James, John, Jean, Ann… my direct line is full of very common names. There are some more unusual ones too – Tomima, Walterina, Cecilia – but perhaps my favourite name is Clementina.

Clementina Johnston (c1813-1855)

Clementina Johnston, often called Clement in records, was my x3 great grandmother. She was born in either Lerwick or Weisdale, Shetland about 1813, the daughter of Magnus Johnston and Janet Jamison. She was one of at least four children: John (c1806-1881), Inga (1815-1876) and Catherine (1820-1890).

The family moved to Orkney by 1821 for they were recorded in St Andrews parish that year. (St Andrews is one of a small number of  Scottish parishes with a census record from before 1841.)

Clementina married William Leask, a farmer,  on 13 October 1833 in Orphir, Orkney. Both lived at Upper Scows in the Kirbister area of Orphir when they married. They had nine children: William, James, Mary my x2 great grandmother, Catherine, Jane/Jean, Betsy, Helen, Jemima and Harriet.

Clementina died on 24 November 1855 at Upper Scows when her youngest child, Harriet Moodie Leask, was only 12 days old.


The fact that Clementina had a child and died in 1855, though very sad, is actually good news from a genealogy standpoint. Civil registration of births, marriages and death began that year in Scotland and a great deal of information was collected. So much as to be a burden so it was considerably reduced for 1856 with some reinstated in 1861.

Clementina’s death registration tells me:

  • She was born in Lerwick, Shetland, and had lived “in this District”  for 32 years. I take that to mean Orphir.
  • The names of her nine children and the ages of five. I have not found baptism records for four of them and only know the name of one, Betsy, from this source.
  • She was buried in Stenness kirkyard though she lived in Orphir.
snip from death registration

Part of Clementina’s death registration showing her children’s names & ages

This is in addition to the usual date and place of death, age, name and occupation of husband, names of parents, whether still alive, father’s occupation, cause of death and name of informant. Unfortunately, cause of death is missed out in her record, but we are told she had suffered from it for 12 years.

Though Clementina’s life was short and probably very hard, her 1855 death leaves a very valuable legacy. Always keep a look out for any family member who was born, married or died in 1855 in Scotland, direct line or not. The records are even more valuable than usual for Scotland.

#52ancestors challenge theme for the week: favourite name.

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