Sunday, June 29, 2014

52 Ancestors #26: "Not Likely to Become an Efficient Soldier"

Ancestor Name: James Muir (1882-?)

James Muir was my first cousin three times removed and the son of my great great grandfather's younger brother. He helped me validate that my great great grandfather had moved to Appanoose County, Iowa. James was born on 22 November 1882 to John and Lilias (Weir) Muir in Hamilton, Scotland.  He was born at noon in the family's home on 114 Whitehill Road. By 1901 he was working as a coal miner like his father and grandfather before him.

On 30 December 1904, James married Janet Lees Syme at the St. John's United Free Church Manse on Union Street in Hamilton, Scotland. They were married by George Wallace, minister of the church; their siblings, Archibald Muir and Maggie Syme, were witnesses. James and Janet had three sons -- John born in 1905, Hugh born in 1908, and Thomas born in 1910.

On 31 December 1910, when little Thomas was just three months old,  the young family boarded the Allan Line's S/S Pretorian, traveling in the steerage section of the ship. They arrived in Boston on 11 Jan 1911. Their stated destination was Mystic, Iowa, where James likely got work in a coal mine. His uncle (also named James Muir), had lived in Mystic since 1895. Uncle James' second wife, owned a boarding house; hopefully, there was room for the new immigrants until they could find their own place to live.

S/S Pretorian at Prince's Dock, Glasgow. Photo is courtesy of the Graham
Lappin Collection, publisher unknown

Less than two years after their arrival in Iowa, James' wife, Janet, died at the age of 28 on 29 September 1912. She was buried in Mystic.

Mystic, Iowa in 1909. Photo source unknown.

Six months later, James decided to return to Scotland with his three young boys. They arrived in Glasgow aboard the Anchor Line's S/S Cameronia on 11 May 1913 -- not long before the the start of World War I.

James enlisted on 9 September 1914 in Hamilton, Scotland and was declared medically fit. He was almost 32 years old and was described as 5' 5-1/2" tall with a fresh complexion, gray eyes, and dark brown hair. He was assigned to the Gordon Highlanders. It was a British Army infantry unit, which served on the Western Front and Italy, winning 65 battle honors.

But James saw no fighting during WWI. On 9 October 1914, just a little over a month after enlisting, he was discharged as being medically unfit under King's Regulation 392(iii)c:

392. Cause of Discharge
     (iii) Not being likely to become an efficient soldier
           c. Recruit within three months of enlistment considered
              unfit for further military service

While the Army may have found a medical condition missed during the initial examination, King's Regulation 392(iii)c reads like a way to get rid of recruits that just don't adapt well to Army life. Scottish coal miners were known as a fiercely independent lot who didn't much like authority. Perhaps that why James Muir was discharged so quickly. It's one of the many questions I have that will likely never be answered.

And that's the last record I have for James Muir -- five pages from the British National Archives of James' Army service records. He could have died in Scotland, but without more clues to narrow down the death date, finding his death registration would be an expensive proposition. Or could he have returned to the United States, which is a possibility I have yet to explore.

British Military History Sheet

I hope that anyone with a British soldier among their ancestors can locate their Military History Sheet. It provided yet more documentation that James' wife had died before he entered the Army. I do wonder why all three of his sons are listed as next of kin in number 10, but only the youngest son, Thomas is listed in number 12. John was only 9 years old and Hugh only 6.

James Muir was born on 22 Nov 1882 in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland, to John and Lilias (Weir) Muir. Like his father and grandfather, he was a coal miner. He married Janet Lees Syme, daughter of Hugh and Isabella (Lindsay) Syme on 30 Dec 1904. They had three sons in 1905, 1908, and 1910. In 1911, the family immigrated to the U.S. and lived in Mystic, Appanoose, Iowa. Jame's wife died on 29 September 1912 and was buried in Mystic. James and his sons returned to Scotland on 11 May 1913. James enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders on 3 September 1914 but was medically declared unfit to serve and discharged under King's Regulation 392(iii)c on 9 October 1914. If anyone has additional information about James Muir after 1914, I would love to hear from you.

On the centenary of World War I, I am writing occasional profiles about the lives of my soldier ancestors, who fought in the Great War. Previous posts include:

Celebrating a Cenetenarian: Henry Roy Tucker
Honoring Those Who Died in the Service of Their Country
Wordless Wednesday: Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery
A Soldier Boy's Creed


  1. Again, I am blown away by the poignancy of your stories! Have you looked for evidence of his sons grown up? As you may remember, I am kin to the Muirs family also, though I have not studied them much at all. I look forward to doing so after reading your posts! Thanks so much.

    1. Helen, his sons were born with common names, except Hugh. Hunting for their death certificates, which list all wives on ScotlandsPeople would be an expensive proposition at 12 pounds a guess. I could run though all the possibilities and find out they later immigrated to another country. It might be a mystery for several years in the future or my successor whoever that may be.

  2. Interesting story Helen, I wonder why John and Hugh were not listed as children - hardly because they had already started work in the mines?

  3. Schalene, apologies but I misread your name there, oops.


  4. James Muir was married subsequently to Isabella MELDRUM. He
    died on 27th September 1967 Law Hospital from 204 Main Street Salsburgh New Monkland

    1. Mr. Tosh,

      Thank you for the additional information about James Muir and his second wife. I have just started a blog, which will be turned into a book about the descendants of Robert Muir (c1800-1869), which you may find here:

      I would also like if if you would contact me at your convenience as I have more questions. I maintain a public Facebook genealogy page:

      If you would message me on that page, I would appreciate it.