Peter’s siblings. And then there’s the geographical angle to consider. Linklater is the name of the district just to the east of Mossetter, lying on the road that leads down to the bay at Wind Wick.

The 1821 census finds the Annals living at ‘Linkletter Hall’ and although the address may sound grander than the reality on the ground, it does suggest that we’re dealing with a larger than average farmhouse. Eight of Robert and Barbara’s children were present: Isabella, Andrew, James, Robert, Catherine, Margaret, Betsy and Magnus. It’s interesting to note the presence of the Wishart family in the 1821 census, living at ‘Bull’ next door to the Annals. The extended Wishart family included Barbara’s parents, Andrew and Isabella, both in the their early 70s.

Ordnance Survey 6 inch map of South Ronaldsay, Orkney (detail), Sheet CXXIV, 1879/1882
National Library of Scotland:

The oldest son, Peter was living away from home at the time, working as a carpenter in the Herston district of the North Parish while the ninth child, Elspet, had evidently died young. She was baptised in 1819 but doesn’t appear in the 1821 census or indeed in any later records. Three more children – Barbara, William and John – were born to Robert and Barbara in the 1820s, bringing the total up to 13.

Robert died on 27 December 1833, aged 59 of ‘Dropsy’. The burial register describes him as a Farmer of Linklater and tells us that he was buried on New Year’s Eve in the South Parish Church Yard. The widowed Barbara lived on for almost thirty years, staying with a number of different children before dying on 23 June 1862 in Sandwick, in the west of the island.

The sheer size of the family (Robert had at least 56 grandchildren!) makes it difficult to follow the progress of the various branches. What follows is a necessarily brief summary of the families of each of the twelve children who survived to adulthood.

Peter Annal (1803-1890)

Peter was a carpenter/joiner. He married his first wife, Barbara Gray in 1828 but they don’t appear to have had any children. Barbara was still alive in 1841 when the census finds them living at Mossetter (had Peter ‘inherited’ his grandfather’s farm?) but by 1849 she had died and on 22 March 1849, Peter married again.

He married his second wife, Ann Tomison on 22 March 1849 and they went on to have at least five children: Barbara Gray, Margaret Lain Gray, Wilhelmina, Peter and John. His oldest son. Peter (1855-1925) also had a large family, including a son, yet another Peter, who, in 1907, emigrated to Boston, USA. I am in contact with several descendants on this branch of the family.

Isabella Annal (1805-1886)

Isabella married John BROWN in 1827. They lived at North Flaws where they raised a large family of at least ten children. Isabell died there on 18 March 1886, aged 80.

Andrew Annal (1807-1870)

Andrew is described on various documents as a servant, a fisherman and a labourer. In 1843, he married Jane Gunn of Barswick and they had at least four children; Barbara, Betsy, Mary Cromarty and William. Two of the daughters married and had children but Betsy died unmarried and William died as an infant so there are no Annal descendants of this branch alive today.

James Annal (1810-1902)

Like his brother, Peter, James was a carpenter/joiner although he became a crofter late in life. He married Jean Dunnet quite late in life, in 1840, and they went on to have just three children; Jane, James and Robert. James and Jean lived at Greenquoy in the South Parish. James junior had four sons of his own, the youngest of which, yet another James, emigrated to the USA in 1911.

Robert Annal (1812-1894)

Robert also married late in life. He was living with his widowed mother at Barswick in 1841 and then, in 1851, he’s listed as a farmer of 30 acres living at Mossatter.

He married Barbara Simeson the following year and they had five children between 1853 and 1867: William Tomison, Jessie Sutherland, Robert Brown, James and John. Robert and Barbara later settled at Greenvale where Robert died in 1894.

The oldest son died young but the other four all married and had children of their own. Jessie married Francis Gray and lived at Mossatter, eventually dying in 1949 aged 93. Robert emigrated to Argentina and raised a large family in a town called General Lavalle, to the south east of Buenos Aires. James stayed in South Ronaldsay and several of his descendants still live there today. The youngest son, John, emigrated to the USA in 1888; he settled in Chicago where he married and raised a family.

I’m in touch with descendants of Robert’s and John’s.

Catherine Gray Annal (1814-1903)

Catherine married James ESSON sometime around 1840 – no trace of a record of the marriage has been found – and they went on to have at least eight children. Catherine died in South Ronaldsay in 1903.

Margaret Annal (1816-c.1846)

On 28 December 1841, Margaret married, William Annal, a cousin, the son of her grandfather’s brother, James. They had five children before Margaret died sometime soon after 1846.

Betsy Annal (1818-1894)

Betsy married James Halcro or Halcrow on 5 January 1854. They appear to have had just three children, James, Magnus and John. Betsy died in 1894 at the family home at Stockabank.

Magnus Annal (1820-1880)

Very little is known about the life of Robert and Barbara’s tenth (and ninth surviving) child, Magnus. As a young man he became a merchant seaman. He first went to sea (as a fisherman) when he was just 13 and he was still working as a seaman as late as 1848.

Marriage of Magnus Annal & Sarah Goulland, Hobart, Tasmania, 1854
© Tasmanian Archive & Heritage Office

On 14 August 1854 he married Sarah Goulland in Hobart, Tasmanian (known at the time as Van Diemen’s Land). Magnus was then said to be 30 years old and a mariner and although the age is about four years out this is surely our man. Particularly as he turns up in London at the time of the 1861 census, married to a woman called Sarah, who was said to have been born around 1818 in Hendon, Middlesex. Sarah, the daughter of Josias and Margaret Gowlland, was baptised at the parish church of St Mary, Hendon on 10 August 1823, one of six Gowlland children baptised there on the same day so we have a good match with the woman who Magnus married in Hobart in 1854.

Magnus was now working as a shoemaker. His age is given in the 1861 census as 40 and his place of birth as Scotland.

By 1863, Magnus seems to have been back in Australia – there’s a reference to him in the New South Wales Gazette in that year – and from 1872, he appears in the electoral rolls and other records for the town of Gympie in Queensland.

Magnus died in April 1880 and the record of his burial at Gympie Cemetery throws up a few surprises. His occupation is given as ‘shoemaker’ which ties in with the entry from the 1861 census. We learn that Magnus had been in Queensland for 15 years, that he was married to a woman called Rach(a)el Chattaway and that they had been married when Magnus was 38 (i.e. sometime around 1858) in Coventry, England. This is clearly untrue as we know that Magnus was still married to Sarah in 1861 and there is no record of Magus and Rachel marrying in Coventry or elsewhere.

Rachel had died, in Gympie, in 1876. She was apparently the daughter of Joseph Chattaway and Ann Wale but I have been unable to find any convincing records of such a person.

Barbara Annal (1823-1888)

Robert and Barbara’s youngest daughter married Joseph Budge in 1847. They lived at Cove in the South Parish and had at least eight children. Barbara died on 31 December 1888 at Cleat.

William Annal (1825-1891)

Like his brothers Magnus and John (see below) William became a mariner. He was certainly at sea by 1844 when he was issued with his seaman’s ticket and he was serving on the Edith of Falmouth on a journey from Liverpool to Buenos Aries and back to Southampton between September 1850 and May 1851. On 21 April 1857, William married a widow called Mary Moore (nee Wright) in Liverpool. They settled there and had at least five children born between 1858 and 1868. Two of the children (both called Robert) died young, the second one in 1869, the same year in which Mary died.

Five years later William married Martha Woods. They continued to live in Liverpool (in Bootle) until their deaths in 1891 and 1906 respectively.

William’s two oldest sons, John Samuel (also known as Samuel John) and William Henry both had large families of their own. Many of their descendants live in the Liverpool area today while other branches moved to other parts of England, including Nottingham and Trowbridge.

John Annal (1828-1872)

John was the youngest son of Robert and Barbara Annal. He was at sea (as a fisherman) by 1842 and he seems to have had a successful career. On 10 November 1852 (now living in North Shields) John passed an exam to become a qualified Mate and then on 1 August 1859 he took the next step to qualify as a Master Seaman.

Master’s Certificate, John Annal, 1859
National Maritime Museum, Certificate no. 7221

On 15 December 1853 John had married May Laughton at the parish church in Tynemouth. They don’t appear to have had any children and no further trace of May has been found. It seems likely that they separated soon after marrying. On 5 March 1872 John died at 71 Moor Street, Sunderland aged just 43.

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