A Young Mother – Mary Dunbar Rae 1877-1901

Mary Dunbar Rae was born in Dalmellington, Ayrshire on 18 July 1877. She was the youngest child of my 3x great grandparents, Thomas Rae and Ann Symington. Her sister Grace was my great great grandmother. In 1879 Grace gave birth to my great grandfather, Robert Armstrong Rae. Her son was illegitimate and, unable to take care of him, he was left in the care of his grandparents who raised him as their own son. This meant Mary was never really considered the baby of the family.

By 1881 the family had moved from Ayrshire to Lanarkshire and were living in the small village of Dalserf. I visited the village fairly recently and it is little more than a church and a few houses but very picturesque. The church and houses in the photos would certainly have existed in Mary’s time.

In the census of that year Thomas is not recorded with the family. Ann shows as the head of the house with her occupation given as “domestic “. I’m still working on the whereabouts of Thomas.

10 years later Mary is in Craigneuk, Lanarkshire which would have been less picturesque but with possibly more employment opportunities for her father and brother John who was still living at home.

A year after the 1891 census Thomas died within the family home.

On 24 September 1897 Mary gave birth to a daughter, Annie Symington Rae. On the birth record Mary is recorded as a coal picker. (You can read more about the role of women in the coal mines by clicking here.) There is no father listed on the register. Once again granny has to step in and help a daughter and by 1901 Mary was no longer living with her mother, Ann, but little Annie was.

Perhaps the reason she gave up her daughter was that she was in a relationship. On 19 June 1900 Mary gave birth to a second daughter, Sarah Rae. This child was also illegitimate but the father would appear to be John Woodlock. He is not named on the birth record but on 1 January 1901 the couple were married and in the census of that year the baby’s name was given as Sarah Woodlock. The newlyweds were living with John’s father, three of his siblings and a niece and nephew. 22 year old John was employed as a coal miner driver. Their address was 19 Carfin Square, Holytown.

It would be nice to think that Mary, John and Sarah went on to have a happy life together but it was not to be. On 4 September 1901 Mary died. The cause of death was erysipelas and septicaemia. She was 24 years old. Mary died at the home address of her sister Sarah and her husband Archibald Smith. I imagine the Woodlock family would have been unable to cope with such a horrible disease (I looked it up) and so, she moved in with and was taken care of by her sister. It was there that her daughter Sarah remained to be taken care of by Sarah and Archibald.

The reason I know this is that it was Archibald who registered Sarah’s death. Mary’s baby daughter died on 25 February 1902. Her death was registered by Archibald who was her guardian. Sarah’s death was the result of measles. How lucky we are today to be able to protect our children through vaccinations.

I only found out about Sarah in the first place through cemetery records. She only appears on one census and under a different name so I would have missed her entirely. I was looking for the burial place of my 3x great grandparents when I saw her name and age and wanted to find out more. Sarah is buried in a common grave at Globe Cemetery in Motherwell. The cemetery records show her parents as Mary Rae and John Woodlock.

As for little Annie Symington Rae, we next find her on the 1911 census having found a permanent home with Sarah and Archibald.

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