Sunday, March 2, 2014

52 Ancestors #9: Riddell Conundrum

Ancestor Name: Robert Riddell or Oswald Dykes Riddell?

I have a conundrum I cannot figure out to solve. Robert Riddell was born on 5 April 1859 at Kirkton, East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, Scotland, to John and Martha (Muir) Riddell.

Robert Riddell's Birth Registration courtesy of ScotlandsPeople

His birth registration includes a notation that his name was altered to Oswald Dykes on 15 May 1859.

Robert/Oswald appeared on the 1861 census as "Oswald D" and the 1871 and 1881 census as "Robert." The names Oswald and Robert never appeared on the same census record, which I would have expected in 1871 if they were different people. In 1881 an Oswald D Riddell, 21, is living in East Kilbride and working as a farm servant for John Crawford. A Robert Riddell, 20, is living with his widowed father in East Kilbride.

On 26 January 1883 Oswald D. Riddell married Annie Cowie. He was 23 years old and a bachelor; his usual place of residence was New Monkland, Lanarkshire, Scotland, and he was a railway lorry man (or railway quarryman).

Oswald D Riddell's Marriage (to Annie Cowie) Registration courtesy of ScotlandsPeople

On 19 December 1884 Robert Riddell married Catherine McCormick at Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He was 22 years old and a bachelor; his usual place of residence was Cambuslang, and he was a mason's laborer. It's been my experience that he would have been listed as a widower if Annie had died. I'm not sure how he would have been listed if he and Annie divorced. I have been unable to find a death registration for Annie. If Oswald and Robert are two separate people, then all is well.

Robert Riddell's Marriage (to Catherine McCormick) Registration courtesy of ScotlandsPeople

Robert and Catherine appeared in the 1891 census and lived at Hamilton. In 1891 his occupation was quarry engine keeper. In 1901 the family lived in Blantyre and his occupation was steam craneman. By this time Robert and Catherine have 6 children living at home. The children's father is listed as Robert on each of their birth registrations. There is one child, Agnes, for which I can find no record of birth, marriage, or death. I do not know if she is Annie's child or Catherine's. (If Oswald and Robert are the same person.) She appeared on the 1891 census but not in 1901.

In 1911 Robert Riddell is living with his sons in Burnbank, Hamilton. His was listed as married but his wife, Catherine, did not appear on the census. His occupation is crane driver at a quarry.

1915 was a tragic year for Robert. His wife, Catherine, died on 9 July 1915 of chronic nephritis at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow. Robert's occupation was listed as steam crane driver. Four months later, son, Francis, drowned at a quarry in Blantyre. When Robert registered his son's death, he listed his occupation as confectioner.

I next find Oswald Dykes Riddell's 1935 death registration. He was 75 years old, a widower of Annie Cowie, and a retired restauranteur.

Oswald Dykes Riddell's death registration courtesy of ScotlandsPeople

So are Robert Riddell and Oswald Dykes Riddell the same person?

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

Robert/Oswald Dykes Riddell was my first cousin three times removed. His parents were John Riddell (1826-1888) and Martha Muir (1830-1876). Martha Muir was an older sister to my great great grandfather, James Muir (1844-1926). John and Martha Riddell lived their entire lives in East Kilbride parish, Lanarkshire, Scotland.


  1. My vote is two of them - Oswald Dykes (b. 05 April 1859) and Robert (b. 5 August 1861). Found them both on

    I have another example in the Semple family tree where the child's birth name was Henry Hunter, but renamed to Robert Thomson Martin Hunter a month after birth. Couldn't work out where the name came from, since it didn't tie in with any known family names. Finally worked out that the name of the minister in the parish at the time was Robert Thomson Martin, so am guessing that the boy was renamed after the minister. The next son that the parents had was subsequently named Henry.

    I have since found a further example where a child was named after the Minister, so maybe it was not so uncommon in 19th century Scotland. Could be the source of Oswald Dykes??

    1. Sarah, right you are. It wasn't until I wrote this post, and read it again several weeks later (I write ahead frequently), that I realized I had developed a bad case of tunnel vision. I went back and found a birth registration for another son, who was named Robert the next year -- just as you discovered. I went looking for famous Oswald Dykes and found James Oswald Dykes (1835-1912), a Scottish clergyman and educator. The problem with that theory, though, is Dykes wasn't ordained until 1859 and served in Edinburgh. So I'm not sure how Martha would have been familiar with him in 1859 when Robert/Oswald was born.